|"The Norton Critical Edition of Alice in Wonderland is the classic textbook of three of Lewis Carroll's most widely read works. The book contains authoritative texts of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and The Hunting of the Snark.
Any one looking for a review of the two Alice books should see my review of The Annotated Alice, ed. Martin Gardner as I will limit my review to the additional material supplied by this edition.
The Hunting of the Snark is presented in its entirety but without the classic Holliday illustrations. The poem is a masterwork of nonsense that would have been helped by adding the illustrations. After all, the edition leaves in the Tenniel illustrations to the Alice books. Snark is not the easiest poem to read and Donald Gray is somewhat sparse in his annotations.
The remainder of the book is broken into two sections: Background and Literary Criticism. The Background section gives a fairly good portrait of C.L.Dodgson who became the nonsense writer Lewis Carroll. Included are selections from biographies, letters to friends and children and selections from the diaries. The annotations in this section are fairly extensive and helpful.
The Essays in Criticism are the weakest section of the entire work. From my perspective they are dated and unnecessarily complex for the work at hand. Most of this section is made up of essays dealing with the Freudian analysis of the works. One may take this with a grain of salt. Everyone is entitled to there own opinion. The problem with this section is that the analysis seems to be somewhat dated. We have edited versions of the same tired Empson essay that was written in 1935. Perhaps the 3rd edition of this text will update the criticism and make this section more useful to the modern reader.
This edition is worth having if you are a student of the Alice works or have a more than basic interest in Carroll/Dodgson and the development of Victorian Children's Literature. For a few dollars more I would highly recommend purchasing the Definitive Edition of the Annotated Alice instead.
Recommended with reservations. "
"I am very glad I was assigned this book for my Children's Literature class - I love discovering new things about classic stories and their authors. This edition shed new light on Lewis Carroll and his story telling. I thoroughly enjoyed it, more now that I am an adult than ever before. "
"This book is the Norton Critical Edition (Second Edition) of _Alice in Wonderland_ by Lewis Carroll, edited by Donald J. Gray, with the picture of the "Jabberwock" on the front. The Norton Critical Edition contains the following parts: a brief preface, the text of _Alice's Adventures in Wonderland_, the text of _Through the Looking-Glass_, the excised "The Wasp in a Wig", the poem "The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony, in Eight Fits", background material from Carroll's early life, the Alice books, and later life (including letters of his), and several interesting essays in criticism. The Alice stories are some of the greatest classics of children's literature, but their bizarre nature and intriguing mathematical, philosophical, and theological speculations make them interesting for adults and thinkers as well. Many have tried to psycho-analyze the stories (using absurd antiquated Freudian methods), but I agree with G. K. Chesterton that to do such is to destroy the stories. These stories exist in the fine tradition of the Victorian fairy tale (which emphasizes what has been called the "Victorian cult of the child"), and despite modern difficulties, they remain an important contribution to children's literature. Among other things it has been suggested that the stories include elements that resemble drug use and that Carroll was a precursor to Einstein in his understanding of the relativity of size and shape, but despite these understandings the stories remain unique for their captivating power and intriguing as stories themselves. Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) who was perhaps best known in his time as a logician and tutor in logic and mathematics. Dodgson did quite well in mathematics as a youth (as he did in nearly all his subjects, but particularly in mathematics) and continued his studies at Oxford. Originally Dodgson had promised to become an Anglican clergyman upon completion of his studies, but he never fully completed his ordination. Instead he served as a lecturer in mathematics and logic, writing several interesting books in logic for popular audiences at the time (though he could not have foreseen more recent developments in logic, such as the work of Russell and Whitehead in the _Principia Mathematica_). Dodgson also served as a tutor to children (and he developed a particular fondness for children, particularly young girls, that many would come to criticize later). As a tutor Dodgson met the girl Alice Liddell, who served as the inspiration for the Alice stories. It is rumored that Dodgson may have fallen in love with her, which led to some difficulty. Dodgson's philosophical, religious, and social views were notoriously conservative and conventional, though it seems that he incorporated many unconventional ideas into his stories. In his old age, Dodgson remained a bachelor, though he increasingly involved himself in amateur photography (some of which proved particularly risqu� and has led to subsequent rumors about Dodgson). Today, what Dodgson remains most famous for are his stories for children. Within his stories interesting mathematical, philosophical, and theological issues are raised; among them, the issue of the meaning of words and language (Dodgson's writings and poems have been called "nonsense" and he frequently makes use of "nonsense words" of his own invention) calling to mind the later philosophy of Wittgenstein, various theological issues, the philosophical issue of the dream-like nature of reality, the issue of birth, adolescence, sexual development, and life and death, the issue of Darwinian evolutionism, and various mathematical and logical issues, as well as interesting puzzles. The essays included with this volume bring up some of these issues and provide interesting points about the stories.
The works of Lewis Carroll included in this volume are as follows:
_Alice's Adventures in Wonderland_ (1897 edition) - a rewrite of the original _Alice's Adventures Under Ground_ and beautifully illustrated. This is the story of Alice (based on Dodgson's student Alice Liddell) as she encounters a talking White Rabbit, travels down a rabbit-hole, and there encounters many bizarre happenings and various talking creatures. The story has an eerie drug-induced feel to it (which causes one to question the very basis of reality) and many have speculated that this story may include instances of drug use. In particular, while in "Wonderland", Alice eats various foods and drinks various potions which cause her to grow taller or shorter. In "Wonderland", Alice encounters the rabbit, a talking mouse (who she reminds of her cat Dinah and provokes him thus), various birds and animals (in which they have a "caucus race", perhaps calling to mind the "Caucasian race" and various racialist theories of the time which Dodgson disapproved of), a lizard named Bill, and a puppy. After this, however, Alice encounters a caterpillar sitting on a mushroom. The caterpillar is smoking from a "hookah" (perhaps a reference to drug paraphernalia) and invites Alice to take a bite from the mushroom. Upon taking the bite from the mushroom, Alice undergoes radical changes in height. Some have regarded these alterations to be reminiscent of the hallucinations that occur upon ingestion of certain mushrooms, such as the Amanita muscaria. Alice also encounters the Duchess and her baby (a pig), the Cheshire cat (who fades away leaving only his grin), the Madhatter (mad no doubt from mercury poisoning), the March Hare, and the Dormouse having tea, and then she encounters the Queen of Hearts playing croquet as well as the "mock turtle". Finally, a trial occurs in which the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the tarts from the Queen of Hearts. At this trial, Alice must testify and present her evidence. At the end, Alice awakes from her dream after realizing that the Queen and the King are nothing but a pack of cards.
_Through the Looking-Glass_ (1897 edition) - This story begins with Alice reflecting on her cats and a game of chess. Indeed, the entire story involves a set-up on the chess board in which Alice herself is to eventually become queen. Alice enters a mysterious world ("Wonderland" again no doubt) through the looking-glass and there encounters various creatures. This is of course the story where the infamous nonsense poem "Jabberwocky" appears. Alice encounters various talking flowers, various insects, two brothers Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty (an egg), and the lion and the unicorn. Alice also encounters the red and white queens and eventually is to become queen herself. During the course of the story the secret meaning of certain words in "Jabberwocky" are revealed to Alice. At the end, Alice is at a feast when she suddenly shakes the red queen who becomes a kitten. Alice awakes to conclude that it was "all a dream", though the issue of reality is raised again.
"The Wasp in a Wig" is a short scene left out of the original _Through the Looking-Glass_.
Also included is the poem, "The Hunting of the Snark" (1876), which is a nonsense poem about a group of men on a ship who are hunting a "snark".
This Norton Critical Edition is an excellent edition of Lewis Carroll's children stories and poems. Carroll's stories are to live on due to their uniqueness and their bizarre nature. But, as pointed out they also raise several interesting philosophical questions and thus are interesting for adults as well as children. They are also greatly enjoyable and certainly recommended. "