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ยป Hunting for Dodos

Hunting for Dodos

This exhibition, curated by Janet McMullin and Cristina Neagu, invites the viewer to explore the realm of nonsense poetry in the works of Lewis Carroll.  On this occasion we have selected material focusing on Father William, Jabberwocky  and the Walrus and the Carpenter.

Whimsical and humorous in tone these poems are unforgetable experiences. They play with unexpected, fanciful phrases and  made-up words. The many editions and translations are often accompanied by exquisite illustrations. We selected a few very different interpretations, starting with Carroll's own sketches and the way these were transformed by John Tenniel, to versions illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, Malcolm Ashman and Ralph Steadman. As Carroll's literary works are among the most translated texts in existence and have inspired music, films and interesting craftmanship, we included a few striking examples of forein illustrated editions (French, Japanese, Polish, Romanian and Russian), scores , parodies and objects such as a fabulous chess set.

You are old, Father William is a poem recited by Alice in Chapter 5, “Advice from a caterpillar” (chapter 3 in the original manuscript version) in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.  Alice informs the caterpillar that she has previously tried to repeat "How doth the little busy bee" but that the text came out all wrong as "How doth the little crocodile". The caterpillar asks her to recite "You are old, Father William", but her attempt is equally unsuccessful.  Dodgson’s poem is a parody of “The old man’s comforts and how he gained them” by Robert Southey, first published in 1799.  It was well-known to children of Alice’s generation, but is now largely forgotten, and only the parody is remembered.

Jabberwocky is one of the most famous nonsense poems in the English language.  It appears in Through the Looking Glass, in an early scene in which Alice has found a book written in a seemingly unintelligible language.  She realises that the pages are written in mirror-writing, and by holding a mirror up to the page, she is able to read the poem.  Some of the words invented by Dodgson (such as “galumphing” and “chortle”) have passed into the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary.  Dodgson wrote the first stanza of what would become “Jabberwocky”, issuing it in 1855 under the title “Stanza of Anglo-Saxon Poetry” in Mischmasch, a periodical which he wrote and illustrated for the amusement of his family.  Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of the Jabberwock may reflect the Victorian preoccupation with palaeontology and geology.  

The Walrus and the Carpenter is a poem that appeared in Through the Looking-Glass. It is recited in chapter 4 by Tweedledum and Tweedledee and is composed of 18 stanzas, in a alternation of iambic trimeters and iambic tetrameters. The rhyme scheme is ABCBDB, and masculine rhymes appear frequently. The rhyming and rhythmical schema used, as well as some archaisms and syntactical turns, are those of the traditional English ballad. The Beatles' song "I Am the Walrus" was written in part due to this poem. The Walrus and the Carpenter is adapted in almost every film adaptation of Through the Looking-Glass and almost any version of Alice in Wonderland that incorporates Tweedledee and Tweedledum. In the 1999 television adaption, the Walrus and the Carpenter are portrayed by Peter Ustinov and Pete Postlethwaite respectively.

Hunting for Dodos will be open from 6 July 2013. Visiting hours Monday - Friday: 9.30 am - 1.00 pm; 2.00 pm - 4.30 pm (provided there is a member of staff available in the Upper Library).

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