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Literary Kinds

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Anne Dalke's picture
Molly's picture


 This post is sort of late, but I've been thinking about what we discussed in class last Thursday.  To me, it seems obvious that "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a parody of "the quest."  Alice does so many things to try to advance herself in the world she has found herself in, but none of them really get her anywhere and she encounters many, many obstacles along the way.  She overcomes them, but where does she end up?  In the same place.  This is not to say that the story of Alice isn't a wonderful one, but none of her struggles seem worth it, and by the end of the book everything she's done seems so silly.

jrf's picture

slightly more than halfway through

The openness and encouragement of exploration and conversation that exists in our classroom and online are, to me, this class's distinguishing characteristics. I (as is evident from how late this post is) have some growing still to do to take full advantage of this, but it's a fantastic environment that makes it possible for this growth to take place. I feel like this class is very well suited to thinking/working instead of formula-memorization (for writing and thinking). The class format is also pushing me to learn from others in the class as much as I learn from the material we study, which is a new idea in my education and seems pretty wonderful.

spleenfiend's picture

creepy things

Over the weekend, Shayna S, jrf, and I experienced various interpretations of Alice's story.  We watched Neco Z Alenky, possibly the most disturbing Alice movie we could have chosen.  The movie focuses mostly on (disturbing) images and does not feature as much conversation as the book.  The narration, even the dialogue of other characters, is all told by Alice, perhaps to reinforce that it is all inside Alice's head.  Her narration is very repetitive and childlike, while the movie is way too creepy for most children.  Of course, I do not doubt that a child could imagine extremely creepy things.

skindeep's picture

alice in wonderland - controled chaos

these are just a couple of relevant pictures i found





skindeep's picture

response to ShaynaS

i really liked your post, it had musings and layers and was an interesting read

it did make me think though, and here is my train of thought-

yes, reality as we see it is definitely open to interpretation, and is subject to what the perciever sees and how they see it. but is there a reality that lies deeper than that? one that is subject to interepretation but that is constant because of that? is there a universal truth? and if there isnt then what do we spend so much time searching for? is our search futile?

i would say its not. becuase not only does our search equip us with the tools to form our own reality, it also brings us closer, by one tiny step to this 'truth', which i think sits somewhere in our subconsciousness.

Anne Dalke's picture

Notes Towards Day 17: Alice in Movieland


Anne Dalke's picture

mirror reversal

Take a break from Alice's Adventures Underground to explore this mirror reversal:
The Future of Publishing. Be sure to watch it through the "turn"!

rachelr's picture

Another "Alice"

 So there is this great movie that I've watched in two of my math classes called Donald in Mathmagic Land. It was nominated for an Academy Award in 1959 and became the most popular Disney educational films. Basically Donald Duck goes into this "wonderland" of math and learns a lot. I learn a lot with him when I watch this, and I suggest it- its only 27 minutes.

TPB1988's picture

Another Alice Alternative

 I didn't mention this in class the other day because I could not remember the title of the movie but I there is an excellent film adaptation of Alice in Wonderland that was not mentioned. I had never read Alice in Wonderland before and so I never truly understood the movie but it very orientated around Alice. The movie is called Phoebe in Wonderland and it is kind of new (2008) and it has some well known actors even though the movie is independent and was never in theaters. I already spoke to Anne and she said this was fine. The movie is about a little girl who can't seem to follow the rules and she only feels at home when she is playing Alice in her school play. She also has intense hallucinations that actually involve the red queen etc.

TPB1988's picture

Why can’t it be a narrative parody with elements of fantasy?

At the beginning of the course I remember being the one of the few to claim the necessity of genres and clarifications in the literary world. Although I still stand behind my statement I have realized that the way I viewed classification systems in January is not how I see them now. On Thursday (03/18) when we were discussing Alice in Wonderland being a fantasy vs. narrative vs. parody I realized that the lines boxing in the different kinds of genres are not as defined as I once believed. That being said I do not think that they have no use. Similar to Anne (please correct me if I misunderstood your words), I think that if one looks at genre for purpose rather than truth then they are very helpful.

rachelr's picture

Wai Chee Class notes (3/16)

ShaynaS: Why did you choose to write about genre in your paper that we read?

Wai Chee: Analysis and outward reach, on a large and small scale. So many texts fall into so many genres, brings many popular works into conversation.

rmeyers's picture

definitions (notes on our 3/18 class)

Well, we have now reached a milestone: we at least "officially" know each other's names.

At the beginning of class the final three students listed the names of everyone else in the class (we are hoping that, unlike Alice, they remember their own names and identities). We then discussed the evaluations that were posted here, taking special note of complaints of self-editing and the interface of Serendip.

Our discussion turned to reactions to Wai-Chee's visit. A few students noted that they had been surprised by her definitions (either finding her definitions too narrow on some points, to wide for others).

mkarol's picture

a novel by any other name would read the same ?

Instead of buying a hard copy Alice in Wonderland, I found the full text online. I know that the point of reading the work was to actually 'read a novel' and get back to books, so is what I did in some way "against" what the point was? If the story was obviously taken from "a novel" and just posted onto a separate medium, does that actually change what it is? This reflects back to the Walt Whitman Archive, but I still can't quite get my mind around it. Is my Alice in Wonderland now different from those of the book-readers, just because I read it off of a computer screen?

Jessica Watkins's picture

March 16 Class Summary--Wai Chee vs. Reality

Class started out with a brief discussion about spring break, and surprisingly no one had thought about genre during the vacation.

Then our thoughts turned to Wai Chee Dimock, a Yale English professor taking the generic world by storm through thoughtfully-written essays (one of which we read in the beginning of the semester) and a growing Facebook group called "Rethinking World Literature."  ShaynaS asked Dimock about her decison to delve into/question genre, to which Dimock replied that she is a "close reader" and genre analysis allows her to stay close to the text while "reaching outward" and bringing many interesting, popular texts into the foreground.

spleenfiend's picture

dreams and parodies

The article "Algebra in Wonderland" makes sense of lot of the strange sequences in Alice in Wonderland.  If they really were intended as metaphors for mathematical concepts, then the book seems a lot less "dreamlike."  Alice's confusion in the new world she encounters could be similar to Lewis Carroll's skepticism about the "new math."  Plenty of mathematical concepts like imaginary numbers do seem absurd at first. 

aseidman's picture

The Novel - how is it defined?

I wanted to say this in class, and yet the idea of contradicting Professor Dimmock wasn't appealing to me. I really enjoyed her visit.

Last semester, I took a class, creatively entitled "the novel," in which, among many other topics, we discussed what it is that actually makes a novel a novel. After reading several thigns that had no plot, no narrative, no coherent characters, and perhaps no artistic merit, we were forced to conclude that a novel is really defined based on it's length. A novel is just a prose (or even a poetry) piece of a reasonable number of chapters. Feel free to disagree with me on that score, but that seems to be how publishers and bookstores are choosing to define it.

aybala50's picture


The discussion about dreams and reality today made me think about this poem I read a long time ago. It's called "A Dream Within a Dream" and it's by Edgar Allen Poe. Truly a memorable poem and very meaningful to me. Hope everyone enjoys it as much as I do.
A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,

skindeep's picture

lost post

i just realised that this post never showed up -- i guess it got lost?

tim burkes visit to class was an interesting one, not because of anything he said, but because of the way he went about doing so. it seemed like he was a breathing version of his blog - a monologue. he seemed so caught up in what he was saying and how relevant it was that a lot of the actual substance behind his words seemed to get lost. there were moments in which he threw in a joke or a random comment, and those honestly were the only times my mind snapped awake and i remember what he was saying.. maybe its just the way i function, but having someone speak to you and not just in front of you seems to make all the difference to the amount you absorb from what they are saying.