charles-dodgson

Say it with me kids: Alice in Wonderland has no references to drugs. It was written by a man who was by all accounts a complete and utter square, not to mention it was written for like, an eight year old, so please shut up about the drug thing, it’s not true. It’s just a boring way to look at things, people can be creative without the effects of drugs. I’m so sick of hearing about this all the time.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” - Lewis Carroll (born: 27 January 1832)

10

Alice’s adventures in Wonderland 1972

“I was banned for expressing my sexuality”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was never banned anywhere. Of course, you will probably add that all of the books mentionned in this campaign were not “officially” banned, but considered offensive by some circles of close-minded people.

In Alice’s case, the book is widely considered to be the expression of the author’s so-called sexual desire for young girls. I don’t know if this campaign poster illustrate this dreadful misinterpretation in an ironic way or not. If they did, then it was a very clumsy choice of words. If they didn’t, they are a bunch of twisted fucks (pardon the expression…).

Who in their right mind would come up with the idea of Alice being about sex? She is seven years old ! I know it’s really fun to look for all the sexual allusions in a book but really… The freudian’s analysis have done a lot of damage to Lewis Carroll’s works, and now this campaign is spreading the bad word, even not intentionally. What people may understand here is “Oh, Alice was banned because of all the pedophiliac references. How dare they! It was so brave of Carroll to express his true sexuality!

I’m starting to wonder if they have not exchanged Lolita with Alice in Wonderland by mistake…

“In quella direzione” rispose il Gatto,

facendo un cenno con la sua rotonda zampa destra,

“ci abita un Cappellaio: e in quell’altra direzione”,

accennando con l’altra zampa,

“ci abita il Leprotto Marzolino. Vai da chi ti pare: sono matti tutti e due”.

“Ma io non voglio andare in mezzo ai matti” obiettò Alice.

“Be’, è inevitabile” le rispose il Gatto. “Siamo tutti matti qui.

Io sono matto. Tu sei matta”.

"Come fai a sapere che sono matta?” chiese Alice.

“Devi esserlo” fece il Gatto “altrimenti non saresti venuta qui”.

                                      Lewis Carrol, Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie



Lewis Carrol era lo pseudonimo di Charles Dodgson, un professore di matematica al Christ Church College di Oxford, che soffriva di una classica emicrania. L’emicrania può presentarsi con allucinazioni lilipuziane, nelle quali gli oggetti (inclusi altre persone o animali) appaiono più piccoli che nella realtà. Perciò gli studiosi hanno ipotizzato che l’ispirazione per i raccontati dell’Alice di Carrol sia derivata dalle allucinazioni lilipuziane, che ora hanno acquisito l’appellativo romantico di Sindrome dell’Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie o AIWS.

2

Alice Pleasance Liddell inspired Charles Dodgson (better know by his pen name, Lewis Carroll) to write Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass . The relationship between the two has been the source of much controversy, many biographers supposing that Dodgson had a pedophilic attraction to the girl.

Hello friends! :) Just a quick reminder:

If any of you want to make a post about Lewis Carroll, please, do! He’s a fascinating author and I think the world deserves to know more about him.

But please, please, I beg you. Do some researches. Look on the internet or read books about him if you have time and money.

Remember, if you want to talk about a person dead or alive, you need to know as many things you can about them and the time they lived in before you make any assumptions. This is twice as true for Lewis Carroll. And twice as hard as a result, I know. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible! 

I wish you good luck on your researches and I look forward to read your posts!

Love from Ravenwitch.

Lewis Carroll’s "Alice in Wonderland" about Math

     “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” asked the Mad Hatter. One might think that this nonsensical question is just inserted into the story of Alice in Wonderland for entertainment, but Lewis Carroll had other intentions that few are aware of. It wasn’t until 1984 that Helena Pycior of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee discovered that the Knave of Hearts could be associated with a Victorian book about algebra. Since then, many others have begun to notice the satire on certain types of math that Lewis Carroll hid throughout the story.

            Mention the name Lewis Carroll and people will be cognizant of his achievements, but not many know of his real name, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. He was born in January 27, 1832, in Chesire, England. His family was Anglican and belonged to the High Church. He was quite conservative and this carried through to his ways of thinking about math. He was a part of a family of many children: seven girls and four boys. Dodgson went to a small private school when he was twelve, which he enjoyed, but later attended a rugby school, which he did not enjoy nearly as much. He wrote, “I cannot say … that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again … I can honestly say that if I could have been … secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.”

            He attended Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1851 as a mathematician. After only being there for two days, his mother died of “Inflammation of the Brain”. Despite this sad event, he continued to work hard in school and even received awards. In 1956, Dodgson became interested in photography, capturing beauty as he saw it.

            He had a stutter, and there was a myth that he spoke with it only in the presence of adults, insinuating that he was afraid of the adult world, which would make sense based upon the childish essence of Alice in Wonderland. This, like many ideas of him, was false, but all the mystery surrounding him only confirms the attention he accumulated over the years.

Dodgson’s first piece of writing that was published under his pen name of Lewis Carroll was a poem called Solitude in 1956. Around that time, he had many other pieces published in magazines such as The Comic Times and The Train. He was humble about his work, expressing so by writing, “I do not think I have yet written anything worthy of real publication (in which I do not include the Whitby Gazette or the Oxonian Advertiser), but I do not despair of doing so some day,” in July of 1855.

            A few years later, Charles Dodgson wrote the story that led him to fame, Alice in Wonderland. It all began in 1862 when he went on a boat ride with Henry George Liddell’s young daughters, Lorina Charlotte Liddell, Alice Pleasance Liddell, and Edith Mary Liddell. During their boat ride, Dodgson told them a story about a young girl named Alice who went on an adventure to relieve her boredom. The story began as nothing but a boat ride tale, but after Alice Liddell suggested that he write it down, Dodgson wrote the version called, “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” and gave it to her on November 26, 1864.  He then wrote a much more elaborate version of the story and called it, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”.

            Before the nineteenth century, abstract concepts about math were barely taken into consideration. Even when they were beginning to come to life, certain mathematicians thought of them as foolish and maybe even a disgrace to the world of math. Being a pretty conservative man, Dodgson shared those beliefs. Although the author himself never confirmed it, scholars have come to the conclusion that Alice in Wonderland was written as a satire on the new experimentation with abstract mathematics. The idea that Dodgson was a conservative mathematician was taken from the fact that “above everything, he valued the ancient Greek textbook Euclid’s Elements as the epitome of mathematical thinking” (Bayley).

            One of the most interesting examples of Dodgson’s secretive use of satire, which means “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity” (Google), is from the chapter “Advice from a Caterpillar”. In this chapter, Alice has become only three inches tall from eating a special cake. A caterpillar, smoking hookah, offers her advice on how to go back to her normal size. He tells her that if she eats a mushroom, she will grow, yet it could change her proportions. One of the scholars that studied the link between Alice in Wonderland and math, Melanie Bayley from the magazine New Scientist, tells that the words “hookah” and “algebra” both have Arabic roots. The word “algebra” comes from the Arabic phrase “al jebr e al mokabala” which literally translates to “restoration and reduction”. Alice ate the mushroom with the intentions of “restoring” her original size, but it ended up “reducing” her size. Bayley explains that the events in this chapter represent symbolic algebra and Dodgson’s view of them as absurd is shown by the tone in which they are conveyed.

            Lewis Carroll continues to use diction to slip in more ridicule of symbolic algebra. At the end of the “Advice from a Caterpillar” chapter, the caterpillar says to Alice, “keep your temper”. Although only one definition of the word “temper” is usually used, it actually has another meaning, which is, “the proportions in which qualities are mingled”. So instead of telling Alice to remain calm, the caterpillar might be telling her to keep her proportions. The importance of ratios over size comes from Euclidean geometry, which Dodgson favored considerably. For example, if the lengths of the sides of a right triangle were 5, 12, and 13, a triangle with different side lengths but the same proportions, such as triangle with the side lengths of 10, 24, and 26, (twice the size of the original triangle), is “similar” to the first, just not congruent. To see visually, using Pythagoreon’s Theorem, I confirmed that the two triangles were basically the same, except for their magnitude.

 

            In Wonderland, a place full of nonsense and chaos, Alice is able to actually change her proportions. The fact that she is able to do this proves that Wonderland isn’t a rational place, such as the world of abstract mathematics, through the eyes of Dodgson.

            Imaginary numbers were one of the concepts that Dodgson seemed to have a hard time accepting as a legitimate mathematical concept. Around the time Alice in Wonderland was written, William Rowan Hamilton’s discovery of quaternions was becoming popular. Complex numbers consist of two terms: a real number and an imaginary number. Normally, finding a square root of a negative number is impossible, but for the sake of exploring mathematics beyond what the “possible” allows one to do, these impossible numbers must be used, under the name “imaginary numbers”. For example, 32 = 9, and -32 = 9. Using that equation, there is no way to make 9 negative. So the square root of negative nine does not technically exist, making it an “imaginary number”. Quaternions are not only made of two dimensions, but four. The fourth term of a quaternion represents time. In the chapter about the Mad Hatter’s tea party, there are four characters, and the fourth was Time. Three-dimensional numbers don’t work the way quaternions and complex numbers do, so when Time was missing, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, and the March Hare couldn’t leave the table.

            Lewis Carroll could have easily written “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground” for Alice Liddell and been satisfied. Instead, he infused the story with (almost) undetectable satire and made it a story the world won’t ever forget. His passion for math drove his writing, which in turn created a bestseller.

‘Well, it must be removed,’ said the King very decidedly.

- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

(Lenox Ave, Harlem)

For more images, check out the book!
“Alice in Manhattan: A Photographic Trip Down New York City’s Rabbit Holes”
If only I had known you were existing, I would have sent you heaps of love, long ago. And, now that I come to think about it, I ought to have sent you the love, without being so particular about whether you existed or not. In some ways, you know, people, that don’t exist, are so much nicer than people that do. For instance, people that don’t exist are never cross: and they never contradict you: and they never tread on your toes! Oh, they’re ever so much nicer than people that do exist! However, never mind: you can’t help existing, you know; and I daresay you’re just as nice as if you didn’t.
—  Lewis Carroll