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Sarah's Annotated Bibliography

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 11 months ago
Annotated Bibliography

            By Sarah Harris, Team Alice

 

 

1. Flescher, Jacqueline. "The Language of Nonsense in Alice." Yale French Studies. No 43, The Child's Part, 1969: 128-144.

 

“In nonsense, paradox is clearly found everywhere – in the relationships between language and meaning, order and disorder, formal pattern and imagination of language” (142).
 
               In “The Language of Nonsense, ” Flescher systematically discusses various uses of nonsense in Lewis Carrol’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. She first differentiates nonsense from absurdity, the latter being a type of formless chaos while the former maintains an internal logic or structure.  A fascinating idea that Flescher interrogates pertains to the amount of personal control that Carroll and his characters have over the use of and meanings derived from nonsensical language.  In her analysis of a nonsensical poem from T.L.G, where the letter M is the structuring principal, she explains: “The letter M is chosen at random, but is subsequently repeated, and forms a pattern. With this pattern, a free association of totally incompatible elements can be made: mouse traps, the moon, memory and muchness.  Of course, this use of simple letter assumes an autonomy of its own and eventually demands obedience from the author” (130). Thus, where does the power of authorial choice (however arbitrary) end and the internal logic of nonsense assume control?  Flescher discusses how Alice’s emotional responses to nonsense vary, depending on whether or not she is inside or outside of the "magic circle," so to speak; Alice oscillates between curiously playing with nonsensical language and being frustrated at the misunderstandings resulting from nonsense's “take over."  These moments, when the system overpowers the system-user, are a unique aspect to Flescher's theorization of nonsense in Carroll's work.  Furthermore, by positing that an order of fixed relationships is present in nonsense language, this article expands our understandings of A.I.W and surrealist texts.
 

2. Gardner, Martin. “Word Ladders – Lewis Carroll’s Doublets.” Mathematical Gazette. Vol. 80, No. 487, Centenary Issue, 1996: 195-198.

 
In Word Ladders, Gardner describes Carroll’s creation of “the doublet” game, which was published in various pamphlets and books, including one 39-pager entirely dedicated to the game: Doublets: A Word Puzzle. Also called “word links” or “word ladders,” the doublet game consists of changing one word into another word by altering single letters at each round of play in order to transform the first word into the second. For each letter that is changed, the resulting intermediate assembly of letters must be a word. For example, a doublet from Carroll’s repertoire is “WHY is it better NOT to marry?” and his response: “WHY WHO WOO WOT NOT.” The doublet game is comparable to Zimmerman’s game theories. It has a system of rules that must be followed in order to achieve an objective, in this case, to transform word x into word y using the shortest possible number of moves. Gardner’s description of Carroll’s game becomes especially interesting when he applies it to computer technology: “Computer software containing all English words is now obtainable, and programs have been written for finding minimum chains in just a few seconds. The task is equivalent to finding the shortest route between two points on a graph.” Donald Knuth, a computer scientist from Stanford University, has even graphed 5757 of the most common 5-letter English words, connecting each word to those other words that it can be transformed into with just one letter change. Interestingly, the graph contains 671 words with no neighbors, which Knuth calls ALOOF words (ALOOF being one example :). A more detailed computer visualization project in line with Knuth’s graph would be interesting. What if, for instance, doublets were digitally mapped, and each word was connected by a visual marker to the words that it could be transformed into. Perhaps the number of “moves” could also be represented through distance, line or color.

 


 

3. Sorenson, Roy A. “A Plenum of Palindromes for Lewis Carrol.” Mind! Vol. 109, Oxford University Press, 2000: 17-22.

 
              In this piece, Roy Sorenson discusses the use of palindromes (words that read the same backwards and forwards), ambigrams (words that look the same in the mirror or when rotated) and acrostic verses (when parts of each line spell out something meaningful when read vertically) in the work of Lewis Carroll. Interested in how the word BOB is both a noun and a verb and can be repeated an infinite number of times in order to construct a grammatical sentence (“BOB BOB BOB BOB BOB BOB.”), Sorenson’s goal is to write the world’s longest palendromic poem. He maps one of Carroll’s poems into a 6 x 6 matrix in order to show the vertical and horizontal symmetry (as seen below):
 

I
often
wondered
When
I
cursed
Often
feared
where
I
would
Be
Wondred
where
she'd
yield
Her
Love
When
I
yield,
So
will
She
I
would
her
will
Be
Pitied
Cursed
Be
love!
She
pitied
me…

 
“The verses read the same column by column as they do row by row… this poem makes sense when read vertically and horizontally” (19). Thus, as Humpty Dumpty explains in Through the Looking Glass, there are words that “do extra work” and Carroll’s texts are full of these overtime words. Notably, in the example above, a word’s meaning changes depending on its syntactical positioning within the sentence and chart. For example, look at the word “cursed.” In the upper right corner, it seems to mean the use of profanity, but in the lower left corner, it means doomed or damned. Furthermore, when words are read on a diagonal, new palendomes and meanings are discovered… Sorenson ends with a response to his palendromic poetry challenge; placing the word BOB in each empty space of a 50 x 50 matrix and holding a mirror beneath this matrix will, Sorenson argues, reveal the world’s longest palendromic, ambigrammatic poem, ad infinitum.

4.  McCoart, Richard F. "Lewis Carroll's Amazing Numbers Game." College Mathematics Journal. Vol. 33, No. 5, 2002: 378-383.

 

     Written by a Loyola University mathematics professor who specializes in "graph theory", this paper describes a mathematical game devised by Lewis Carroll just two years prior to his death (1898).  The game involves a mathematician (or Person A) and a participant (or Person B).  First, person A asks person B to think of a positive integer.  Then person A gives person B a choice of a series of mathematical functions to perform on her integer.  After each mathematical act, she must respond to the question: "Is the result odd or even?"  Carroll devised equations for the multiple possibilities that person B could choose and these equations help person A discover person B's original number.  While better known for his novels, Carroll's "day-job" was as a mathematical lecturer at Oxford University. While McCoart locates a few mistakes in Carroll's game-equations, the underlying theme of Carroll's enthusiasm for games is apparent in the included photocopy of his original game description.  The themes of game-play and structure with choice provide important insights into the nonsensical rules present in his surrealist texts.


5. Alice. dir. Jan Svankmajer, Czechoslovakia, 1989.

 

 

 

 
In Alice, Jan Svankmajer’s film adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), the morose undertones of the original text are remarkably heightened. Svankmajer's auteur style evokes an interrogation of  "creative destruction", explores the restrictions and possibilities of the body and material worlds, expresses disillusionment with bureaucracies and resists bourgeoisie hegemony. Many of his clay-mation works comment on basic human appetites, dilemmas, and life-mysteries such as greed, sexual desire, birth and death. Sometimes Svankmajer simply plays with space and texture, incorporating humor that translates internationally to non-Czech audiences. In Alice, Svankmajer uses a variety of household materials, stuffed animals, and a live-action and marionette version of Alice (see clip above) in his mis-en-scene. Notably, film-Alice hardly ever smiles. She cooly observes, explores, fears, reacts and struggles to make sense of and survive in her world. The self-reflexive talk that Carroll incorporated into his novel is replaced in the film by silence juxtaposed with the cacophonous sounds of Alice’s environment. In the original, Carroll addresses us (the readers) explicitly, usually within a set of parentheses, while book-Alice remains in the narrative space of Wonderland. Strikingly, Svankmajer reconfigures the use of direct address by framing Alice’s lips in extreme close-ups as her voice-over (or the dubbed English voice) flows through the screen, intermittently jarring us out of the diegetic space. Svankmajer’s “matches-on-action” of Alice’s movements create surreal spatial transitions from the home to the stage to natural surroundings; he transforms textual imaginaries into visual and aural representations, generating possibilities for new meanings and interpretations.

 

 

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