Since Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865, the Mad Hatter's famous riddle has drawn considerable speculation: why is a raven like a writing desk? The solution may lie in 19th-century memory culture, with its emphasis on safeguarding poetry and prose, word perfect, within the mind. When Alice attempts to read from memory, words tumble out of her mouth in strange configurations, distorting the sense of the original compositions. Yet Carroll took great pains to ensure that his own mental storehouse was better organized, relying on reading from memory as a vital, and perhaps even lifesaving, pastime.
Join Assistant Professor Katherine Wakely-Mulroney as she explores the practice of reading "off book" through the life of Lewis Carroll and his fictional creations.