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The question of "the Future of the book" is one that particularly intrigues me. I think e-books and electronic literature are fascinating and will provide opportunities for new literature and art, as well as new methods for studying art and literature. There seems to have been a bias against digital media, especially in the realm of English studies, but I hope that will change. I wanted to help start changing minds by showcasing the Internet in all of its glorious possibilities as a medium.
When I conceived of this project, all that I knew was that I wanted to explore the medium of the Internet as it can affect our understanding of literature. I knew that I wanted to create a sort of online critical edition of something, but it took me a while to finally land on Alice. In fact, as it turns out, Alice was one of the best literary works I could have chosen. Here are the "top ten" reasons Alice is perfect for this project:
1. Alice has been popular for nearly 150 years, so there is a lot to say about it, especially in the wake of the interest kindled by the latest film (2010).
2. Because Alice has been popular with illustrators and filmmakers, I could take advantage of the Internet's ability to incorporate many different media, with images and movie clips.
3. Carleton College has a sizeable collection of Alice editions, which gave me access to many different illustrators for the "Images" section.
4. Because Alice is well known, I can spend more time on the site analyzing it and less time explaining it.
5. Since Alice is so episodic, it really doesn't matter what order you go in when you read it, making a hypertext version ideal.
6. Alice is considered "canonical" literature, but it is also somewhat "light" and easy to read, a definite plus for reading on screen.
7. No one has attempted to build a sight like this for Alice before, unlike, say, Shakespeare.
8. My literary interests lean towards Victorian and children's literature, and Alice is both!
9. Alice really confuses me and interests me. I don't really know what to think of it and I keep changing my mind, so it never gets old.
10. The Internet is very much like Wonderland and exploring it is very much like falling down a Rabbit Hole.
Well, the scope of this project is pretty enormous. It would take years to do everything I wanted to do for all 12 chapters of Alice Adventure's in Wonderland, let alone Through the Looking Glass as well. So I narrowed my choice down to three particular chapters. As for why I picked these particular chapters, I chose Chapter 5 because the Caterpillar is my favorite character and I wanted to think about him, Chapter 7 (The Mad Tea Party) is famous, hilarious, enigmatic, and critics love to talk about it, and I included Chapter 6 as well because I thought it would be nice to do the whole sequence, and I also highly enjoy the Cheshire Cat.
"In days of yore, Carleton seniors took a “Comprehensive Examination” designed to test their competence across the entire field in which they had majored. The enormous expansion and increasing compartmentalization of disciplinary knowledge eventually rendered the ideal of comprehensiveness untenable, and towards the end of the twentieth century Carleton responded by trying to find ways to reinvent the exercise. In one version it was recast as an “Integrative Exercise,” designed to help seniors find connections between disparate courses, though without any longer striving for comprehensiveness. In another, it was re-imagined as independent research on a narrowly defined topic. Looking around campus, you will find versions of the exercise that draw on one or more of these historical iterations. Thus, for instance, the current edition of the college Catalog endorses the second version, arguing that Comps is designed “to help students relate the subjects they have studied in their major field,” while the college’s Academic Regulations and Procedures defines it more loosely as “a capstone experience.” Meanwhile, the ghost of the original ideal continues to haunt us in the colloquial term by which the exercise will probably always be known: “Comps.”
"The Project Comps option, which may be undertaken individually or collaboratively, offers a multidisciplinary approach to the comprehensive exercise, allowing students to integrate their work as English majors with areas of expertise, talent, and experience in other fields." (Carleton College English Department Website)
Each of the “Evolution” sections follows the changes over time of a certain aspect of Alice. The “Texts” section deals with two evolutions: the evolution from the manuscript “Alice’s Adventures Underground” to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; and the evolution of Alice from print to electronic media. The latter section attempts to point out some advantages and disadvantages of an “E-text” and give samples of what the Electronic Alice looks like.
The “Images” section is a perhaps slightly misnamed, for it does not concern itself with all images of Alice, only those of the prominent illustrators of about thirty different print editions. In this section I take advantage of the Internet’s ability to showcase hundreds of images, in color, to give the visitor a sense of how visions of Alice have changed over time. I also stress the importance of such illustrations, specifically in their ability to shape our experience and understanding of the words that accompany them.
In the “Interpretations” section I take a more scholarly stance, examining how different literary critics have interpreted Alice. The idea is to see how the answer to the question “What is Alice?” has evolved and changed over time in response to both new critical theories and changes in popular culture. Though this section is meant mainly for students of English theory and criticism, I think many people will be interested in learning just how much these scholar’s interpretations have influenced the popular perception of Alice.
Finally, the “Other Media” section attempts to track the evolution of Alice adaptations for other media, such as film, television, theater, music, and the other adaptations of Alice for the Internet. This section tracks how the popular “Alice myth” has changed over time and how these various readings have affected our experience or understanding of Alice. This section also allows me to showcase one advantage of the Internet over print in the ability to include video clips of various performances of Alice productions and music.
The “Footnotes” are also perhaps misnamed. Instead of simply including bibliographic information, my footnotes are more like the marginalia notes of Martin Gardner’s “Annotated Alice.” Each page in the footnotes section is linked to one of the hypertext versions of the text, so that, for example, clicking on the word “caterpillar” in the hypertext version takes you to the Caterpillar “footnote.” This page acts basically as a synthesis of the other sections. The Caterpillar page, for instance, includes a brief introduction with a few interpretations of the Caterpillar, a link to any texts which include the Caterpillar, an image gallery of the Caterpillar as he has appeared in the various print versions I discuss, as well as a few clips of the Caterpillar from some prominent Alice films. In addition to the character "footnotes," there are also “footnotes” for jokes, phrases or terms which might have been familiar to the Victorians, but which need explaining for a modern audience. The “footnotes” section houses all of these footnotes and acts rather like an encyclopedia. The notes can be read in any order and also usually contain many hyperlinks to different parts of my site or to other websites.
I would say the Caterpillar Footnote. It was one of the first pages I made and I’m very proud of it. I also think it’s interesting and informative and gives a concise “taste” of the website.
The “Evolution of the Text” section is a good place to start. If you want an introduction to the characters, you can use the "Footnotes" section like an encyclopedia and read about any of the characters which strike your fancy. If you don't want to read anything, look at the Images or film clips.
No. While I am a fan of the Alice books, this site takes more of a scholarly approach to Carroll's classic.
Not yet. Hopefully you will soon be able to search at least the Text section. You can search the text of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on another website by clicking here.
Not yet. That is one feature I think is important for websites, but unfortunately I don't have the technical means to support a feedback structure. Feel free to email me (Lauren.Millikan@alumni.carleton.edu).
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