Lewis Carroll’s popularity goes on and on. Just a minute ago I checked Project Gutenberg‘s hit lists and found that the writer behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was #17 among yesterday’s downloads. In fact, Carroll was the second most downloaded of all children’s authors, surpassed only by L. Frank Baum, the playful soul behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
But who was Lewis Carroll (penname of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) and how did his life influence his works? That’s what Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti analyzes her forthcoming book, The Bedside Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Lewis Carroll (purchasing information here).
Epilepsy: The real origins of the creative bizarreness
Carroll, it turns out, suffered from epilepsy, and Sadi says that shaped his imagination and led to surrealistic passages in his works—and maybe even in part to the birth of surrealism itself, for Carroll was surrealistic before the word existed. Think of that next time you read, say, of Alice falling down a rabbit hole or shrinking to three inches or growing to nine feet.
In other words, rather than slapping all kinds of Freudian explanations and tags on Carroll, a biographer might do better to search The Reverent’s diaries for his unwitting descriptions of the disease. Sadi says her work is the first book not to gloss over the epilepsy. In Carroll’s days, epilepsy bore enough of a stigma to discourage doctors from making such a diagnosis despite the obvious signs in his diaries such as the headaches and particular kinds of hallucinations.
Possibility for K-12 teachers?
Sadi’s publisher is Continuum Books (catalog PDF here), and the book should be out in the next few months in paper. No word on when the e-book will come out, but I’ll give you a dispensation if you want to go P. If you’ve appreciated Sadi’s many contributions to this blog, you might well enjoy her Carroll bio.
Her work could be of special interest to teachers assigning Carroll to their students. The biography is for adults but, I suspect, could give educators some child-helpful insights they couldn’t find elsewhere—including, perhaps, information and conclusions that could inspire students with epilepsy or other challenges.
Tip: Drop by the Lewis Carroll section of Sadi’s tant mieux site to see “all manner of articles, links, photographs and drawings by and about Lewis Carroll” in addition to further information on her forthcoming book. The above photo, taken by Carroll himself, is of Alice Liddell, the little girl who believed to have helped inspire her namesake in Carroll’s writings.
Related TeleBlog posts: Podcast and text: Aice’s Adventures Underground—on the Tungsten E and Lewis Carroll in the Ether: Through the copyright looking-glass, both by Sadi. Also see comments (scroll down) from Nicholas Bentley (distant Dodgson relative) and Charles Dodgson (direct descendant) of the Rev. Dodgson, as well as a Wikipedia entry on Sadi.
Also of interest to Ranson-Polizzotti fans: A reading that she’ll give in New York on May 28 from her novel in progress.