Dreams of Reading Alice
This chapter considers Lewis Carroll’s multifaceted relationship to the way images of Alice were generated in his readers’ minds, from her incarnation in the first imprint of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 to George Buckland’s dissolving view adaptation, staged at the Royal Polytechnic in 1876. As his private and published writings attest, the dynamics of literary mediation preoccupied and frustrated Carroll. His prefaces flirt with a technologically impossible immediacy, pressing against the material limits of the printed page in his earnest desire to communicate with his readers with a persistence that exemplifies Walter Benjamin’s familiar theory that certain art forms and, correspondingly, artists aspire to effects that ‘could be fully obtained only with a changed technical standard’. It is striking therefore, that Carroll chose the medium of the dream as his organising motif for the Alice books, a state of consciousness which his contemporaries, such as Frances Power Cobbe, George Henry Lewes, William Carpenter, and James Sully, variously theorise as an infinite archive of remembered activities, including books read and images viewed, that momentarily emerge then dissolve in a timeless associative stream.
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