The Reluctant Teacher: Education in the Joseph Brabant-Lewis Carroll Collection

The truly revolutionary aspect of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when it was published in 1865, was its refusal to instruct. With its steadfast rejection of moralism and didacticism, Lewis Carroll’s fantasy made a radical break with the long tradition in children’s literature of stories with "lessons." This outlook is especially surprising given that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the historical person behind the Lewis Carroll pseudonym, was both a clergyman and an educator, spending his entire career as a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford.

In the Alice books, imagination is an end in itself. Nevertheless, individuals and institutions have been trying to put Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to educational use ever since it appeared. To celebrate the beginning of the academic year, this month’s showcase explores Dodgson’s educational writings and the educational applications of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The materials on display are from the Joseph Brabant-Lewis Carroll Collection, one of the world’s finest collections of Carrolliana, generously donated to the Fisher Library in 1997.