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Books in brief: Alice in Space by Gillian Beer

An exploration of the mid-19th-century intellectual milieu that shaped Lewis Carroll’s sensibility

By Houman Barekat   February 2017

9780226041506Alice in Space by Gillian Beer (University of Chicago Press, £24.50)

The arch playfulness that pervades Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass was not, says Cambridge polymath Gillian Beer, simply the product of one man’s whimsy. Alice in Space explores the mid-19th-century intellectual milieu that shaped Carroll’s sensibility. Beer traces his interest in botanical classification to the taxonomical work of Charles Darwin and Thomas Henry Huxley; the Alice books’ subversion of spatio-temporal physics to the work of mathematicians such as WK Clifford and James Clerk Maxwell; Humpty Dumpty’s idiosyncratic thought…

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