Classics and the Western Canon discussion

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Interim Readings > Alice in Wonderland

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message 1: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Having scaled the heights with Hans Castorp, it seemed appropriate to plunge down to the deep with Alice. A good deal lighter in tone than The Magic Mountain, but perhaps no less philosophical in its content.

This is a bit longer than a usual Interim Read, but it can still be read by most readers in the 1 hour limit I try to set for Interim Reads, and I hope the pleasure of reading it will make the time worthwhile.

I suspect that many of you have a copy, but it not, here are some online.

This is an edition with large size Tenniel illustrations.
http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/carro...
(By the way, it looks very different, at least for me, in the Firefox and Chrome browsers. The Firefox browser version doesn't offer me the choice of downloading it Kindle or epub versions. The Chrome browser version does. If you have both, try it in both.

This is an edition also with Tenniel illustrations, but in a smaller size.
http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~rgs/alice-tabl...

However, neither of these has the opening poem, which I understand was added later. So here is the edition with the Arthur Rackham illustrations which also has the opening poem, and also a short proem by Austin Dobson, no apparent relationship to Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. As usual with Gutenberg editions, it can be read online or downloaded into almost any format you want.
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/28885


message 2: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 11 comments Having read this book only as a child, and currently only the first chapter, I am fascinated how Carroll plays with logic. This is apparent from the get go. Alice childishly, and in a flippant manner, contemplates books without pictures. This is Carroll telling us from the start logic is going to be key if you are going to understand this book. After all, we are reading this book. Second of all there is the scene with the rabbit who "ran" by her. Alice only finds it strange after the rabbit says it will be late, and pulls out a watch. Rabbits cannot physically "run," they hop.


message 3: by Kathy (new)

Kathy (klzeepsbcglobalnet) | 459 comments Great choice for an interim read! I'm looking forward to sitting down with this. I'm not sure I've ever actually read it through from beginning to end...


message 4: by Magdalena (new)

Magdalena (anofeles) I've just finished this book. I've planned to read it for years because after Carroll's Red Queen was named quite an important theory of evolution biology- however after reading Alice in Wonderland I realized I've mistaken the Red Queen for the Heart Queen and what I really need to read is Through the Looking Glass. Aw.
Anyway, I found interesting the part with the mushroom and the caterpillar. One of the effects of muscarine- the drug that can be found in some mushrooms, especially fly agaric- is that the person who ate the mushroom feels like everything is bigger than it really is. I wonder if Carroll knew this when he made the mushroom change Alice's size. I guess it's just a coincidence, however I read that in Victorian England the drugs were commonly sold in the pharmacies and there was no problem using them (so Doyle could easily let Sherlock Holmes use cocaine). And even if amanitas weren't sold, it's possible that Carroll knew the stories from Siberia where it's still being used.


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Magdalena wrote: "I've just finished this book. I've planned to read it for years because after Carroll's Red Queen was named quite an important theory of evolution biology- however after reading Alice in Wonderland..."

That's interesting about the mushroom. I hadn't known that. And yes, drugs were freely available in Victorian England -- you will frequently read in their novels of people (almost always women) being given or taking laudanum -- which was a liquid form of pure opium, which contains both morphine and codeine. Highly addictive.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Patrice wrote: "So, Alice falls down the rabbit hole when she falls asleep and things get curious. It does feel as though you are falling when you "fall" asleep, And nothing in dreams has to follow the rules. B..."

Nice thoughts. As you are picking up on, this may be the most philosophical book not be called a philosophy book ever written.


message 7: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 114 comments Here is Jefferson Airplane's contribution to Alice in Wonderland, with their song "White Rabbit." The lyrics are included with the song, and I would say that IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED READING THE BOOK, THE LYRICS WILL BE A SPOILER.

http://youtu.be/4jahw6TBqCY

AGAIN -- ONLY CLICK THIS LINK IF YOU'VE FINISHED THE BOOK, OR IF YOU REMEMBER EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS, OR SOME OF THE "FUN THINGS" THAT HAPPEN IN THE STORY WILL BE SPOILED FOR YOU.

I'm guessing that most of you are familiar with Jefferson Airplane and with this song. I'm 54 years old, so this song is part of "my generation" (not to mention that I've been working for rock music magazines for the past 30 years, so I'm familiar with all of the great rock bands and songs from the 60's to now).

How closely do you think this song matches the story?

What do you think Lewis Carroll would say about this song??


message 8: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 114 comments Patrice wrote: "I'm starting to think about getting the Annotated Alice!

My hunch about anxiety over colonialism might have some support in Chapter 3,
"William the Conqueror, whose cause was favoured by the pop..."


Hi Patrice! Very odd coincidence that a mouse walked across your path today! (Or maybe not a coincidence -- I think sometimes our minds are more open to notice certain things we may not normally notice when we're reading a book such as Alice in Wonderland.)

You've made me curious about the annotated edition. I'm reading an edition on my Nook with footnotes. I've had Alice on my Nook for a long time -- I think it was one of my first Nook purchases because it's always been one of my favorite stories (although I really haven't read it from cover to cover in a very long time, but I am doing so now so that I can join the group in discussing it.)

The edition I have is the Barnes & Noble edition, which does have footnotes but I wouldn't say it's "very" annotated. I'll try to get over to a store this weekend to see what a "completely" annotated edition looks like.

I love all of your comments in this thread. You're finding things in the story that I've never thought of.

I hope you have a chance to listen to the song I posted in Message 11 of this thread (but wait until you finish reading the book, because the song refers to various things that happen in the story.) I'll be very interested to know what you think of "White Rabit" (the song).

It's so great to see you here again!!!


message 9: by Magdalena (last edited Jun 06, 2013 03:11PM) (new)

Magdalena (anofeles) Barbara wrote: "Here is Jefferson Airplane's contribution to Alice in Wonderland, with their song "White Rabbit." The lyrics are included with the song, and I would say that IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED READING THE BO..."

Ha- they also mistaked the Queen of Hearts for the Red Queen!
I read about this song in "Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom".
"Since the sixties Alice in Wonderland was read by many followers of psychedelic underground. For them it became an important pharmacological odyssey full of hidden- or less hidden- hints on drugs. They especially implied that the author had fondness for magic mushrooms. The most famous example is probably the hymn on LSD, the song "White Rabbit" by the group Jefferson Airplan from San Francisco which significantly influenced the awareness of the magic mushrooms in the world." (my own translation from Czech, sorry for insulting your sense for linguistics!)
The author of this book, however, thinks it's improbable that Carroll was really influenced by using drugs.

I must listen to the song more carefully tomorrow, it's almost midnight here and I would probably have nightmares if I listened more times to such a song. :D


message 10: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (barbarasc) | 114 comments Magdalena wrote: "Barbara wrote: "Here is Jefferson Airplane's contribution to Alice in Wonderland, with their song "White Rabbit." The lyrics are included with the song, and I would say that IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHE..."

Magdalena, your translation from Czech is absolutely perfect. To be honest, it never would have occurred to me that English is not your first language.

Are you reading a Czech translation of Alice in Wonderland? When you click the link in my post, you'll get the lyrics (in English) along with the song, so you don't have to worry about figuring out what the words are.

"Shroom: A Cultural History of the Magic Mushroom" -- I've never read it, but I'm intrigued. I'll have to add it to my insanely long list of "books to read."

I just started rereading Alice, and I'm only up to Chapter 5, so I don't remember the Queen of Hearts as opposed to the Red Queen. (As I mentioned in a previous post, I haven't read the book from cover to cover since I was a child, but sometimes I like to just pick it up and read certain parts.)

Well, even if the Queen of Hearts is the Queen in this story, the "Red Queen" sounds better in the song!! ;)


message 11: by Magdalena (last edited Jun 07, 2013 02:22AM) (new)

Magdalena (anofeles) Barbara wrote: "Magdalena wrote: "Barbara wrote: "Here is Jefferson Airplane's contribution to Alice in Wonderland, with their song "White Rabbit." The lyrics are included with the song, and I would say that IF YO..."

Thank you very much Barbara. I often have problems especially with tenses and a/the (where to write them, where to write nothing?) so I'm really happy to hear I'm making progress. :)
Yes, I read Alice in Czech. I usually read books in English only if the Czech version isn't available because it takes me a lot of time to read a book in English and I tend to focuse more on looking for the unknown words in a dictionary than on the story itself. I think reading Alice in the original version has many benefits because there are so nice situations connected with language (like the tail/tale one). They are very well imitated in the translation I read, so they're funny anyway, but the original is the original..


I'm still not sure wheter to consider Alice in Wonderland a book for children. How did Carroll mean it? Aside all these drug speculations there is quite a lot of violence in my opinion... the Queen of Hearts and the croquet- ouch, poor flamingos. And Alice didn't even hesistate.


message 12: by Eliza (new)

Eliza (elizac) | 94 comments I think he definitely meant this story for children. He plays with the english language and nonsense/logic in really interesting ways. I as an adult am completely charmed. I can also see children I've known imaging a tale in the shape of a tail or coming to the conclusion that little girls are a kind of serpent because serpents eat eggs and so do little girls. I'm of the opinion that Alice in Wonderland is at it heart a story written for and inspired by children.
I've never really gotten the drug connection either I think its possible that its a modern was of reading the work and not really how Carroll meant it.


message 13: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Magdalena wrote: "I'm still not sure whether to consider Alice in Wonderland a book for children."

I'm not sure that any truly fine "children's" book is ever written just for children. Certainly the Grimm Brothers and Andrew Lang wrote both for children and for adults.

But as to Carroll, I do think he intended the book to be enjoyed by adults as well as children. He was a mathematician and logician -- when I was teaching high school mathematics I used his Symbolic Logic and the Game of Logic and Pillow Problems And A Tangled Tale as resource texts (they cost $1.50 and $1.75 respectively, which shows how long ago that was!), and there are a number of hidden mathematical and logical quandaries that children would never understand, let alone the many parodies on popular songs and poems.


message 14: by Penny (last edited Jun 07, 2013 11:14PM) (new)

Penny | 33 comments Everyman wrote: " ...let alone the many parodies on popular songs and poems. "

So this was a recurring thing for Lewis Carroll? As I was reading I kept wondering if those rhymes that Alice was getting wrong or couldn't remember were real, English is not my first language so I don't really know any of theme, I guess they were and thought about googling it but just kept reading.

Favorite part of the book:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”

* Hi, I'm not new, but have only participated once before and that was years ago, so I thought a greeting was appropriate. :)


message 15: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Penny wrote: "As I was reading I kept wondering if those rhymes that Alice was getting wrong or couldn't remember were real, English is not my first language so I don't really know any of theme, I guess they were and thought about googling it but just kept reading.
"


Yes, almost all of them are parodies or take-offs on real poems or songs of the time. Martin Gardner does a good job of tracking them down in his Annotated Alice, though I switched from reading that to reading a plain text version when I found myself getting distracted by the annotations and losing track of the fun of the language.

*And glad to have you back, hope you'll be staying around this time!


message 16: by Penny (new)

Penny | 33 comments Sometimes the annotated version is better for a reread even if we miss much of the meaning, when I read the divine comedy I think I spent more time analyzing all the info than the poem.

* I hope so too, but I not sure if I'll join the next one.


message 17: by Lily (last edited Jun 08, 2013 08:50AM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 4936 comments Everyman wrote: "Having scaled the heights with Hans Castorp, it seemed appropriate to plunge down to the deep with Alice. A good deal lighter in tone than The Magic Mountain, but perhaps no less philosophical in ..."

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/c/carro...

I just took a few minutes to enjoy the slide show of Tenniel's illustrations. I doubt I will get Alice reread during this interim -- I am still finishing MM as well as reading several other books or parts thereof for various purposes (including Murakami's 1Q84 ). But I am enjoying the discussion and will try to pull this from its shelf:

The Annotated Alice The Definitive Edition by Lewis Carroll The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition by Lewis Carroll

It probably was last opened when the movie appeared a year or more ago (2010, actually). Of the movie, I particularly remember the mushroom with the caterpillar and his loofah (15 among the Tenniel drawings). As if AiW isn't confusing enough by itself, those of you who saw the movie, where Johnny Depp plays the Mad Hatter, know it mixed in elements of Through the Looking Glass, particularly the Red Queen.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1014759/ -- the screenplay so very different from the original Carroll creations. Still, I enjoyed some of its fantasies and images, when I wasn't bored.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKhuLy... -- I haven't watched it, but there is a 49 min version of AiW by Burbank films here.

Natalie Gregory here is an adorable image of Alice:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&amp...

"A clip of Ringo Starr (of The Beatles and The All-Star Band) as the Mock Turtle in the 1985 film "Alice in Wonderland", singing the wonderful song "Nonsense". Adorable Natalie Gregory, as Alice."

The mouse in this Hallmark version reminds me of the illusive rock photographed by Curiosity on the surface of Mars:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOHy8q...

'Tis amazing to consider the imaginative take-offs Alice has engendered.


message 18: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Patrice wrote: "This is a long-shot but it just occurs to me that Victorian England ruled the world. Very curious people in the world, Africa, India, the rules don't apply, or do they? I wonder if England (or a..."

A little cultural relativism thrown in? Cats are sweet pets to Alice but how does a mouse see them? "Would you like cats, if you were me?" "Well perhaps not" said Alice. Would I like the Brits if I was an Indian? As I said, a long-shot! ;-)

What an interesting point about cultural relativism. I'm not currently reading the book (trying to finish The Magic Mountain), but read it as a child and again a few years ago. I really didn't get much out of it, but I'll bet that if I go back and read it again after looking at the comments here I'll get far more out of the book.

Some of the things done to the Indians by the Brits for economic reasons were unbelievably cruel.


message 19: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Magdalena wrote: "I've just finished this book. I've planned to read it for years because after Carroll's Red Queen was named quite an important theory of evolution biology- however after reading Alice in Wonderland..."

Fascinating information about the mushrooms. If my memory serves me correctly, I thought I saw an illustration of the caterpillar smoking a pipe. I assumed it was opium, or maybe is was Sherlock Holmes who smoked opium. I seem to recall something about the opium trade being part of the East India Company's trading goods. I'd better do some research on this when I have time, or maybe someone here knows more about the subject.


message 20: by Mark (last edited Jun 08, 2013 12:56PM) (new)

Mark Heyne (marconi_smh) | 5 comments Somewhere around here is posted an interesting preface by Borges to a Spanish translation of Alice, the machine translation of which was , well, frustrating...
here is a link to a good translation of some of that preface with some insightful original comments by the translator.

http://juandahlmann.wordpress.com/201...


message 21: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Patrice wrote: "I just finished chapter VII and I'm lost. I felt as though I was just reading words with little meaning. And I feel really guilty because I invited one of my ESL students, a brilliant woman from ..."

It's a delightful chapter. Just think of the figures of speech which adults use? What must a child think of them? "I'd give an arm and a leg..." "murdering the King's English...". Actually, I would think your ESL friend would appreciate this chapter.


message 22: by Holly (new)

Holly | 9 comments I'm part way through, though I've listened/read it many times before. Some thoughts:

I'm having trouble picturing the charactrs/scenes in my head as I'm reading because all I see is the Disney Alice, and all I hear is a book on tape I had when I was little. I feel like my experience of the book has been hijacked by popular culture - I cannot form my own vision of it because of all these other interpretations crowding out my own. It's one of the reasons that I always try to read the book before seeing the movie, though Alice is so ingrained in our culture that would be virtually impossible.

That having been said, I am enjoying it for all the things one doesn't notice when you're little. The mathematical logic is wonderful - concept of nothingness, inverse relationships all over the place ("Do cats eat bats? Do bats eat cats?" or my favorite "You might as well say that I see what I eat is the same as I eat what I see!"). I tried to figure out the meaning behind Alice's confused multiplication tables (chapter 2 I believe) but finally looked online: they're different base systems, for example 4 × 5 = 12 in base 18. No child is ever going to know that, but they can enjoy the sillyness while adults can appreciate the deeper meaning and use it as a teaching tool for older kids.

I'm also intrigued by the strains of colonialism that people are picking up on, I had never thought of that. The Opium Wars with China were going on as he was writing it so there could definitely be a connection. I wonder though how much to read in to the drug references - in Victorian England they were so pervasive that it wouldn't seem strange to work them in to a story, but from our 21st century view it seems striking. It has also been picked up by so many pop culture icons as a "drug book" that I think we tend to assume it was meant that way.

My version has a short author's note at the beginning which amused me:

"Inquires have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter's Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz. 'Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!' This, however, is merely an afterthought: the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all."

I was a little disappointed to read this, the mystery of it always seemed to be the most important part, much like 'who is John Galt?'. An answer almost seems to ruin it.


message 23: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1684 comments According to both Carroll/Dodgson and the adult Alice Liddell, Carroll made up the story impromptu during a rowboat trip with the three Liddell girls, something he often did. The Wonderland story was particularly good, and the girls asked him to write it down, which he did. It seem to me that that is exactly what this story is: a fantasy made up on the spot, without forethought or plot, designed only to delight upper-class Victorian girls. I wouldn't look for deep meaning in it. It's a lot of pleaant nonsense, an ink blot in which one can see whatever is in one's mind.


message 24: by Holly (new)

Holly | 9 comments Carroll did make the basics up on the spot, but he spent years writing and rewriting and nearly doubled the size of the manuscript. So the basics may have been nonsense but he put a lot of thought into it later.


message 25: by Anthony (new)

Anthony Watkins (anthonyuplandpoetwatkins) | 2 comments Alice is one of my all time favorites, i read it as a child and have read it several times since i have become an adult.

Roger, I like that story, but i can never write a poem that doesnt tell you a lot about what i think about life. i think his fantasy is informed by his world view and it is a rich view!


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

Right now (2/3 of the way through) I am with Roger (@32). I've encountered several moments that seem like "ink blot" moments for a modern reader. But I am wondering what it is about this book that has made it such a cultural phenomenon. In short, right now, I am less interested in the narrative than in the biography of the narrative.


message 27: by Adelle (new)

Adelle | 127 comments Patrice wrote:I was just telling a friend that I never realized before that I don't speak straight English, It seems everything I say is an idiomatic expression and yes, the ESL students are constantly baffled and I have to stop and re-phrase ."

I noticed that, too, when I was working with ESL students. Lol. Some sessions we devoted strictly to idioms...kinda fun, really. And I just think that children, too, have to learn them. And how delighted might a smart little girl be with a story that uses idioms in a literal sense.

Disney. Me, too. Refused to let the daughter see the Disnwy movie until after we had read the book.

AiW was just so enjoyable the first time I read it.


message 28: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Zeke wrote: "Right now (2/3 of the way through) I am with Roger (@32). I've encountered several moments that seem like "ink blot" moments for a modern reader. But I am wondering what it is about this book that ..."

I think it can be read on multiple -- I at first wrote two, but went back in edit and made it multiple -- levels. On one level, where @32 seems to be, yes, it's just a nice children's story. But, as Holly notes, Carroll did a lot of work on it.

For just one example, I decline to believe that he composed the poem "You are old, Father William" on the spot in a rowboat. This is a parody, Gardner notes, of a Robert Southey poem, The Old Man's Comforts and How He Gained Them. Here's the original poem:

The Old Man's Comforts and how he gained them

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth would fly fast,
And abused not my health and my vigour at first
That I never might need them at last.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And pleasures with youth pass away,
And yet you lament not the days that are gone,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

In the days of my youth, Father William replied,
I remember'd that youth could not last;
I thought of the future whatever I did,
That I never might grieve for the past.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
And life must be hastening away;
You are chearful, and love to converse upon death!
Now tell me the reason I pray.

I am chearful, young man, Father William replied,
Let the cause thy attention engage;
In the days of my youth I remember'd my God!
And He hath not forgotten my age.

To me, Carroll clearly worked on this poem beyond the original rowboat composition. Anybody want to disagree with me?


message 29: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Here's another example for those who think there isn't hidden meaning or a developed story.

In Chapter 2, Alice starts (wrongly, which is already interesting for a girl of her age) repeating the multiplication table, "four time five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen and four times seven is ...Oh dear, I will never get to twenty at that rate."

Why not? Because at the time multiplication tables only went up to the twelves -- beyond that, you calculated the answers. If she advances by ones, she will get to four times twelve is nineteen, and there she will be stopped, never to get to twenty. Would Carroll have been likely to work this out on the spot during a row? But beyond that, doesn't it tell us something about the limitations of our knowledge, and that if we persist in wrong patterns of thinking we will never get to an answer we want to reach?


message 30: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments It seems to me that in addition to reading this as a simple adventure story, it can also be read as an existential inquiry -- who am I? Who is Alice? Is Alice a big girl, or a little girl, or sometimes a big girl and sometimes a little girl? How does she respond to unusual situations and new experiences? -- a question we must all answer about ourselves.

Just for starters.


message 31: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Rather long post, and for that reason hidden in spoiler code -- actually might be some spoilers for those not finished reading it. (The whole article won't fit in one post, so it's continued in the next post. Here's a paragraph to whet your appetite, or alternately to make you realize this is not your cup of cocoa)

While some have argued that this scene, with its hookah and "magic mushroom", is about drugs, I believe it's actually about what Dodgson saw as the absurdity of symbolic algebra, which severed the link between algebra, arithmetic and his beloved geometry. Whereas the book's later chapters contain more specific mathematical analogies, this scene is subtle and playful, setting the tone for the madness that will follow.

Citation: Article from New Scientist, 12/19/2009

Comment: Satirical swipes at mathematical thinking are hiding in Lewis Carroll's classic tale, says literary scholar Melanie Bayley

Abstract: The article analyzes the mathematical concepts underlying the story of the book "Alice in Wonderland," by Lewis Carroll. Carroll, who was born Charles Dodgson, was a mathematician. Utilizing a technique from Euclid's proofs, reductio ad absurdum, Carroll adopted the new abstract mathematics to create his fiction. The author describes the parts of the story where mathematical concepts can be observed. She also ponders on Carroll's love of the Euclidean geometry as evident in the story.

First paragraph: (Supports Holly's post that Carroll worked for some time on the text, it's not just what he told the Liddell girls in that famous rowboat ride):
What would Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland be without the Cheshire Cat, the trial, the Duchess's baby or the Mad Hatter's tea party? Look at the original story that the author told Alice Liddell and her two sisters one day during a boat trip near Oxford, though, and you'll find that these famous characters and scenes are missing from the text.

The full text of the article:
(view spoiler)


message 32: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments The rest of the article:

(view spoiler)


message 33: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments That was only one scholarly article I found, but since Carroll was certainly a trained mathematician and logician, it seemed more likely to be directly related to Carroll's thinking than more esoteric literary analyses.

Now, as I have often noted, scholars trying to come up with a novel PhD thesis or article to publish toward tenure can come up with some very obscure and, to me, highly unlikely analyses of literary works. That may be what's at work here. But, on the other hand, since Carroll clearly added quite a bit to the work after he first told it to the Liddell girls, maybe not.

You are free to decide either way.


message 34: by Magdalena (new)

Magdalena (anofeles) I would never be able to find even a fragment of all the mathematics behind this book... now I find it really fascinating. Thank so much for this new point of view. :)

Oh, and Patrice, the schizophrenia thing is also pretty interesting, I had no idea about this.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

Patrice @ 49: I think you sell yourself short. Surely, you would have picked up on the mathematics in a "million billion zillion" years! :)


message 36: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Patrice wrote: "Hmmm, I didn't think of the opium trade. That's a great point. Didn't the Brits get the Chinese hooked on opium?"

Here's the answer according to Wikipedia: In China, recreational use of this drug began in the 15th century, but was limited by its rarity and expense. Opium trade became more regular by the 17th century, when it was mixed with tobacco for smoking, and addiction was first recognized.[citation needed] Opium prohibition in China began in 1729, yet was followed by nearly two centuries of increasing opium use. China had a positive balance sheet in trading with the British, which led to a decrease of the British silver stocks. Therefore, the British tried to encourage Chinese opium use to enhance their balance, and they delivered it from Indian provinces under British control. In India, its cultivation, as well as the manufacture and traffic to China, were subject to the East India Company, as a strict monopoly of the British government.[2] For supervising and managing the business, there was an extensive and complicated system of government agencies. A massive confiscation of opium by the Chinese emperor, who tried to stop the opium deliveries, led to two Opium Wars in 1839 and 1858, in which Britain suppressed China and traded opium all over the country. After 1860, opium use continued to increase with widespread domestic production in China, until more than 25% of the male population were regular consumers by 1905. Recreational or addictive opium use in other nations remained rare into the late 19th century, recorded by an ambivalent literature that sometimes praised the drug.


message 37: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 09, 2013 05:56AM) (new)

China had a positive balance sheet in trading with the British, which led to a decrease of the British silver stocks. Therefore, the British tried to encourage Chinese opium use to enhance their balance, and they delivered it from Indian provinces under British control.

These are the key sentences. As with so many other things, Western "advanced" societies forced themselves on Asian and Pacific cultures in the Victorian era. Imperial Journey by James Bradley tells the story. After reading it, one can only grimace at the thought of Theodore Roosevelt being on Mt. Rushmore.

An interesting aside. The family fortune of TR's cousin, FDR, was made by his grandfather in the opium trade.


message 38: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Patrice wrote: "I don't know what this has to do with anything but one of the ways schizophrenia is diagnosed is to ask the patient to explain an idiomatic expression. They can't. They can only think literally. ..."

From my reading the book as a child I remember the "Mad Hatter". I was told, possibly by my mother, that the making of hats, at or before the writing of the book, included the use of mercury. It is the mercury that causes "madness".


message 39: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth (ElizabethHammond) | 233 comments Everyman's message at 43.

You are old, Father William, the young man cried,
The few locks which are left you are grey;
You are hale, Father William, a hearty old man,
Now tell me the reason I pray.

Everyman, I remember this poem, but this is the way I remember the first few of lines:

"You are old, Father William, the young man said
And your hair is exceedingly white,
And yet you persistently stand on your head
Do you think at your age it is right?"

Would you have any idea where or how I would have gotten this version? Since the book was written in English, I can't imagine translation problems!


message 40: by Mark (last edited Jun 09, 2013 08:50AM) (new)

Mark Heyne (marconi_smh) | 5 comments This passage from Carrol's Sylvie and Bruno shows that as a mathematician Carrol was quite capable of thought experiments involving relative movement and how that would affect the experience of time:

http://www.pazooter.com/carroll/einst...

the argument, whether this means Carrol anticipated relativity, is ongoing:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lewisca...


message 41: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Elizabeth wrote: "rom my reading the book as a child I remember the "Mad Hatter". I was told, possibly by my mother, that the making of hats, at or before the writing of the book, included the use of mercury. It is the mercury that causes "madness".
"


This is correct, at least as far as I understand the situation.


message 42: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Elizabeth wrote: "Everyman, I remember this poem, but this is the way I remember the first few of lines:

"You are old, Father William, the young man said
And your hair is exceedingly white,"


That is Carroll's parody of the original, which Alice recites in Chapter 5, but it is regularly printed and anthologized as a poem in its own right; it would not be surprising if you had read it elsewhere without having any idea that it originally came from Alice in Wonderland.


message 43: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1684 comments Patrice wrote: "Roger, don't you think an ink blot might reveal what was in Lewis Carroll's mind too?"

I certainly reveals that he thought caucuses involved a lot of running around in circles. Not very deep, but it was in his mind.


message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

I have certainly attended my share of caucuses that went round and round in circles. The difference being that, in them, rather than everyone winning, no one did.


message 45: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1684 comments Everyman wrote: "Rather long post, and for that reason hidden in spoiler code -- actually might be some spoilers for those not finished reading it. (The whole article won't fit in one post, so it's continued in th..."

For my money, Baylor's explanation is forced and unconvincing. I don't believe Carroll would have put in satire so obscure that no-one would notice it for a hundred years.


message 46: by Roger (new)

Roger Burk | 1684 comments Mark wrote: "This passage from Carrol's Sylvie and Bruno shows that as a mathematician Carrol was quite capable of thought experiments involving relative movement and how that would affect the experience of tim..."

What Dodgson anticipated was weightlessness, which occurs in Newtonian physics. It really doesn't have anything to do with Einstein's relativity.


message 47: by Holly (last edited Jun 09, 2013 07:58PM) (new)

Holly | 9 comments Everyman wrote: "The rest of the article:

De Morgan's work explained the departure from universal arithmetic - where algebraic symbols stand for specific numbers rooted in a physical quantity - to that of symbolic..."


Fascinating article, thank you for posting it Everyman. I did feel like some of the connections were a bit forced, but if nothing else it's an interesting look at some of the mathematics going on at the time. And I loved his comments about the word "temper", makes so much more sense that way (as much as anything can make sense in this book).

I was amused to see that he brought up Platonic ideals in regards to the Hatter's party (my favorite chapter). I had also thought of ideals in the Doormouse's comment about "a drawing of a muchness". Can a purely abstract idea have a form, would that form be something like an ideal, and therefore would it be visible? Don't know if I'm stretching him a bit too thin there but that's what came to mind for me.

Another reference is the rose tree and its colors, red versus white. It has to be a reference to the War of the Roses and York/Lancaster's rose crests. In that case they were supposed to plant the winning side's tree (Lancaster).

Also like the caucus race, he doesn't seem to have much faith in the judicial system.


message 48: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 7718 comments Roger wrote: "For my money, Baylor's explanation is forced and unconvincing. I don't believe Carroll would have put in satire so obscure that no-one would notice it for a hundred years. "

You may well be right. I agree that some of the article seemed a bit forced. But as to the basic underlying idea, that Carroll hid his opposition to certain mathematical theories in the work, they might not have come out for several reasons.

One, the people they were aimed at, which would be a fairly small subset of the population, wouldn't have read Alice.

Two, the people they were aimed at did understand them, but didn't feel like making it public.

Three, Carroll was doing this for his own enjoyment, or to work off his own frustrations, and didn't really care whether anybody else saw it or not.

I don't know whether any of these are right or not, and I don't even know whether Carroll was deliberately embedding these mathematical ideas. But I don't think the fact that they might not have reached a lay audience until recently (prior to the Internet, what average reader would have had any access to this information in the first place?) doesn't necessarily, I think, invalidate the author's basic premise.


message 49: by Everyman (new)


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Funny cartoon E-man. Oddly enough, when I looked into the origins of "grinning like a Chesire Cat," I wondered whether Carroll was foreshadowing Schrodinger either consciously or not.

I enjoyed the philosophical debate about whether it is possible to behead "someone" who does not have a body from which to detach the head.


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