Notes Towards Day 15: Alice in Parody Land
rmeyers on definitions
"I know. I know. Parody. It might be fun if it were not so melancholy in its aristocratic nihilism" (The Devil, in Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus).
"... very few things were actually impossible for Alice because she was able to tolerate the nonsensical, which the majority of us today can't do. We want definitive answers"
(Amy Lignor, Review of Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy).
These parodies above are (probably?) obvious to us all....
What about this one below?
How does a parody ensure the "proper uptake"?
What clues does it give us in how to read?
I. Considerable coursekeeping first!
today's notetakers: aseidman, rmeyers
last series of naming-tests?
summing up your mid-semester evaluations:
lots of affirmations re: what's working--
most of you celebrated the value of the
open-ended, conversational quality of class;
blogging as a genre--
as well as your own on-line work;
open, creative quality of papers;
designing (a portion of) your own syllabus..
things needing working on:
skindeep: i would encourage people to step past their
thought boundaries simply because in this class we can
ShaynaS: sometimes that we revert to a "normal" professor-centric-class.
aseidman: I like the idea of the Professor, being the person with the most knowledge, experience, and training, making informed decisions about how the course will continue.
mkarol: Blogging myself has been somewhat of a problem ... it's really just the interface
rachelr: I really hate having to read comments that are not right next to what they are talking about.
xhan: I wish there are more specific requirements for the paper ... I wish that
there would be instructions telling us exactly what we needed to include.
for next Tuesday, read Carroll's sequel to Alice in Wonderland:
Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There (1872)
for next Thursday, continue discussion of "Alice,"
as she has taken various filmic (and other?) forms;
watch ONE of these options (and come
to class prepared to talk about it!):
Alice in Wonderland (1933), with Gary Cooper,
W. C. Fields, Cary Grant (just now out on DVD ... )
Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Jan Svankmajer's Neco z Alenky (1988): "a grotesque look into the
darkest, wildest recesses of a child's mind by surrealist Czech filmmaker"
Woody Allen's Alice (1990): "Alice Tate, mother of two, with a marriage of 16 years, finds herself falling for the handsome sax player, Joe. Stricken with a backache, she consults Dr. Yang, an oriental herbalist who realizes that her problems are not related to her back, but in her mind and heart. Dr. Yang's magical herbs give Alice wondrous powers, taking her out of well-established rut."
Tim Burton, Alice (2010): inspired mash-up of action fantasies: "Alice
in Narnia, With Stops at Disneyland, the Shire, Rohan, Naboo, and Oz."
(or: how do you make a parody of a parody...?)
Alice Sontag, Alice in Bed: A Play in Eight Scenes (1992):
the life story of Alice James
American McGee's Alice: a third-person action game, set in
the universe of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (2000)
4 pp. of blogging due about something that's interested
you since you wrote your last paper, which you'd like to
explore further: the digital humanities (as discussed by
Tim, Nicole, Jen, Wai Chee ...); syllabus construction;
Alice and/or parody (happy to talk next week,
but no conferences required...)
your reactions to Wai Chee's visit?
(classification? platforms? parodies?
sci fi as non-human? "counter factual"?
reality as collective/customary assent?)
aseidman: 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 ... we were forced to conclude that a novel is really defined based on it's length .... The fact that we seem to be able to define an entire genre based on it's length, and nothing else, is a bit bothersome to me.
Wai Chee's Tuesday night talk?
on what lit might look like outside
the classroom, as means, not ends....
follow-up on our conversation about
whether texts might be thought of as organisms:
Paul Grobstein, on what constitutes "aliveness":
onion peels of being
* a "highly improbable assembly"
* energy dependent
(Bharath Vallabha: "a hammer is environment dependent....")
based on our pre-break conversations,
further inspired by Wai Chee Dimock's visit:
to try out a range of (parodic) genres ("counter"
"realities")--and to go beyond U.S. based forms--
so, after several varieties of "Alice":
Neil Gaiman, A Game of You (The Sandman: Volume 5), 1993.
Akira Kurosawa, Dreams (1990): magical realism film based on
actual dreams of the film's director at different stages of his life [???]
House, M.D. (which season [???]
OR Philip K. Dick's The Man in a High Castle (1962)
and Dante's Inferno (1308f)
Apr. 23: 4 pp. of blogging due about the
(parodic?) genre of the graphic novel or film
May 14: 12-pp. final project, portfolio and self-evaluation
I chose to define parody as a form of repetition with ironic critical distance, marking difference rather than similarity. The tension between the potentially conservative effect of repetition and the potentially revolutionary impact of difference is one common denominator shared by all the many and varied art forms I examined.
... recognition of the inverted world requires a knowledge of the order of the world which it inverts and incorporates
[cf. Dimock: "parody is completely dependent
on the thing it makes fun of"]
...the dialectic synthesis that is parody might be a prototype of the pivotal stage in the gradual process of development of literary forms.
[cf. Dimock: "thinking through genre enables us to claim a long geneology: its length is a medium in which variation can take place"]
...a formal phenomenon—a bitextual synthesis or a dialogic relation between texts [can’t “work”] without … the interpretation of that discursive doubling by the perceiver …. Parody both distances us and involves us as perceivers … and implies an intending encoder [with whom we share certain cultural codes].
...how many parodies get lost…? This is always a potential problem …. Parody depends upon recognition and therefore it inevitably raises issues of both the competence of the decoder and the skill of the encoder.
Break into groups of three to discuss these dualities:
1) What is (is anything?) being parodied in Alice in Wonderland?
What are the clues that guide you to see the parodic here?
Melanie Bayley. "Algebra in Wonderland:
"How do we know for sure that 'Alice' was making fun of the new math?
The author never explained the symbolism in his story."
2) What are the FORMAL characteristics of this text?
(How would you describe it in terms of GENRE?)
Do you see any parodies of literary form operating here?
(Again: what clues guide you to see this?)
(Hutcheon again): the issues raised at the end of A Theory of Parody about the ideological implications of parody and thus about its “worldliness” were the ones that took center stage … feminist “re-visioning” … African American “signifying” … queer re-thinking of ... camp … postcolonial texts “written back” to Empire … indigenous artists adapted dominant discourses to create new hybrid forms … the importance of the parodic text’s entire “situation in the world”….
What is Alice’s “situation in the world”?
Think of all the literary categories into which this book might fit,
which it might (also?) subvert or challenge:
dream vision, bildungsroman, quest narrative?
what about narrative itself?
what presumptions govern how narrative--
and language itself --operate in the book?
Donald Rackin, "Alice's Journey to the End of Night."
PMLA 81, 5 (October 1966): 313-326.
exemplifies profound questioning of reality (realism?) of mainstream 19th c. literature
comic horror vision of chaotic land beneath the man-made groundwork of Western thought and convention
Alice's quest serves reader's vicarious search for meaning in the lawless, haphazard universe of his deepest consciousness.
"dream-vision" as more meaningful avenue to knowledge than what the unaided conscious intellect can discover
all pattern annihilated: mathematical, logical, social, linguistic conventions; fundamental framework of conscious predication--orderly Time and Space
grimly comic trip through lawless underground lying just beneath surface of our constructed universe
she has reached that stage of development where the world appears completely explainable and unambiguous...based on arbitrary, constructed systems
this most crucial above-ground convention -- the nearly universal belief in permanent self-identity ... is demolished in Wonderland ... even inanimate objects like stones lack simple consistency ... "turning into little cakes."
Wonderland operates on no principle whatsoever ... it is still one of our cherished above-ground beliefs that communication between separate minds necessitates some exchange of tangible symbols...
what mankind typically desires is not an adjustable frame of meaning, but an unambiguous and permanent order.
"A Mad Tea-Party"'s pervasive atmosphere of timelessness .... Time itself, like a person, is revealed as malleable, recalcitrant, or disorderly...another arbitrary, changeable artifact...
...fabricated separation between animate and inanimate objects is destroyed...
view the normal conscious mind as an automatic filtering and ordering mechanism which protects us from seeing the world in all its chaotic wonder and glory ... her mind ... imposes an artificial but effective order upon that which can never be organically ordered...
a dream is a method whereby the dreamer successfully works out and solves a deep-seated problem whose existence the conscious faculties will not allow themselves even to admit.
James Kincaid, "Alice's Invasion of Wonderland."
PMLA 88, 1 (January 1973): 92-99.
But in rejecting this disorder Alice is rejecting not only the terrifying underside of human consciousness but the liberating imagination as well .... Wonderland shows not only rootless hostility but free and uncompetitive joy.
The child's hostility to comic values and her insistence on limited sensibleness suggest the great complexity of the books' tone and point of view.
The necessarily ambivalent attitude toward Alice ... makes it impossible for the reader to find a consistent position or a comfortable perspective .... her role is very hard to fix ... often seen ... as an invader disrupting a warm and happy world .... she disrupts the comic joy with her linear perspective of finality.
Nina Auerbach, "Alice and Wonderland: A Curious Child." "who dreamed it?"...part of a pervasive Victorian quest for the origins of the self that culminates in the controlled regression of Freudian analysis. There is no equivocation in Carroll's first Alice book: the dainty child carries the threatening kingdom of Wonderland within her...the mystery of her surroundings is the mystery of her identity.
Victorian Studies 17, 1 (September 1973): 31-47.
Her eagerness to know and to be right ... turn inside out into the bizarre anarchy of her dream country ... she is both the croquet game without rules and its violent arbiter, the Queen of Hearts. The sea that almost drowns her is composed o her own tears, and the dream that nearly obliterates her is composed of fragments of her own personality.
Dinah seems to function as a personification of Alice's own subtly cannibalistic hunger .... While ... most of the wonderland animals are lugubrious victims; together, they encompass the two sides of animal nature that are in Alice.
The Queen's croquet game magnifies Alice's own desire to cheat at croquet and to punish herself violently for doing so .... The Cheshire Cat ...is "Dinah's dream-self" ...the only creature to make explicit the identification between Alice and the madness of Wonderland .... the only character in the book who is aware of his own madness ... a post-analytic version of the puzzled Alice.
In the trial ... Alice takes all the parts ... accused as well as accuser, melting into judge, jury, witness and defendant .... Carroll traced the chaos of a little girl's psyche.
Nina Auerbach, "Alice and Wonderland: A Curious Child."
"who dreamed it?"...part of a pervasive Victorian quest for the origins of the self that culminates in the controlled regression of Freudian analysis. There is no equivocation in Carroll's first Alice book: the dainty child carries the threatening kingdom of Wonderland within her...the mystery of her surroundings is the mystery of her identity.