Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie – Carroll’s pedagogic interactions with children’s literature and Victorian society

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Avviso: in questo caso il testo è in inglese ma non spaventatevi, è di facile comprensione 🙂

alice

Testo Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Ludwidge Dodgson, took inspiration for the character of Alice from a young girl of the same name he knew when he was teaching at Oxford University. She was in fact the daughter of the Christ church college rector. This was a family of good social standing and therefore she and her two sisters were among those fortunate enough to receive a good education in that period. Being girls, they were probably educated at home by a governess or private tutor. In Victorian England considerable value was attributed to childhood which was considered symbolic of innocence and children were often subjects of photographic portraits. This was partly due to the high infant mortality rate: parents from higher classes entrusted photographers with the task of immortalizing the image of their children should they need to remember them if they didn’t reach adulthood.

alice in wond

Alice Pleasance Liddell, estate 1858

Even though the stories about Alice were considered children’s literature, they are full of logical, philosophical and linguistic enigmas, that reflect the author’s interest in language and matters regarding meaning in a playful and captivating way. Carroll’s work questions individuality and self awareness, the nature of time and space and the function of language. Through the character of Alice and her childlike language, her use of rhymes and songs, which were commonly taught and memorized in Victorian classrooms, Carroll creates a parody and in a certain sense criticizes the society of that period. He also cleverly changes well-known nursery rhymes or popular sayings in order to convey an idea and provoke surprise in the reader. It is a method he also uses in order to illustrate his disapproval of certain pedagogic methods. We can see this in the parody of “The old man’s comforts and how he gained them”. This rhyme was taught to children to encourage them to abandon childhood and to prepare them for adulthood. This idea was the exact opposite to Carroll’s who afforded extreme importance to childhood. Another example of this literary method is the line “Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves” which is a variation of the common saying “Take care of the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves”. What is apparently non sense in actual fact has deeper meaning.

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.

                                                                           Southey

 YOU ARE OLD FATHER WILLIAM

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,

“And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

“In my youth,” Father William replied to his son,
“I feared it might injure the brain;
But now that I’m perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again.”

                                                                               Carroll

BIBLIOGRAFIA
Lewis Carroll, Alice nel Paese delle Meraviglie, Feltrinelli, Milano 2010

Gavin Delahunty, Christoph Benjamin Schulz, Alice in Wonderland, Mondadori Electa S.p.A., Milano 2012

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Alice nel paese delle meraviglie. Ediz. integrale

Alice nel paese delle meraviglie. Catalogo della mostra (Rovereto, 25 febbraio-3 giugno 2012)

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