THE GREAT AMERICAN READ: “WHO AM I?”

We go in search of Alice as we peer into the looking glass of literature.

For more information about The Great American Read click here.

Aired on September 18, 2018. 

TRANSCRIPT

> WHAT IS THE USE OF A BOOK THOUGHT ALICE, WITHOUT PICTURES?

ALICE IN WONDERLAND FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND, THE STORY HAS STOOD THE TEST OF TIME AS GENERATIONS OF CHILDREN ARE DELIGHTED BY ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN THE MYTHICAL UNDERWORLD.

JOINING US IS ROBERT FAIR HURST AT MAUG DE LYNN COLLEGE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD.

IT WAS THE CHESHIRE CAT WHO FAMOUSLY PURRED, WE'RE ALL MAD HERE.

PROFESSOR, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH, IT'S GOOD TO BE WITH YOU.

ONE OF THE THINGS THAT GAVE ALICE HER STAYING POWER ASIDE FROM HER DELIGHTFUL 19th CENTURY CHARM.

I WANTED TO START TAKING US BACK TO THE TIME AND PLACE THAT THIS BOOK WAS CREATED, BECAUSE NOTHING COMES OUT OF A VACUUM, WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT ENGLAND IN 1865.

WELL, IT WAS JUST A FEW YEARS AFTER DARWIN HAD PUBLISHED THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES.

IT WAS A WORLD WHERE EVERYTHING SEEMED TO BE ON THE MOVE.

ANIMALS SEEMED TO BE STICKS.

THE UNDERGROUND WAS STARTING TO BE FULL OF LIFE, SO THE FIRST UNDERGROUND RAILWAY WAS JUST ABOUT TO OPEN.

SEWERS, AND GAS PLAINS WERE BEING LAID.

WHEREVER YOU LOOK, THINGS SEEM TO BE CHANGING.

ONE OF THE OTHER THINGS THAT I THOUGHT WAS INTERESTING, SO MUCH OF THIS BOOK ISN'T WHAT IT SEEMS.

LOUIS CAROL WAS A PSEUDONYM.

HIS REAL NAME WAS THE REVEREND CHARLES DODSON.

HE WAS LIKE TWO PEOPLE WHO SHARED ONE SKIN.

HERE IN OXFORD, HE WAS A RATHER DRY, RATHER PRESSCY MATHEMATICIAN AND FIRM UPHOLDER OF THE CHURCH OF EVERYTHING LAND'S VALUES.

AT THE SAME TIME, HE WAS PLAYFUL AND NONSENSICAL AND LIKED MAKING UP STORIES FOR CHILDREN.

THERE'S A LOT OF DEVIATIONS BETWEEN THE WAY ALICE IN WONDERLAND IS PRESENTED ON STAGE OR IN FILMS AND WHAT'S ACTUALLY IN THE BOOK.

WHEN WALT DISNEY FIRST DOES ALICE FILMS, IT'S BACK IN THE 1920s.

HE DOES 56 LITTLE FILMS.

THERE ALICE IS A YOUNG GIRL.

LATER ON WHEN SHE PRODUCES THE FIRST CARTOON, SHE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN GROWING UP, AND SHE'S BEEN GROWING UP AND UP AND UP EVER SINCE.

SO MANY OTHER ANIMAL CHARACTERS IN THE BOOK HAVE GAINED A LIFE OF THEIR OWN.

WE HAVE THE WHITE RABBIT, THE MAD HATTER.

AND, OF COURSE, THE CHESS IRE CAT.

I'M WONDERING WHY IT IS THAT THESE SEEMINGLY RANDOM AND MYSTERIOUS CHARACTERS LEAP OFF THE PAGE INTO THEIR OWN SORT OF EXISTENCE.

THE CHESHIRE CAT IS AN INTERESTING EXAMPLE, IN THE STORY WE'RE TOLD THAT THE CATS HAVE VERY SHARP TEETH AND VERY LONG CLAWS.

EVEN THAT'S A KIND OF DARWINIAN CREATURE, THE FIRST THING THE MOUSE MENTIONS IN THE LIST OF THINGS BEGINNING WITH M IS MOUSE TRAPS.

THIS IS A DANGEROUS WORLD.

BUT A LOT OF THE CHARACTERS THAT WE THINK OF AS BEING ABSOLUTELY INVENTED BY CAROL WEREN'T REALLY INVENTED BY LIMB AT ALL.

THE MAD HATTER ISN'T CALLED THE MAD HATTER IN THE BOOK, HE'S JUST CALLED THE HATTER, AND HE WAS BASED ON A REAL PERSON.

AND IN FACT, QUITE A LOT OF THE CHARACTERS THAT ALICE COMES ACROSS, ARE LIKE STRANGE PLAYFUL DREAM LIKE DISTORTIONS.

IT'S ONLY RIGHT AT THE END OF THE BOOK, OF COURSE, YOU REMEMBER, WE REALIZE THAT THIS IS ALL A DREAM.

AND WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS A KIND OF CRAZILY JUMBLED UP OF THE REAL ALICE LIFE ABOVE GROUNDS IN OXFORD.

LOUIS CAROL DELIBERATED CREATED A WORLD IN WHICH CHARACTERS AND EVENTS FLOWED INTO EACH OTHER, LIKE A REAL DREAM.

EVEN WORDS START TO LOSE THEIR BOUNDARIES, THEY START TO SHIFT AND BLUR, CAT, RAT, BAT.

THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IS MUCH MORE PLAYFUL THAN WHAT WE'RE USED TO.

HERE IN NEW YORK CITY WE HAVE A FAMOUS STATUE OF ALICE IN WONDERLAND IN CENTRAL PARK, SHE'S SITTING ON A MUSHROOM.

AND AROUND THE MUSHROOM IS THE POEM OF THE JAWAWAKI.

HE SLICES OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS NEW STORY.

IT'S A GOOD EXAMPLE OF HOW HE LIKED TO WORK AS WELL.

WELL, THAT IS A GREAT NOTE TO END IT ON, I WANT TO THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

AND FOR GIVING SOME CLARITY INTO THE UNDERWORLD OF NONSENSE THAT IS ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

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