The subversive dreams of Alice in Wonderland
This article examines the specific features of dreaming found in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, using current dream research as a guide. These features include falling, magical animals, metamorphoses, wordplay, bizarreness, memory distortions, moral ambiguities, metacognition, curiosity, empathy, existential questioning, and freedom. When Carroll’s stories are viewed through the lens of the current dream research, it becomes clear that he has provided a surprisingly accurate and comprehensive accounting of human dream experience. Drawing on historical and biographical evidence, this article goes on to argue that Carroll intentionally made dreams a central part of the stories because he wanted to give his young readers a tool for resisting the oppressive normality of adulthood in Victorian England, at the peak of the British empire. By subtly teaching his young listeners about the true nature of dreaming, Carroll was cultivating their critical capacity to look beyond the status quo of supposedly “civilized” Imperial reality.
Boss, Medard. 1958. The Analysis of Dreams. New York: Philosophical Library.
Bulkeley, Kelly. 2008. Dreaming in the World’s Religions: A Comparative History. New York: New York University Press.
Bulkeley, Kelly. 2016. Big Dreams: The Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press.
Carroll, Lewis. 1894. Curiosa Mathematica, Part II: Pillow Problems Thought Out During Sleepless Nights. London: Macmillan and Co. Third edition.
Carroll, Lewis. 2013. Alice in Wonderland. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. Third edition.
Cohen, Morton N. 1996. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: Vintage.
Domhoff, G. William. 1996. Finding Meaning in Dreams: A Quantitative Approach. New York: Plenum.
Domhoff, G. William. 2003. The Scientific Study of Dreams: Neural Networks, Cognitive Development, and Content Analysis. Washington: American Psychological Association.
Fosse, Roar, and G. William Domhoff. 2007. “Dreaming as Non-Executive Orienting," in The New Science of Dreaming, ed.s Patrick McNamara and Deirdre Barrett. Westport: Praeger, vol. II, 49-78.
Foulkes, David. 1978. A Grammar of Dreams. New York: Basic Books.
Fox, Kieran, Savannah Nijeboer, Elizaveta Solomonova, G. William Domhoff, and Kalina Christoff. 2013. “Dreaming as Mind Wandering: Evidence from Functional Neuroimaging and First-Person Content Reports.” Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7, 412.
Freud, Sigmund. 1965. The Interpretation of Dreams (James Strachey, trans.). New York: Avon Books.
Gardner, Martin, ed. 2000. The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
Griffith, Richard, Otoya Miyagi, and Akira Tago. 1958. “The Universality of Typical Dreams: Japanese vs. Americans.” American Anthropologist 60, 1173-1179.
Hartmann, Ernest. 2000. Dreams and Nightmares: The Origin and Meaning of Dreams. New York: Basic Books.
Hobson, J. Allan and Robert McCarley. 1977. “The Brain as a Dream-State Generator: An Activation-Synthesis Hypothesis of the Dream Process.” American Journal of Psychiatry 134, 1335-1368.
Hunt, Harry. 1989. The Multiplicity of Dreams: Memory, Imagination, and Consciousness. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Hurd, Ryan and Kelly Bulkeley, ed.s. 2014. Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep. Westport: ABC-Clio.
Irwin, Lee. 1994. The Dream Seekers: Native American Visionary Traditions of the Great Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Jung, C.G. 1979. Man and His Symbols. New York: Vintage Books.
Kahan, Tracey. 2001. “Consciousness in Dreaming: A Metacognitive Approach,” in Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming (Kelly Bulkeley, ed.). New York: Palgrave, 333-360.
Kilroe, Patricia. 2001. “Verbal Aspects of Dreaming: A Preliminary Classification.” Dreaming 11, 105-113.
Knudson, Roger. 2001. “Significant Dreams: Bizarre or Beautiful?” Dreaming 11, 166-177.
Kryger, Meir H., Thomas Roth, and William C. Dement. 2005. Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. Fourth Edition. Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.
Kuiken, Don and L. Smith. 1991. “Impactful Dreams and Metaphor Generation.” Dreaming 1, 135-146.
Lakoff, George. 2001. “How Metaphor Structures Dreams: The Theory of Conceptual Metaphor Applied to Dream Analysis,” in Dreams: A Reader on the Religious, Cultural, and Psychological Dimensions of Dreaming (Kelly Bulkeley, ed.). New York: Palgrave, 265-284.
Leach, Karoline. 2009. In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: The Myth and Reality of Lewis Carroll. London: Peter Owen.
Lohmann, Roger, ed. 2003. Dream Travelers: Sleep Experiences and Culture in the Western Pacific. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mageo, Jeannette Marie, ed. 2003. Dreaming and the Self: New Perspectives on Subjectivity, Identity, and Emotion. Albany: State University of New York Press.
O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger. 1984. Dreams, Illusion, and Other Realities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Phillips, Robert. 1977. Aspects of Alice: Lewis Carroll’s Dreamchild as seen through the Critics’ Looking-Glasses. New York: Vintage Books.
Ponpeiano, O. 1974. “Vestibular Influences During Sleep,” in Handbook of Sensory Physiology: Vestibular System: Part I: Basic Mechanisms (H.H. Kornhuker, ed.). New York: Springer-Verlag.
Revonsuo, Antii. 2003. “The Reinterpretation of Dreams: An Evolutionary Hypothesis of the Function of Dreaming,” in Sleep and Dreaming: Scientific Advances and Reconsideration. (Edward Pace-Schott, Mark Solms, Mark Blagrove, and Stevan Harnad, ed.s). Cambridge University Press, 85-109.
Revonsuo, Antii, Jarno Tuominen, and Valli, Katja. 2015. “The Avatars in the Machine: Dreaming as a Simulation of Social Reality.” In T. Metzinger & J. M. Windt (eds), Open MIND 32(T), 1-28. Frankfurt am Main: MIND Group.
Rupprecht, Carol Schreier, ed. 1995. The Dream and the Text: Essays on Language and Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Schredl, Michael. 2018. Researching Dreams: The Fundamentals. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Shafton, Anthony. 1995. Dream Reader: Contemporary Approaches to the Understanding of Dreams. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Sheriff, Robin. 2017. “Dreaming of the Kardashians: Media Content in the Dreams of US College Students.” Ethos 45: 532-554.
States, Bert O. 1993. Dreaming and Storytelling. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Stickgold, Robert. 2003. “Memory, cognition, and dreams.” In Pierre Maquet, Carlyle Smith, and Robert Stickgold, ed.s., Sleep and Brain Plasticity. New York: Oxford University Press, 17-40.
Tedlock, Barbara. 2005. The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine. New York: Bantam.
Thomas, Ronald R. 1990. Dreams of Authority: Freud and the Fictions of the Unconscious. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Woolf, Jenny. 2010. The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created Alice in Wonderland. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Von Grunebaum, G.E. and Roger Callois, ed.s. 1966. The Dream and Human Societies. Berkeley: University of California Press.