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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Analysis of Alice nothing but a house of cards

I've been reading the Penguin Classics collection of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, which is edited by a British scholar named Hugh Haughton. It's heavily annotated, but Haughton is no Martin Gardner. Here's Haughton on Alice's mushroom-induced growth spurt (the one that gives her a really long neck, making a pigeon worry she is a serpent):
'The next thing is to get back to that beautiful garden,' Alice decides at the close of the chapter and behind this scene may stand the first 'beautiful garden' and its 'serpent', as described in the book of Genesis: Alice finds herself treated as a serpent in the trees by a version of the sacre pigeon, who understandably sees her as a predator... William Empson remarks that the whole episode gives Alice a strangely phallic role and appearance. The pigeon is concerned with her eggs, and the following chapter takes up the idea of babies.
Haughton's notes are filled with pointless analysis like this, just the type of bullshit I like to think Dodgson would loathe.

I once read a similar analysis of Hitchcock's Psycho, the kind of book love to cite to prove that the ivy league teaches nonsense (it was assigned in a friend's film course). The author employed any and all possible evidence in her quest to prove that the movie is structured around anal fixation, including that the heroine is seen "sitting down, as though defecating", and that the film's title ends in the letter 'o', which should evoke for the reader the image of an asshole. (I'll say!)

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