In 2012, Prof. Will Brooker, head of Film research at Kingston University and author of the book Alice’s Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture, undertook new research into the way the anniversaries of the Alice stories and Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) were marked in Guildford and the surrounding areas. He studied three key dates – 1932, 1965 and 1998 – to find out what Carroll meant to Surrey throughout the 20th century. The project incorporated the views of local people, Dodgson’s living descendants, and leading Carroll experts.
Alice across the years
By 1932, Alice had been used in a variety of political parodies, illustrated by a range of artists and adapted into six film productions; but more importantly, analysis of Carroll’s work had begun to circulate. A.M.E. Goldschmidt published Alice in Wonderland Psycho-Analysed in 1933, arguing that the children’s story was packed with coded sexual symbols and prompting an interpretation of Carroll’s work that persisted throughout the 20th century.
The mid-1960s saw Alice re-interpreted as a psychedelic, hallucinogenic “trip”; Grace Slick’s White Rabbit of 1967 and Thomas Fensch’s article Lewis Carroll: The First Acidhead (1968) picked up on readings that were already circulating in youth culture. Disney’s animated adaptation of 1951 was proving popular with students, leading Disney to re-release the film with a marketing campaign focusing on its “visual euphoria”, while Jonathan Miller released a sombre, grown-up television adaptation of Alice in 1966.
At the end of the 20th century, while the Alice books were still considered wholesome entertainment, adapted to family-friendly film and television versions (such as Nick Willing’s production of 1999), and released in new illustrated editions for children and parents to enjoy together (for example by Helen Oxenbury, in 1999), many journalists and critics viewed Carroll’s photography – and his relationships with his child-friends – through the lens of contemporary fears about children’s safety and sexuality. Cultural responses to Carroll and his work are contradictory, held in tension between an admiration of his contribution to heritage, and a deep suspicion of his personal characteristics.
Click here to see a pdf () copy of a newscutting from the Daily Express with cartoon ‘Alice in Blunderland’ by Strure, and article ‘This Is LEWIS CARROLL’S DAY’ by Howard Spring, 27 Jan 1932 (SHC ref 6968/3/4)
[Text by Dr Will Brooker, University of Kingston, and member of the Lewis Carroll Society.]
The Alice Timeline
The ‘Alice Timeline’, spanning 1832 to 2015, has been researched and produced by Dr Brooker and Dr Sarah Zaidan, using archives and artefacts from Surrey History Centre, Guildford Museum, and The British Library.
We are grateful to Edward Wakeling, Lewis Carroll author and expert, for his comments on the content, and to the Dodgson Executors for permission to use images of items in the Dodgson Family Collection held at Surrey History Centre.
Browse through the decades to discover key dates in the life of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, his work as Lewis Carroll, and evolution of Alice.
The Amazing World of Alice in Wonderland:
Click on the links below to discover more
Discover some of the beautifully illustrated editions of Alice on the AbeBooks website.