Stapleford Granary

Course description

 In partnership with Literature Cambridge

Time: 14:00 - 17:00 | £45

This exciting afternoon of lectures, discussions and a dramatic reading celebrates the publication of Dame Gillian Beer’s new book, Alice in Space.

Gillian Beer will discuss the sideways Victorian world of Lewis Carroll, exploring his lively interest in the intellectual debates of his time. In the Alice books, arguments about evolution, education and logic, dialogues and dream theory are transformed as parody and play. Carroll releases children from an authoritarian world where the human is always the privileged exception. And where adults always have the answer. In this new world every thing – cat, queen, egg, door, mock turtle, Time or child – has an opinion and can speak.

Zoe Jaques will talk about Alice among the Animals. Lewis Carroll’s Alice texts are celebrated as works of whimsy, unburdened by any moral or lesson. Yet the stories are also deeply invested in what one might call ‘the animal question’, or the ethical relationship between humans and other beings in a moral environment. Zoe’s talk will explore how Carroll’s deep personal interest in animal rights emerges in his playful tales, to locate a philosophy in Alice that aligns as much with modern takes on the subjectivity of animals as it does with mid-nineteenth-century questions on the rights of man.

Each lecture is followed by questions and discussion.

A unique opportunity to hear new ideas from leading Carroll scholars, along with a superb performer reading a selection of favourite Alice scenes and poetry by Lewis Carroll. 

Suggested reading

You will get most out of the course if you read (re-read) Alice in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872). It is worth getting a decent printed or digital edition to be sure you have reliable version of the text. We recommend editions published by Penguin, OUP, or Norton.


Artist/speaker: Gillian Beer & Zoe Jacques

Further info

Our Lecturers

Professor Dame Gillian Beer is retired Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge and former President of Clare Hall. Her books include George Eliot, Darwin’s Plots, Arguing with the Past, Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground, Open Fields: Science in Cultural Encounter, Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll. She edited the first collected and annotated edition of Carroll’s poems: Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense: Collected Poems (Penguin Classics).

Zoe Jaques is a Fellow of Homerton College and Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. Her publications include Children’s Literature and the Posthuman, and a co-authored book on the publishing history of the Alice books, and articles on Charles Kingsley, Lewis Carroll, and J. R. R. Tolkien.