Lewis Carroll, as we found out in previous chapters, is most famous for two books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872). These books follow the adventures of a seven-year-old, Alice, who tumbles down a rabbit hole (Wonderland) and enters a magic mirror (Looking-Glass), entering a nonsensical world of the imagination. If you have not already read these classic books—or wish to reread them—you can access them at the following links:
In the first paragraph of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, we learn that “Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversations?’”Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. With Forty-Two Illustrations by John Tenniel (New York: D. Appleton, 1927; University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center, 1998), chap. 1, http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/CarAlic.html. Alice’s question, which perhaps seemed an absurd, childish question when Wonderland was written in 1865, seems especially prescient for a world of electronic books, literary apps, and hypertexts. Take a minute to watch the following video, an advertisement for an iPad app based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
(click to see video)
What does it mean to turn a book into an app? Writing about “Alice for the iPad,” the Huffington Postgushed, “The developers have created the pop-up book of the 21st-century. With this creative update to Alice in Wonderland, users don’t just flip the ‘pages’ of the eBook—they’re meant to shake it, turn it, twist it, jiggle it, and watch the characters and settings in the book react.”“Alice,” Atomic Antelope, http://www.atomicantelope.com/alice/; “Alice in Wonderland iPad App Reinvents Reading (VIDEO),” Huffington Post, June 14, 2010, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/04/14/alice-in-wonderland-ipad_n_537122.html. How does this kind of reading—interactive and visual—change our ideas of “reading” itself? John Brownlee admits that the iPad edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland “is certainly plenty frabjous” (an allusion to the nonsense poem, “Jabberwocky,” that appears in the sequel to Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass), but wonders if the iPad “changes the reading game when it comes to drier books…how will people use the iPad’s capability to expand upon the text of a book like Mervyn Peake’s Titus Groan or Nabokov’s Ada, or Adror, or Eco’s The Name of the Rose, or other less playful and anarchic works?”John Brownlee, “Callooh! Callay! ‘Alice in Wonderland’ for iPad,” Cult of Mac (blog), April 13, 2010, http://www.cultofmac.com/37800/kalloo-kallayalice-in-wonderland-for-ipad. Fortunately, many literary scholars and students are working to answer these and many other questions confronting literary studies in the digital age.
- Have you ever experienced a “literary” app? Had you read the book, story, or poem beforehand? How did the app edition change your ideas about the work? Jot down your ideas.