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Re: [lewiscarroll] The Carroll Myth

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  • Joe Soap
    Dear Sherry, I am very interested in your post and your ideas.  I, for one, would be happy to move from the tedious and over-emphasised topic of Carroll s
    Message 1 of 85 , Aug 1, 2008
      Dear Sherry,
      I am very interested in your post and your ideas.  I, for one, would be happy to move from the tedious and over-emphasised topic of Carroll's sexuality to that of his creativity.
      I cannot remember (and can't locate) the quotation that you use ("On a lazy afternoon....").  Could you remind us where it comes from?  Is it from Lewis Carroll?  If so, does it not refer to the original oral version of 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground' rather than the Alice books which followed? 
      We don't know how much the tale was altered when it was written out as 'Alice's Adventures Underground' but Carroll maintained that, at this stage, he had no intention of publishing his story in book form.  Is it part of your thesis (I am sorry - I have not yet read your book) that, even at this stage, the story was not intended to be read primarily by children?  If the children to whom he gave the book (Alice and her sisters), were not its intended audience, who do you think that the intended audience was?
      You say, I think, that the book had a more important function than the entertainment - or enlightenment - of children.  Do you think that this more-important function was one that the author intended - and considered to be more important?
      I'm sorry to bombard you with questions.  They are not designed to undermine your thesis - just to clarify what we are going to discuss!
      PS I doubt if the expression "The Myth" is consensual.  In Britain at least, the word usually carries an implication of falsehood (except when used in connection with folk tales). 

      ----- Original Message ----
      From: sherryackerman <ackerman@...>
      To: lewiscarroll@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Friday, 1 August, 2008 6:55:46 AM
      Subject: [lewiscarroll] The Carroll Myth

      Old Joe wrote:

      >The Alice books - the books that everybody knows - were inspired by
      >and written for children. Why would anyone want to rebut that?

      Sherry Ackerman replies:

      Well, I would definitely like to rebut that. I don't think that they
      were spun out "on a lazy summer afternoon for the entertainment of
      children" at all. That, to my way of thinking, is another aspect of
      "the Carroll Myth". They certainly had an element of intentionality as
      children's literature, but that was neither their full nor most
      important function. As stated thematically in my book, my research
      indicates that Carroll was an adherent of the perennial philosophy,
      specifically as a result of his interest in the Neoplatonic
      Revival--and its concomitant associations with theosophy-- that
      buffeted Oxford during the late nineteenth century. One of the primary
      techniques of Platonism (and even more so Neoplatonism) is the
      obsuring of philosophical/ spiritual teachings in allegory. Evidence of
      this influence was seen in the Romantics' emphasis on the truths
      buried in literary symbol, allegory or myth. Many of the poets,
      writers and artists of this period held that Plato and his followers
      concealed divine truths in allegory and ambiguity. Several of the
      Romantics, among the most prominent of whom is Blake, not only
      accounted for the enigmas in the writing of the ancients by the
      doctrine of intentional obscurity, but accepted it as a fundamental
      aesthetic principal in their own work. As I wrote in my book (page 5)
      "An article from Theosophy, dated March 5, 1939, asks 'how many
      realize that no initiated philosopher had the right to reveal his
      knowledge clearly, but was obliged by the law of the sanctuary to
      conceal the truth under the veil of allegory or symbol?'"

      "Roger Bacon, centuries earlier, in Wisdom of Keeping Secrets
      (c.1260), had similarly written, 'a man is crazy who writes a secret
      unless he conceals it from a crowd and leaves it so that it can be
      understood only by effort of the studious and wise.'" Lewis Carroll
      was not a crazy man……and I build a strong argument that he did a
      masterful job of concealing his secrets from the crowd.

      This is what I will be speaking on at the Cambridge Center for Western
      Esotericism' s Fall Conference (Saturday, October 11th, Cambridge,
      England). I will provide textual analyses from Alice in Wonderland and
      Through the Looking Glass that demonstrate Carroll's "masterful job of
      concealing" both Gnostic and Neoplatonic themes in both books. A
      concomitant phenomenological interpretation of historically
      re-contextualized biographical data will further support my argument.
      The gradual progression from Platonic idealism, via the earlier
      Cambridge Platonists and Thomas Taylor, toward nineteenth century
      theosophy and spiritualism will be traced as it pertains to the theme.
      My presentation will draw substantively from Chapter V of my book,
      Behind the Looking Glass (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, July 2008),
      which purports that Lewis Carroll intentionally obscured esoteric
      allegory in his Alice...and even more so, in his Sylvie and Bruno...
      books. The conference is open to the public and it would be good to
      see some Carrollians there.

      John Tufail wrote:

      >I have always been unhappy about the word 'myth' in this debate as it
      >takes us away from the 'true' meaning of the word myth. It also
      >tends to obscure the fact that Carroll himself relied on myth heavily
      >in all of his books.

      Sherry Ackerman replies:

      I tend to agree with you. My chapter titles, such as, for example:
      "The Myths Behind the Maker" and "The Maker Behind the Myths" indicate
      as much. However, it appears to be the word to which we have given
      concensual agreement regarding the myriad problems pertinent to any
      interpretation of Carroll's life and works. As long as we are all in
      agreement as to what it means, I don't find its use objectionable.

      On another note, it's significant that, congruent with Karoline's
      thinking, I grouped three parts of my book under the umbrella chapter
      title "Alice: The Muse Behind the Mystic".

      Sherry L. Ackerman
      www.sherryackerman. com

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    • Joe Soap
      I think somebody did - wasn t it you? Bring it on!  (Who said that?) J ... From: John Tufail To: lewiscarroll@yahoogroups.com Sent:
      Message 85 of 85 , Aug 6, 2008
        I think somebody did - wasn't it you?
        Bring it on!  (Who said that?)

        ----- Original Message ----
        From: John Tufail <tufail45@...>
        To: lewiscarroll@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Wednesday, 6 August, 2008 11:08:40 AM
        Subject: Re: [SPAM]Re: [SPAM][lewiscarroll] Carroll philosopher

        All this is giving me an intense feeling of deja vu.  I feel as though I'm spiralling along a mobius strip. Perhaps it's time to change the subject.  Didn't someone mention Carroll's Oxford squibs some time ago?


        Regards to all.



        ----- Original Message ----
        From: Arne Moll <arnemail@dds. nl>
        To: lewiscarroll@ yahoogroups. com
        Sent: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 10:59:12 AM
        Subject: Re: [SPAM]Re: [SPAM][lewiscarroll ] Carroll philosopher

        I'd say that in literary analysis especially, you're dealing with textual events and external motivations, so concrete examples are also essential. Anyway, if the author's avowed intentions and meanings are in direct contradiction of the analysis at hand, I think it's something to take into consideration, at least. But perhaps I have totally misunderstood literary analysis for all these years.


        At 23:59 5-8-2008, you wrote:

        In all fairness it's an entirely different question. To offer
        concrete examples in a biographical study is essential, because you
        are dealing with events and externals, but when it comes to literary
        analysis it stands to reason a lot of it will be inferential and
        incapable of concrete proof, but not necessarily without value
        because of that. It's quite rare for any literary analysis to focus
        solely in the author's avowed meanings and intentions, and I'm not
        sure how much value there'd be in doing so.


        --- In lewiscarroll@ yahoogroups. com, Arne Moll <arnemail@...> wrote:
        > Hi Sherry,
        > Of course I will read your book - although it's not exactly cheap.
        > realise that that's something you can't do a lot about.) I did read
        > the sample chapter which is provided on your website, and I must
        > admit I got the same feeling as I described below. But perhaps I
        > should just read the rest of the chapters too. On a more general
        > note, should we really only discuss books on here that we all have
        > read? How many people have read Sylvie and Bruno in full?
        > But who knows. I was sceptical at first about Karoline's book, too,
        > but just a few examples from her (in fact, just 2 or 3 sentences)
        > convinced me that the book was worth reading. I immediately bought
        > the book and found it extremely interesting. So strong is (at least
        > for me) the power of concrete and clear examples.
        > Arne
        > At 21:38 5-8-2008, you wrote:
        > >Arne,
        > >
        > >With all due respect and, likewise, I am in no way trying to be
        > >but I don't know how you can expect to follow my theoretical
        > >without having read my work? I certainly wouldn't try to comment on
        > >yours without having read the primary material in its entirety.
        > >Context is immensely important. Taking isolated examples only
        > >exacerbates the liklihood of misunderstanding. The quote that you
        > >presented as a "fragment from Sherry's letter" was a direct quote,
        > >verbatim, from my book, which I referenced as pages 125-128. If you
        > >had read it in context, it would have been congruent with the
        > >discussion of Carroll's text. As an "isolated example", it further
        > >compounded things. (Although Fernando, to whom it was directed,
        > >understood it perfectly, as he is working in this area and valued
        > >input.) My book is full of direct examples (so many so, in fact,
        > >the type-setters were ripping out their hair with the number of
        > >quotation marks!), but I think that they are best read in the
        > >contextual setting in which they are provided...integrat ed into the
        > >theoretical structure of the over-arching argument. I am not in a
        > >position to upload the entire book to the list, as that does the
        > >publisher a grave disservice.
        > >
        > >I hope that you can make some space for actually reading the
        > >that I have put together. I think that you would enjoy it. If I
        > >to embark upon critiquing your work, I will certainly read it, in
        > >entirety, first.
        > >
        > >Sherry L. Ackerman
        > > www.sherryackerman. com
        > >
        > >--- In
        > ><mailto:lewiscarroll %
        40yahoogroups. com> lewiscarroll@ yahoogroups. com,
        > >Arne Moll <arnemail@> wrote:
        > > >
        > > > Hello Ami, Sherry, and others,
        > > >
        > > > Ami's question (asking not for philosophical or internal
        > > > hits the nail on the head. It's been something I've been
        > > > with a lot on this forum: the idea that if I don't know a lot of
        > > > philosophical or theological background of Carroll's time, it's
        > > > impossible for me to understand the interpretation we're
        > > > Indeed, that it's even impossible to understand what the issue
        is all
        > > > about. This is not meant as an insult, but to be honest I really
        > > > don't understand anything Sherry has been saying so far! It's
        > > > Chinese to me. Take this fragment from Sherry's letter:
        > > >
        > > > "In both sets of books Carroll appears to allegorize ancient
        > > > re-popularized during his lifetime by the influence of
        > > > Plato's history of the soul, for example, drew heavily upon the
        > > > Pythagorean Orphics, who put purification in the forefront of
        > > > eschatology. The eschatology of the Pythagorean Orphics may be
        > > > categorized as celestial and astronomical. The Soul falls from
        > > > native place in the Highest Heaven, through the Heavenly
        Spheres, to
        > > > its first incarnation on Earth. By means of a series of
        sojourns in
        > > > Hades, and reincarnations on Earth, it is purified from the
        taint of
        > > > the flesh. The source for this eschatology, if the carefully
        > > > view of Albrecht Dieterich is accepted, was a popular Orphic
        > > > the Descent to Hades, in which the vicissitudes endured by the
        > > > immortal Soul were described. Pythagoras, an hierophant of Great
        > > > Mother mysteries with an Anatolian stamp, offered Platonism a
        > > > doctrine, probably influenced by Indo-Iranian sources, of
        immortality, "
        > > >
        > > > Usually, when I read something like this, with so many learned
        > > > my first reaction is to simply switch off. But then I ask
        > > > what does this have to do with Alice in Wonderland? Why am I
        > > > this? What do I gain from it? I really am at a loss here.
        > > >
        > > > I've had the same problem (though less intensely) with John T.'s
        > > > interpretation of the Snark: it's as if both John and Sherry
        are from
        > > > a different planet than I am. I often had to tell myself that
        > > > really discussing Lewis Carroll, and not some obscure
        > > > with even more obscure theories (perhaps they are, and this
        > > > philosopher is Lewis Carroll?!) But come on, don't we all love
        > > > Carroll's simple language? His love for logic and clarity?
        > > >
        > > > The funny thing is that I've rarely experienced anything like
        this in
        > > > my own field of study. In the past I've been involved in
        intense and
        > > > complicated studies of Bulgakov's extremely complex novel 'The
        > > > and Margarita'. I've read literally hundreds of articles and
        > > > interpretations of it. This is a novel that deals with
        > > > philosophical, political, ethical, esoteric, biographical,
        > > > historic, magical-realistic and literary issues, with strong
        > > > symbolism and hermetical references. Often, these articles were
        > > > even in English, but in German, or in Russian. Still, I have
        > > > felt at such a complete loss and experiences such lack of
        > > > understanding as when I read Sherry's and other's comments
        about such
        > > > apparently clear-cut books as Alice or the Snark! It may all be
        > > > highly important, but it sometimes seems to me these
        > > > are simply not founded in the text itself. This also shows from
        > > > Sherry's refusal to give any concrete examples. She writes:
        > > >
        > > > "It is not really possible to give you a "simple, concrete
        example" to
        > > > help you understand the way that my interpretation works
        without you
        > > > having read my entire text. "
        > > >
        > > > In my opinion, this is, with all due respect, absurd. Why
        should I
        > > > read your book when I don't even understand what it's all about
        > > > what it tells me about Alice in Wonderland? Who has ever heard
        of a
        > > > writer who cannot explain what his theory is about? Is it really
        > > > unreasonable of me to ask for something more concrete than more
        > > > about Pythagoras, Anatolioan mysteries, eschatology or whatever?
        > > > The point is: however learned and deep any interpretation may
        be, it
        > > > can NEVER do without concrete examples, simple conclusions, and
        > > > clear-cut references to the text that's being discussed. The
        > > > should always be central, and in fact, to illustrate any
        > > > interpretation, examples are simply REQUIRED to rouse any
        interest or
        > > > to be credible at all. Do you think I am willing to read your
        book if
        > > > you can't even give me even a simple text example of what you
        > > > To repeat, I'm not trying to rude here, I'm just talking basic
        > > > academic and literary standards. Sure, I would love to read your
        > > > book, if I feel I understand what it's about without having to
        > > > read the entire works of Plato first.
        > > >
        > > > I will give you an example of how it can be done. There's a
        > > > bizarre but intriguing theory on 'the Master and Margarita' that
        > > > states that the author, Bulgakov, had in mind "the text of
        > > > and the image of a retributive horseman as he worked on the
        > > > (D.M. Bathea, "History as Hippodrome: The apocalypic horse and
        > > > in The Master and Margarita", Princeton, 1989) This sounds
        > > > obscure, if not downright nonsensical, but what does Bathea do?
        > > > starts by explaining his main point of view with a series of
        > > > crystal-clear examples from the book, that can easily be
        > > > 'without having the entire text.' In fact, he even writes:
        > > >
        > > > "To show this end we might best proceed from the explicit to the
        > > > implicit." Indeed! Note that the author himself realised how
        > > > his position is. What I'm missing entirely in Sherry's
        > > > is anything explicit, anything that shows any concern for the
        > > > interested reader. Let's stop referring to Plato and to any
        > > > Pythagoras for a second and let's just see some examples from
        > > > in Wonderland. It will at least allow us to identify with what
        > >you're writing.
        > > >
        > > > Anyway, Bathea then starts summing up many concrete examples -
        > > > quotes that is - both from the text of the novel and from
        > > > own notes while he writing the novel. This not only helps to
        > > > illustrate the points that will be made further on, it's
        > > > necessary to continue reading his very strange analysis!
        Sherry, why
        > > > can't such examples be given from an infinitely more concrete
        > >children's book?
        > > >
        > > > Perhaps you will find me lazy, or ignorant, or rude, for saying
        > > > this, and I can only say that I have read all works by Carroll,
        > > > his letters and diaries, and all available biographies, am very
        > > > experienced in literary analysis and that I have read Plato in
        > > > But sorry, I still don't understand anything of what you're
        saying. I
        > > > keep wondering how it's possible we're discussing the same
        books and
        > > > the same author.
        > > >
        > > > Is there anybody else on this forum who has the same problem as
        me? :-)
        > > >
        > > > Arne
        > > >
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > At 16:26 5-8-2008, you wrote:
        > > >
        > > > >Hi Sherry,
        > > > >You wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > >"Did you realize that Carroll had originally wanted to teach
        > >philosophy?
        > > > >And that he was disappointed at only having taken a second
        class in his
        > > > >philosophy exams? This is a man who had studied philosophy
        > >intensely and
        > > > >formally. He taught geometry because he took a first class in
        > > > >exams. His library holdings and personal associations indicate
        that he
        > > > >continued independent philosophical studies throughout his
        > > > >
        > > > >That's an issue that interest me.
        > > > >Can you please provide historical or biographical evidence of
        that and
        > > > >not internal or philosophical evidences.
        > > > >
        > > > >Thank you by advance,
        > > > >Ami
        > > > >
        > > > >
        > > >
        > >
        > >

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