Karen Gardiner: Escaping Justice in Wonderland

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20200812113910/https://gifcon.org/abstracts2018/#gardiner
GIFCon – Glasgow International Fantasy Conversations


Karen Gardiner [2018-04-26 13:15~13:35]:
Escaping Justice in Wonderland

Alice does not ask to go to Wonderland. Her curiosity leads her there, and she finds, once in this alternative world, that it is at least as unjust as the one that she has left behind, with apparently senseless rules and despotic leaders. Wonderland is not an escape. It is, in the end, a place she must make her escape from, if she is not to be unjustly sentenced.

Between the completion of Alice’s Adventures Underground (the story told to children on the river) and the much expanded Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (which would eventually be published), the Jowett case hit the headlines in the British press. A trial was brought against Benjamin Jowett (Regius Professor of Greek at Oxford) by Edward Pusey (Carroll’s sponsor at Oxford) and others on the grounds of heresy. This produced, Carroll writes in his diary, ‘a flurry of letters to the Times’, leading to Carroll’s correspondence about the concept of justice itself with his close acquaintance, theologian F. D. Maurice. The 1863 letters from Carroll to Maurice have unfortunately been lost, but the lengthy replies from Maurice remain in the Dodgson family collection and had only been partially deciphered until now.

This paper will reflect on what the Maurice letters can tell us about Carroll’s shifting perspective on the justice of the Jowett case, including looking at his poem ‘The Majesty of Justice’, which references both the Jowett case and the Wonderland story. It will argue that Wonderland’s justice system may not be so fantastic after all. Nor may it be so easy to escape, since its genesis is in Carroll’s everyday world.

Karen Gardiner has an MA in the Psychology of Religion and a Postgraduate Certificate in Theology, Imagination and Culture. She is currently studying for a PhD in Theology and Literature at the University of Nottingham, focusing on the relationship between F. D. Maurice and Lewis Carroll and the influence that the theologian had on the writer. Having presented ‘Alice’s Apocalypse’ at the Theology and Popular Culture conference last year, she is now on the steering group for the network. Karen is a Priest in the Church of England and is currently based in the Vale of York.


Full article: Karen Gardiner, Escaping Justice in Wonderland (An adaption of a paper given at the Glasgow International Fantasy Conference 2018), published in The Carrollian No. 33 p. 47 ~ 60, March 2020.
See also: Benjamin Jowett

2020-07-09, update: 2023-07-15

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