Alice, a Stranger in a Strange Land

For Week 2 of Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World we read Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  I found it markedly difficult to settle on a topic for this mini-essay as there is so much to pull on in these books.  Ultimately I settled on Alice as a study of experiencing alien culture.
Going beyond its place in children's literature, Alice in Wonderland reads as a study in encountering the alien.  The first challenge in imagining how someone truly alien would react to a culture is to fully step away from our beliefs, preconceptions, and cultural memes.  The world of adults starts out as something alien and often impenetrable to children, with its own rules and unimaginable consequences.

Alice, our protagonist, is a cultured young girl educated in etiquette.  As someone who grew up in a Western culture, the rules of etiquette of Alice's world would not be entirely alien to me.  Yet, again and again she acts in a manner that can be classified as rude (or illegal) in our modern world, such as entering and exploring homes without invite, regardless of the rules of Wonderland.  She insults her companions through breaching taboo subjects and inflicts much suffering on the poor lizard Bill with little if any regret.

Behaviors require context before they earn a label.  In the United States showing someone the bottom of your foot has no particular meaning, however when I studied dance styles from the Middle East I learned to deliberately avoid showing the audience the bottom of my foot due to the insult it carries in some cultures.  Alice never knows the context or interpretations her actions may carry, be it talking about her dear cat or witnessing in a court case about stolen tarts.  Lewis Carroll has not only turned the rules of logic upside down for the entire world, but has provided a point of view even further from the norm, giving us a glimpse of what it could be like to encounter an alien culture.

Carroll, Lewis. (1865) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11
FEEDBACK
FORM (3)
peer 1 → Very well written and the form is very clear and easy to follow.
 
peer 2 → Your essay reads very nicely. Other than a few missing commas (you can catch them by reading your work out loud), the only thing that jumps out is that your concluding paragraph doesn’t read like a concluding paragraph. You’ve introduced new material in it. This is really the place where you want to recapture your thesis statement (which you have done with the final sentence in that paragraph), and wrap up any final thoughts on the topic. Even separating out the last sentence into its own paragraph would have helped. Overall, good work!
 
peer 3 → I enjoyed reading your essay as it flowed well, was well constructed and the use of grammar and context were appropriate. Your essay had a good introduction, you built your argument then finished the essay appropriately with your conclusion. I know we are supposed to find something to suggest you do better in the form, but I really couldn't find anything. : )
 
peer 4 → Score 3. I don't have 30 words to say about this, but everything looked great. I found no fault in your form. I don't see how you could improve it.
CONTENT (2.5)
peer 1 → I think you could have used more quotes as examples to back up your arguments, but your arguments flow with logic and the conclusion and thesis are solid.
 
peer 2 → You have a very interesting argument, and I really liked how you brought in your own experiences to help explain your position on how Alice in Wonderland is like encountering an alien culture. However, are you judging Alice by our 21st century values, or by those by which Lewis Carroll may have lived? Alice was accepted by his culture, as evidenced by the popularity his works had. And besides, you may have found where I lived as a child as somewhat foreign to your own sensibilities because if no one answered the door after the first knock, it was rather customary to go on in hollering, “anybody home?” Everybody did it, and nobody ever, ever locked their doors!
 
peer 3 → As mentioned in the previous section, I enjoyed reading your essay and liked the way you contextualised points you were using to build your argument. I found your motif and theme fascinating and this has certainly given me food for thought, however, you seem to be alluding to incidents in Wonderland and I couldn't pick up on anything from Through the Looking Glass. I would have like to have seen more direct referencing to the books to further back up your points. this could have been achieved by either stating "in Wonderland/Looking Glass" or you could have included specific quotes to augment your points.
 
peer 4 → Score: 3 Original idea, and well thought out. I liked that you didn't rely on direct quotes to illustrate your points. This did not affect your score (obviously) but I would have liked to see you extend your theory with examples from Looking Glass as well. I think that would be a really interesting read!
OTHER COMMENTS
peer 1 → Keep up the good work :)
 
peer 2 → Sharing your personal experience and thoughts about your subject matter made your essay better. In an essay so squeezed for space as our are, this was an effective alternative to adding researched material. It gave it a unique perspective. Keep up the good work!

Comments

  1. I really like what you are saying here since a topsy-turvy world is definitely what Lewis Carroll gave us. I wonder if the craziness is part of the reason it has endured as a story for so long. If it were set in Victorian London with it's culture and habits, I wonder if it would still resonate with readers.

    The topic I would have loved to explore would be looking at the Alice video games and how they work with the book (both of the games occur after the stories and are quite good), but that was definitely outside our assignment.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm a big fan of the American McGee's Alice games. Another of my favorite reinventions of Alice is in Allen Moore & Melissa Gibb's 'Lost Girls.' Even beyond the world of remixing and fan-fiction that has grown thanks to online communication, Alice has been a remarkable source of inspiration and remixing.

      It is amazing how well Alice has endured the changes in language and interests in literature.

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