Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wonderland Solved (Article)

This article came to my attention a few weeks ago and the subject is very different from the usual sort of fairy tale content so rather than try to summarize I'll just give you the idea and point you to the URL in case it interests you.

If you know much about Lewis Carroll (whose name was really Charles Dodgson) you'll know not only did he possess a big imagination but was also a mathematician. Someone decided to put his best known work together with his best loved principles of math and algebra (which he taught to University students) to see if some of the oddities of the story could be solved.
by John Tenniel

Here's an excerpt:

What would Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland be without the Cheshire Cat, the trial, the Duchess's baby or the Mad Hatter's tea party? Look at the original story that the author told Alice Liddell and her two sisters one day during a boat trip near Oxford, though, and you'll find that these famous characters and scenes are missing from the text.

As I embarked on my DPhil investigating Victorian literature, I wanted to know what inspired these later additions. The critical literature focused mainly on Freudian interpretations of the book as a wild descent into the dark world of the subconscious. There was no detailed analysis of the added scenes, but from the mass of literary papers, one stood out: in 1984 Helena Pycior of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had linked the trial of the Knave of Hearts with a Victorian book on algebra. Given the author's day job, it was somewhat surprising to find few other reviews of his work from a mathematical perspective. Carroll was a pseudonym: his real name was Charles Dodgson, and he was a mathematician at Christ Church College, Oxford.

You may have guessed by now, this article isn't for the faints-at-the-sight-of-maths person but if you're an Alice fan and can peruse even some of it, it may give you a whole different way to appreciate Carroll's work.

You can read the whole article HERE.

And if that whet your appetite for more there's another article HERE and discussion of a book that concentrates on the mathematical side of Carroll/Dodgson.

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