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Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser Paperback – Jan 12 2010
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From the Back Cover
Should the Cheshire Cat's grin make us reconsider the nature of reality?
Can Humpty Dumpty make words mean whatever he says they mean?
Can drugs take us down the rabbit-hole?
Is Alice a feminist icon?
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has fascinated children and adults alike for generations. Why does Lewis Carroll introduce us to such oddities as a blue caterpillar who smokes a hookah, a cat whose grin remains after its head has faded away, and a White Queen who lives backward and remembers forward? Is it all just nonsense? Was Carroll under the influence? This book probes the deeper underlying meaning in the Alice books and reveals a world rich with philosophical life lessons. Tapping into some of the greatest philosophical minds that ever lived—Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, and Nietzsche—Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy explores life's ultimate questions through the eyes of perhaps the most endearing heroine in all of literature.
To learn more about the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, visit www.andphilosophy.com
About the Author
RICHARD BRIAN DAVIS is an associate professor of philosophy at Tyndale University College and the coeditor of 24 and Philosophy.
WILLIAM IRWIN is a professor of philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He originated the philosophy and popular culture genre of books as coeditor of the bestselling The Simpsons and Philosophy and has overseen recent titles, including Batman and Philosophy, House and Philosophy, and Watchmen and Philosophy.
Top Customer Reviews
The good thing about the book is that it does offer a very wide range of topics: from a feminist view on Wonderland to metaphysical issues, issues about language or time and even thoughts on nuclear war and Wonderland. There are definitely a few chapters in there, while entertaining, that do not merit the name of philosophy, though.
The second good thing is that the book is definitely not a boring read. Most authors are very well aware that they are writing for an audience who probably doesn't really know all that much about philosophy. Most chapters are quite accessible and the authors endeavoured to really use Alice-like language and refer a lot to the Alice books.
The last good thing is that I actually got a few perspectives on Alice that I never had before.
Now for the downsides: the book is very diverse due to the multitude of contributors and topics. It's not one comprehensive view. Most authors only scratch the surface and employ very little philosophy to make a sometimes obvious point. Some authors seem unable to make any point whatsoever and sometimes even contradict themselves (e.g. "Alice is very Nietzschean in her exploration of Wonderland" and a next page explains how Alice certainly isn't Nietzschean because she wants to structure her experiences).Read more ›
Break out of the box. Compare to contemporary movies. Not saying that we do not have the classic comparisons to Aristotle, Hume, Hobbs, and Nietzsche, but also Neo of Matrix fame, and the Spice girls among others.
Still for this that do not see the new, that is alright as it is very useful for someone to say what you know but in a different way.
Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland by J. T. Holden
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I also highly recommend:
Alice in Verse: The Lost Rhymes of Wonderland -- without question, the best Wonderland/Looking-Glass book since the original.
The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition -- as its subtitle indicates, this is THE definitive edition of Carroll's original books.
First, years ago when the movie 'The Matrix' came out in 1999 (which if you're trying to get a sense of my sensibilities I think is one of the top 5 sci-fi films of all times), a book came out shortly afterwards entitled 'The Matrix and Philosophy' (The Matrix and Philosophy: Welcome to the Desert of the Real (Popular Culture and Philosophy). It was a great book, and gave me a far deeper appreciation of what the Wachowski brothers were up to. The author tied into the clear philosophical messages inserted into the film and expanded upon the themes in a cohesive and relevant way (in spite of the brothers insisting it was just a Kung-fu movie).
As it happens, I am currently in the process of viewing every Alice in Wonderland title available (over 40!) and posting reviews on Amazon of what I learn in the process about how the various manifestations of the Alice story differ from one another. I've formed some opinions of why the Alice story is so compelling and enduring, and now that those thoughts are in my journal I wanted to see what scholars have said about Alice in Wonderland. Because of my positive experience with the Matrix book I picked up this one from the same series.
The first thing I noticed upon glancing at the first page is that there is now a whole 'fill-in-the-blank and Philosophy' series. There's everything from "Metallica and Philosophy" to "Batman and Philosophy". No less than 16 books in the Philosophy series. Uh huh. Someone came up with a great idea.... so let's just wring it for all its worth.
Still, I went into "Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy" with hopes that it was anywhere near as good as the Matrix treatment. It's not. I don't think so, anyway. I mean I don't hate this book or anything. It just let me down. The book has a different author for each chapter. This is a good thing because if you don't resonate with one author's point of view you might with another. However, I lost interest after three chapters and put the book down.
Chapter 1 is the Feminist perspective. Some professor at some college some-where ran a course entitled "Unruly Women Through the Ages", and Alice in Wonderland had been discussed. So this teacher was picked to do the Feminist chapter, and refers back to that course. That's fine, but the author's arguments about Alice and feminism put the cart before the horse. It became clear that the author already had a bundle of preconceived notions, and filtered Carroll's prose to fit her personal perspective. For example, she sees Alice's willingness to eat an egg in her encounter with the pigeon as a sign Alice was not yet ready to have children. Uh...... maybe. I mean, she's only 7 years old. But is that what Lewis Carroll was thinking? The author continues to make what I think is a bit of a stretch on point after point. And what reveals the shaky underpinnings of her arguments is her constant reference to how "her students" agree with her. Not, "some of her students", not "quite a few of her students". No, "her students", which is basically oratory that leaves the listener who is not listening closely with the impression that it is "all her students" who agree with her. Yet the author's assertions comes after an admission that of the entire class only two students picked Alice in Wonderland as their example Unruly Woman.
Chapter 2 is about something that actually makes sense. It's fashioned after the concept of 'jam tomorrow, but never jam today'... and the thing is, tomorrow never comes. It's always today. The author extrapolates that idea into our own lives, in that we fondly look back on past events, and we look forward to more and more good things to come in the future... but today... our present reality... kind of disappoints. It's a good point, but I'm not sure the author ever goes anywhere with it. Moreover he is not the best of writers, needlessly interrupting himself mid-sentence to parenthetically make some point that really doesn't need to be made. I gave up halfway through the chapter.
Chapter 3 was a short read because I stopped on the first page. The author made a reference to "Watch out for the Red Queen", as "she has a 'thing' about decapitating enemies". Excuse me please. It's the Queen of Hearts who does that. She is in "Alice in Wonderland". The 'Red Queen' is in "Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There", and she is playing a very different game. Yes, I know, Grace Slick uttered the line "and the red queen's off with her head" in the Jefferson Airplane's hit 'White Rabbit'. But look, it wouldn't have sounded very smooth to say "and the queen of hearts is off with her head", would it? Regardless, I would expect the author of a philosophy book on the Alice story to know his queens a little better.
So basically, I felt no compunction to continue. I suspect there is better written material out there.
UPDATE: I ended up purchasing 'The Annotated Alice' (The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition). My suspicions were confirmed. Author Martin Gardner, who provides a refreshingly balanced look at Alice, debunks some of the wild theories and interpretations of Carroll's works. I would definitely recommend Annotated Alice over the book under review.
All the Alice in Wonderland movie reviews in the aforementioned series are on Listmania:
1) Click on my user name (Everone's_a_critic)
2) Click on 'Listmania!'
3) The click on See 'Entire List'.
The book consists of a collection of essays by primarily philosophy and literature faculty and grad students from the US, UK, and Canada. As such, you get a variety of styles and looks at Alice, so if you don't like one, you can quickly skip forward and see what comes next. While I love non-fiction, I found one or two of the essays a bit hard going.
But it was worth it to get through them all. I don't think I have ever learned so much about philosophers like David Hume, or John Locke, or Nietzsche, as I did in the essays that dealt with them. Having philosophy placed in the context of a well-known book, even a fairy tale like Alice, helped to make some concepts like "will to ignorance" and "matters of fact" easy to understand.
Readers will be exposed to quite a variety of philosophers as well, in quick bites as the authors move through their takes on the story. All are well written and many have citations you can follow up, if necessary. Some, like Prof. White's essay, are downright funny. My favorites were Prof. White's essay on procrastination ("Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow"), Profs. Dunn and McDonald's on nonsense ("6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast"), and soon-to-be Dr. Shea's look at inductive reasoning ("Three Ways of Getting it Wrong: Induction in Wonderland"). Also enjoyable was Prof. Lloyd's view of "Unruly Alice" and a feminist slant on Alice.
This book balances scholarly writing with accessible reading. Citations are at the end of the essay, not in the text, and the authors cover a lot of ground and seem to be making an obvious attempt to keep up a readable pace. Anyone interested in philosophy at a relatively high level, and probably high school age or older, will find this a great way to learn something new about both Alice in Wonderland and philosophy.
Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy is broken down into four sections, which are then broken down further into essays. Each essay is written by various authors and professors who discuss topics from feminism to philosophy to even drug usage. You may be thinking, what does this have to do with Alice in Wonderland the novel? The truth is a lot. On the surface, Lewis Carroll's classic seems to be just about a young girl who travels down the rabbit hole to discover a new world and a great adventure. But the truth is, as with many novels, the novel is filled with many diverse layers. And it is those layers that Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy discusses.
If you are a die-hard Alice in Wonderland fan, then this is definitely going to be a must read for you. However, those who are looking for an enlightening look at the world of Alice in Wonderland, should definitely give this novel a try. You will not be disappointed.
Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy is very well-written in an academic and intellectual way, but it is never dry. The authors infuse humor and pop culture references through out to keep readers entertained as well as relevant. I had a blast reading this novel, and discovered a new outlook on one of my most beloved tales. Fantastic read!