What is a "Sebastian"? A nonsensical look at the poetry of Yona Wallach

Ailor Porat

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article compares the nonsensical narrative of Lewis Carroll to the poetry of the canonical Hebrew poet, Yona Wallach. Both writers seek to establish a unique and differentiated poetic logic, a logic that "makes sense" in its own way. Unlike Carroll, in the mid 1960s Yona Wallach presented an adult audience with Hebrew poetry which is mostly regarded as "serious", even tragic, with a "doom-like" quality hovering over it. Nonetheless, a comparison between Yona Wallach and Lewis Carroll discloses their surprising likeness. They both employ similar mechanisms of nonsensical linguistic games. As I will demonstrate, both Wallach and Carroll play with the conventional meaning of words and use them in an incongruous, anti-commonsensical, manner. Throughout the article, Carroll's work will reveal its serious and gloomy quality, whereas Wallach's work will reveal its (rarely discussed) logical and amusing quality. Thus, the contrast between Carroll's work and Wallach's poetry sheds light on their respective mechanisms of signification and humourmaking, in a manner indiscernible when each is treated independently.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-81
Number of pages14
JournalEuropean Journal of Humour Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017


  • Language-games
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Modernist poetry
  • Nonsense
  • Yona Wallach

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Applied Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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