Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226041506 Published November 2016
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Alice in Space

The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll

Gillian Beer

Alice in Space

Gillian Beer

240 pages | 21 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2016
Cloth $35.00 ISBN: 9780226041506 Published November 2016
E-book $35.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226404790 Published November 2016
In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll created fantastic worlds that continue to delight and trouble readers of all ages today. Few consider, however, that Carroll conceived his Alice books during the 1860s, a moment of intense intellectual upheaval, as new scientific, linguistic, educational, and mathematical ideas flourished around him and far beyond. Alice in Space reveals the contexts within which the Alice books first lived, bringing back the zest to jokes lost over time and poignancy to hidden references.

Gillian Beer explores Carroll’s work through the speculative gaze of Alice, for whom no authority is unquestioned and everything can speak. Parody and Punch, evolutionary debates, philosophical dialogues, educational works for children, math and logic, manners and rituals, dream theory and childhood studies—all fueled the fireworks. While much has been written about Carroll’s biography and his influence on children’s literature, Beer convincingly shows him at play in the spaces of Victorian cultural and intellectual life, drawing on then-current controversies, reading prodigiously across many fields, and writing on multiple levels to please both children and adults in different ways.

With a welcome combination of learning and lightness, Beer reminds us that Carroll’s books are essentially about curiosity, its risks and pleasures. Along the way, Alice in Space shares Alice’s exceptional ability to spark curiosity in us, too.
Review Quotes
Times Higher Education
“An erudite, witty and intimate journey through Wonderland. . . . Reading Alice in Space is like participating in a marvellous dinner party conversation as the author moves freely and easily among the intricate interrelationships of Victorian culture.”
Prospect
“Combining literary criticism and intellectual history, Alice in Space is a rigorous and engaging guide to both the texts and the contemporary structures of thought that made them possible.”
Critical Inquiry
"The project of resetting Carroll's fanciful dreamscapes into their historical moment has been done before. . . . Beer develops and extends such footnotes into critical prose that describes the intellectual and emotional contours of the Alice universe with enchanting, lapidary precision. She also draws on new archival material to reveal obscure but telling aspects of Carroll’s doubled identity as mathematician Charles Dodgson. The result is an enjoyable and compelling description of the Alice books' slant engagements with 1860s British culture. . . . Alice in Space is no critical breakthrough, but its principal aim is more modest: to enhance readers’ understanding and enjoyment of the Alice books. In this it succeeds superlatively, by revealing the historical milieu of the books’ carefree conceptual play."
Rebecca Stott, author of Darwin’s Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists
“Just when we all thought we knew the Alice books, along comes Gillian Beer, who opens up not just new doors, but whole new corridors and gardens down in Carroll’s sideways world. Alice in Space is a joy: playful, brilliant, and wise.”
Marina Warner, author of Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights
“Offering sensitive and judicious insights into Lewis Carroll—the man, the mathematician, and the writer—Beer takes us on a vertiginous voyage through the wonderlands of his creation. She explores the scientific and ethical questions of his time and reveals how the comic—and dark—fantasy of the Alice books often conveys the subtlety of his dissenting views. Beer always writes with stylish, consummate eloquence. Alice in Space exemplifies how flights of passionate sympathy and imagination can also be acts of scrupulous inquiry and immaculate research.”
Michael Wood, author of Literature and the Taste of Knowledge
“The title of this wonderful work—alert and witty in its attention to details, capacious and learned in its opening up of the realms of knowledge Carroll lived among and engaged with—evokes outer space and rightly so. Alice travels underground and through a mirror and beyond any earth we know. But she inhabits other zones, too. She lives in our minds. She reads the signs of a foreign world and is herself read by others. All of this comes richly alive for us in Beer’s writing. We are as close to ‘adamant eager Alice’ as we shall ever be.”
Jan Susina, author of The Place of Lewis Carroll in Children's Literature
“While Lewis Carroll’s importance to the history of children’s literature has long been recognized, this book convincingly establishes Carroll and the Alice books at the very heart of Victorian literature and culture. Here we learn how the Alice books engage in active conversations with the ideas of great minds like Charles Darwin, Thomas Henry Huxley, Max Müller, John Stuart Mill, and Emily Brontë. Beer brilliantly reveals Carroll to be, like his famous protagonist, always curious, always enquiring.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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