Posted in Reading, Teaching

ENG 242: From Wonderland to London Labyrinth

As I reread the last chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, John Tenniel’s illustration of the cards “flutter[ing] down” on Alice reminded me of my earliest memories of Robert Louis Stephenson. He was part of my childhood not only as the man behind A Child’s Garden of Verses but also as one of the faces that stared out from the cards in my hand when my sister, my cousins, and I played the game of Authors.

Writing of Stevenson as a children’s author, the Scottish novelist Margot Livesey notes:

That I and so many others came to his work so young has made us consider him a children’s author from whom we have little to learn as adults. This opinion is one that his contemporaries would not have shared, either in his particular case or as a general rule. Victorian adults felt free to embrace so-called children’s books without apology. Stevenson’s father often reread The Parent’s Assistanta volume of children’s stories, and Virginia Woolf records being taken to Peter Pan on her twenty-third birthday with no signs that this was a childish treat.

Though Stevenson’s first commercial successes were two of his books for children—Treasure Island and A Child’s Garden of VersesThe Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde marks a major departure from the realm of childhood, a journey into what Livesey calls “[t]he labyrinthine streets through which we pursue Hyde.”

Writing of the experience of reading Stevenson’s Gothic tale, Livesey observes that

[s]lowly but inexorably we are being led into a strange country, where the relationship between Jekyll’s prim white hand and Hyde’s orgiastic hairy paw will be revealed. The two are not merely opposites, or alter egos. In [novelist Vladimir] Nabokov’s helpful analogy Hyde is a precipitate of Jekyll. We might also think of him as Jekyll’s son.

That idea of Hyde as Jekyll’s son inspired the first option for this week’s assignment.

Option One:

Henry Jekyll’s scientific ambition and its monstrous product, Edward Hyde, link Stevenson’s novella to one of its Gothic precursors, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Do the similarities between Victor Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll seem more apparent in Dr. Hastie Lanyon’s accounts of Henry Jekyll, or in Jekyll’s own “Full Statement of the Case”? Why?

Option Two:

The editor of the Victorian volume of The Norton Anthology of British Literature notes that “our familiarity with the outline of the story may not prepare us for the psychological and ethical complexity of the original” (Robson 766). What passage in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde best exemplifies that complexity?

Option Three:

In “The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson,” Margot Livesey names Mr. Utterson, Jekyll’s lawyer, as “the best possible witness to the horror of Hyde.” Do you think Utterson is the best character to guide readers through the story? Which other character might serve as guide, and how would that change alter the narrative?

Extra Credit:

Early in “Dr. Lanyon’s Narrative,” Robert Louis Stevenson made an error that went unnoticed by his editor. What is it?

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Works Cited

Livesey, Margot. “The Double Life of Robert Louis Stevenson.” The Atlantic, , Nov. 1991, Accessed 24 Apr. 2020.

Robson, Catherine. Biographical Note: “Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894.” The Norton Anthology of British Literature: The Victorian Age. 10th ed. Stephen Greenblatt, General Editor. W.W. Norton, 2018. pp. 765-66.

Posted in Reading, Teaching

ENG 242: Shakespeare in Wonderland

CONGRATULATIONS to Keara McCann, the first student to identify the reference to Shakespeare in Chapter 3 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

In “A Caucus Race and a Long Tale,” the narrator describes the Dodo as standing “for a long time with one finger pressed upon its forehead (the position in which you usually see Shakespeare, in the pictures of him).”

And the early-bird bonus points go to Keara and these nine additional students: Courtney Powell, Bryan Alba, Emily Brown, Joe Van Story, Ruben Castillo, Madison St. Clair, Ashton Canipe, Joshua West, and Crowson Roosa! WELL DONE!

Work Cited

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 21 Apr. 2020.

Posted in Reading, Teaching

ENG 242: “Curiouser and Curiouser!”

The title of this post, “Curiouser and Curiouser!,” is the first line of Chapter 2 of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Though the phrase is grammatically incorrect—as Alice acknowledges later in the sentence (the standard comparative is “more curious”)—it’s a fitting response for someone who finds herself, as Alice does, “opening out like the largest telescope that ever was” (Carroll ch. 2). “Curioser and curiouser!”: apt words for Alice, as well as for us as we slog our way through these nonstandard days in Coronaland.

Before the curiousness of Chapter 2 begins, in Chapter 1, Alice asks, “What is the use of a book . . . without pictures or conversation?” With those words of Alice’s in mind, consider the illustrations in the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, ones drawn by Carroll’s collaborator, John Tenniel. (Since they aren’t included in the Project Gutenberg edition that you’re reading, I have included a link to them above).

Alice Liddell photographed by Dodgson (Carroll) / W.W. Norton

If you had received your copies of Volume E of the Norton Anthology, you would see in its pages the picture of Alice Liddell here. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Caroll)—who photographed Liddell and was a friend of hers—was an early advocate of photography, which was a new art form in the Victorian era. Liddell was the inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, but she wasn’t the model for Tenniel’s illustrations.

Costumed in rags for this picture, Alice Liddell was far from a beggar child; she was the daughter of Dean Liddell, principal of Christ Church College of Oxford University, where Dodgson (Carroll) taught mathematics.

Dodgson’s profession as a mathematician leads me to the first of four options that I have developed for your assignment on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Be sure to read the directions (below the options) before you begin, and note the extra-credit opportunity that follows the directions.

OPTION ONE: Although the Alice books are his legacy, Dodgson was a mathematician by profession. Address one or more passages in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that are demonstrably the product of a mathematical mind.

OPTION TWO: In The Norton Anthology’s introduction to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandthe editor notes that both Alice books “provide a wealth of information about the forms and contents of a well-to-do little girl’s education at the mid-point of the Victorian era” (724). Address one or more passages that reveal details of the “forms and contents” of Alice’s schooling.

OPTION THREE: In 1989, two American high school students who were researching Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland made a new discovery about Chapter 3, one that led to the publication of their findings in Jabberwocky, (now named The Carrollinian), the British journal of the Lewis Carroll society. Read the New York Times article about the students’ discovery, and address both the discovery and the “Long Tale” of Chapter 3.

OPTION FOUR: Read “9 Ways Artists Have Imagined Alice in Wonderland,” and address one of the nine artists’ illustrations. Include the artist’s name and cite at least one short passage that the illustration captures effectively.

DIRECTIONS: Compose a comment of at least fifty words. Include a minimum of one quotation from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland introduced with a signal phrase and followed by a parenthetical citation. If you name Carroll in the signal phrase, include only the abbreviation for the chapter followed by the chapter number. For example: (ch. 1). If you do not name Carroll in the signal phrase, include the author’s last name, the abbreviation for the chapter, and the chapter number. For example: (Carroll ch. 1). Note that the c is lower case. For more information on citations, see OWL. Post your comment no later than 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 23.

EXTRA CREDIT: Emily Brown was the first student to identify the ghost of Hamlet’s father as the literary ghost that the narrator mentions in the first stave of A Christmas Carol. That earned Emily an extra-credit assignment in the participation and preparedness category. Shakespeare himself is mentioned in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The first student who posts a comment identifying the sentence that mentions him will receive an extra-credit assignment.

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

Work Cited

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 20 Apr. 2020.

Posted in Reading, Teaching

Welcome Back to English 242

Graphic Title: Victorians Online, For Reading like the Dickens

Dear Readers,

As we begin a new chapter online, consider how less remote we are than the arctic explorer Robert Walton was when he wrote to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England.

Since our seated classes were canceled before your copies of the Victorian volume of the Norton anthology were issued, I have included in this blog post a list with links to texts that we’ll study that are available through Project Gutenberg.

Before I write more about the list, I should address the subtitle of the paper-craft graphic above (one I created recently during some much-needed time away from the screen). The phrase “like the dickens” is not a reference to the Victorian author. It’s a euphemism. More specifically, it’s a minced oath: an expression that’s created by altering the spelling or pronunciation of a word that’s considered profane. Shakespeare penned the minced oath “like the dickens,” for “like the devilkins” (little devils), in his comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, which he wrote more than two-hundred years before Charles Dickens was born.

Now to the list, and a second one that follows. The first is a chronological list of the longer Victorian works that we will study. The second includes the MLA-style works cited entries for the four texts, plus MLA style entries for both Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein on Project Gutenberg and your Barnes and Noble paperback edition. When you write about these texts, you will need to include MLA-style documentation. Bookmark this page for quick reference.

Remember to check your CVCC email and Blackboard regularly for updates and assignments.

We will get through these days.

Sincerely sequestered,

Dr. Lucas

Longer* Victorian-era Readings

*Longer readings for English 242. By Victorian standards, these book-length works aren’t long; A Christmas Carol and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are novellas, and “The Speckled Band” is a short story.

Sample MLA Works Cited Entries

Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. 1865. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 22 Mar. 2020.

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. 1843. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 22 Mar. 2020.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” 1892. Accessed 22 Mar. 2020.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818, 1831. Introduction and Notes by Karen Karbeiner. Barnes and Noble, 2003.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818, 1831. Project Gutenberg, Accessed 22 Mar. 2020.

Stevenson, Robert Louis. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 1886. Accessed 22 Mar. 2020.