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Re: [lewiscarroll] Carroll and Baum

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  • Jenifer Ransom
    Ah, gotcha John. I agree with you about the didacticism and one-dimensionality of the characters in S & B. Does the same apply to the Oz books? Perhaps in
    Message 1 of 7 , May 4, 2013
      Ah, gotcha John.  I agree with you about the didacticism and one-dimensionality of the characters in S & B.  Does the same apply to the Oz books? Perhaps in some cases, but I wouldn't call them "flat."  There sure are a lot of them in the series written by Baum, here's a page with an index to them all:

      He had not planned to write a sequel to the first book, but children wrote to him pleading for more. Capitulating to their continuing demands, he wrote a sequel every year from 1913 until his death in 1919. 

      Additionally, the tales were taken up after his death by other authors such as Jack Snow, Ruth Plumly Thomson, and John R. Neill (who was also my favorite illustrator of Oz). 
      Another list:

      I recall the library in my home town would not stock the Oz books because they were deemed 
      a bad influence.  Apparently this was not all that uncommon.  I found plenty of them to read though.  

      Matthews, in the essay I cited, concludes that philosophical adventure stories such as the Alice and Oz books can provide for the development of critical thinking skills.  "However,  even more important to my mind, these adventure stories can stimulate the wonder that Plato and Aristotle identified as the beginning of philosophy.  It is the astonished recognition that  there are very basic things about us and our world that are very perplexing--perhaps scientifically perplexing, but also philosophically perplexing." 

      I can attest that they certainly got ME thinking!


      On May 4, 2013, at 5:30 PM, John Tufail <johntufail@...> wrote:


      Hi je,
      I meant, of course, the link between the S&B boks and OZ.  Certainly not the Alice books!  In fact I have always felt that the great failure of S&B was Carroll DID stray towards didactiscism. - hence his propensity in those books to make too many of his characters one dimensional.

      On Sat, May 4, 2013 at 11:49 AM, Jenifer Ransom <jenifer@...> wrote:

      John, glad you feel we are on the same page, although Dodgson was quite clear that there was no intent to instruct in the Alice books, and I believe that's the definition of "didactic."

      On the other hand, there was that intent with S & B. 

      I'd recommend you check out Matthews' essay, but in short, he outlines the themes of the Oz books as: the difference between living and nonliving things, the criteria of personal identity, especially identity through time, and the nature and extent of consciousness. 


      On May 3, 2013, at 7:30 PM, John Tufail <johntufail@...> wrote:


      Hi Jen,
      It is exactly as you explained.  The Didacticism in both books.  The 'Flat' nature of certain characters/caricutures.  I will have to re-read (certainly OZ) to explain further - but I hope you get my drift..

      On Sat, May 4, 2013 at 12:33 AM, Jenifer Ransom <jenifer@...> wrote:

      Hi John,

      For my part, I feel the influence of Theosophy prevails in the Alice books as much as in Sylvie and Bruno - it's just more obvious in the latter.

      The influence is, I feel, unconscious in the Alice books.  Dodgson stated that the material came "of itself" and that the Alice books are made up of bits and scraps that came to him here and there.  Be that as it may, what came forth could not help but reflect who and what he was, a sincere seeker and questioner as well as a logician and story-spinner. 

      With Sylvie and Bruno, he chose a more didactic approach, with the intent, as you know, of
      enlightening his readers through the tale.  He toiled at the book, with the idea that it would be his magnum opus, and all that 'trying' was IMO counterproductive in the end. 

      But I'd be interested to know your take on why you think it's about "Sylvie and Bruno versus Oz."


      On May 3, 2013, at 4:00 PM, John Tufail <johntufail@...> wrote:


      Hi Jennifer,
      A very pertinent mail.
      I agree wholly with you that both authors adopted 'nonsense' as a way of exploiting philosophical , moral and ethical issues.  I think that your raising of the Theosophy Issue is of particlr importance.  It suggests that the points of debate and comparison are NOT the Alice books versus OZ but the Sylvie and Bruno Books versus OZ.
      What do you think?

      On Fri, May 3, 2013 at 11:33 PM, Jenifer Ransom <jenifer@...> wrote:

      I was big on both the Alice books and the Oz books, growing up. Recently I downloaded from the JSTOR site, an essay titled "Philosophical Adventures in the Lands of Oz and Ev" by Gareth B. Matthews, who was a professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts.
      He begins the essay with comments about A in W, saying Dodgson was the first English author to write philosophical fantasy for children. (That may be debatable?) He suggests A in W might have been inspired by Aristotle's saying that "philosophy begins in wonder" and adds that Plato has Socrates say, "This wondering, this is where philosophy begins and nowhere else."

      Matthews states that Alice's adventures are adventures in philosophical perplexity and that "The hallmark of his fantasy is clear and thought-provoking repartee, such as we might hope to find at high table in an Oxford college," quoting examples from the Mad Tea Party and Humpty Dumpty. He goes on to say that nothing like this is to be found in the Oz books, but that their most striking feature is their preoccupation with philosophical issues. He marvels at this, citing Baum's lack of academic background. Apparently he was unaware that Baum, like Dodgson, was a member of the Theosophical Society.

      Anyway...interesting essay, worth a read.


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