By mining, mapping, analysing and interpreting the respective patterns of humour and versification in a digitized 19thand 20thCentury corpus, by describing how the two interact to produce layered meanings, this project aims to gain a precise understanding of humour’s roles within poetry, and situate the postures and forms of poetry humour in a historical and cultural perspective.
Notwithstanding humour’s perceived lower status of humour within literary genres, humorous, and sometimes lewd, poems, have never ceased to be written, including by high-brow poets, and humorous devices are often used in serious poetry, with or without a comic effect. One must wonder how versification is used to produce or enhance humour, what the consequences of using verse in humorous texts are, and examine the wealth of practices and results behind this association, from rich, dark humour to silly-sounding satire. Humour and versification both rely on a disruption of the bona fidecommunication, require a precise mastery of the timing, rhythm, and contextual or intertextual complexities, value the unexpected and depend on a certain degree of familiarity. Both seek to impact the receiver not through the exactness of meaning but through the slipperiness of language, taking advantage of its inherent ambiguities and shortcomings.
The precise interactions between these two vast fields of research – humour and poetry – deserve a thorough investigation, which can be efficiently achieved by the combination of data-based methods and a more traditional, close-reading of texts.