Alice's evidence : examining the cultural afterlife of Lewis Carroll in 1932

Brooker, Will (2016) Alice's evidence : examining the cultural afterlife of Lewis Carroll in 1932. Cultural History, 5(1), pp. 1-25. ISSN (print) 2045-290X


In the context of recent work on Charles Lutwidge Dodgson/Lewis Carroll, this paper argues that, given the scarcity of new archival information on the author and his life, the cultural ‘afterlife’ of Carroll and his books, such as Alice in Wonderland, provides a rich alternative avenue for scholarly research. It uses as a case study the 1932 centenary of Lewis Carroll’s birth, which, it argues, marks a key transition point in cultural discourses around the author and Alice. While the Alice books had, by 1932, been adapted to cinema, adopted into advertising and incorporated into a society very different from the 1860s Britain in which they were first published, they were also subject to conservative notions of authenticity and fidelity to the original. Carroll, who died in 1898, was already considered in terms of literary ‘immortality’, and his work associated with a nostalgic past, yet he also remained within living memory; the reminiscences of those who had known him when they were children were foregrounded in the press, while ‘the real Alice’, Mrs Hargreaves, was still alive, and feted as one of the text’s cultural curators. Both Carroll and Alice were, meanwhile, subject to new contemporary discourses such as psychoanalysis, and became key to literary tourism and heritage on both a local and national level. This dynamic, complex point in Carroll’s cultural history, studied here through an analysis of primary documents from the period, is presented as an example of the rich potential for detailed scholarship into the afterlife of Alice and its author.

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