Thursday, April 22, 2010

a review of "Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy" [27]

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser
Edited by William Irwin and Richard Brian Davis
(Wiley, ISBN 978-0-470-55836-2)

Certainly, Alice in Wonderland is a timeless, children's classic, right..or is it? Yes, I think it is, without question, a timeless classic but the question is whether is really is just a children's book. Personally, I always thought it was a bit too bizarre for many kids and is really one of those books perhaps best revisited as an adult. To quote the book's cover, in Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
"...introduces us to such oddities as a blue caterpillar who smoke a hookah, a cat whose grin remains after its head has faded away, and a White Queen who lives backward and remembers forward."
I know after reading this book of essays about the many questions of a philosophical nature that can be explored as they relate to Alice, I need to take another look at the original.

For example, have you ever though of little Alice as a feminist icon? Well if not, perhaps you should, as one of the 14 essays in the book, this one by Megan Lloyd, suggests.
"By rejecting daisy chains and following white rabbits, assertive Alice already sees the possibility in the real world she occupies. Alice offers another world for young women, one that need not be dull. Hers is a reality where women author their own tales, work out their own problems, expect the extraordinary, and speak their minds. Faced with continuing mistreatment and stereotypical expectations, today's young woman do well to ask themselves, what would Alice do?"
You can take a deeper look at Alice and her adventures, while at the same time learning a bit about some of the Big Questions. A number of your big name thinkers make an appearance, from Plato and Socrates to Kant and Nietzsche, but don't be too concerned if you eyes glaze over a bit when you hear those names. A number of big philosophical topics from logic, inductive reasoning and the meaning of language are explored as they relate to Wonderland, but again, fear not. Most of these essays are written in a clear, easily accessible way and you can ignore the endnotes if you wish. I admit, I wished. Also, a number of the essays are quite funny, my personal favorite being Mark White's "Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow, But Never Jam Today: On Procrastination, Hiking, and...The Spice Girls?" As an admitted procrastinator, I think this one in particular spoke to me.

This book is part of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, a series of more than 20 books that has taken on subjects such as Battlestar Galactica, South Park, 24 and one I really need to check out, Mad Men, as they relate to a variety of philosophical issues. As they say on their site at , maybe a little sugar of the popular subjects make the medicine of a little deeper thinking go down easier...."the unexamined life is not worth living and the unexamined sitcom is not worth watching."

In large part, an entertaining book, part of an intriguing series and certainly a must read for any serious fans of Alice in Wonderland.

My thanks to FSB Associates for my copy of this book


  1. Truth be told, I am much more interested in Alice now than when I was a kid. Back then, the story freaked me out, and interestingly it freaks my kids out too. They didn't even want to see the movie. We have a beautiful pop-up Alice book that seems to take the edge off a little bit.

  2. I haven't read many books of essays, because frankly, they intimidate me. I'm glad to see this collection is accessible.

  3. sandy, I can totally see their point. It freaked me out still does quite a bit.
    Honestly, I am not sure why this is considered a kid's book.

    kathy, I am sure you are up to

  4. Sounds like fun. I really enjoyed the South Park volume in this series. I think books like this can really help the fan/reader to get more out of the material.

  5. I just saw the Tim Burton movie version and plan on reading the original soon so this sounds doubly intersting to me now. Actually, the whole series sounds really cool.

  6. As a child it seemed bizarre to me and definitely stood out and I think as an adult I should indeed revisit this read.

  7. Alice as a feminist? I can see it. Maybe she has been the spark for many girls, now women. Good review, Caite.

  8. This sounds like a fun read, in a way.

  9. I read this classic for the first time this spring - to correspond to the release of the Tim Burton movie. I found that I enjoyed both much more than I anticipated - and I think I would enjoy these essays on the topic as well.

  10. It reminds me a little bit of Sophie's World. What a great idea, and great review. ;)

    -Connie @

  11. I'm going to add this to a list of birthday ideas for my sister. She's a huge fan of all things Alice, and would appreciate the various viewpoints in these essays. Thanks for the review.


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!