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Celebrated biographer and Oxford Professor explores the mystery of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland on the 150th anniversary of its publication

Posted by ap507 at Nov 10, 2015 10:34 AM |
Free event takes place as part of the University of Leicester's Literary Leicester festival at the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre on 14 November

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 10 November 2015

  • Leading Oxford University professor and biographer Robert Douglas-Fairhurst will give his talk The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland on Saturday, November 14 at 6.30pm
  • Themes include Carroll's inspiration for his iconic heroine and the modern day cultural influences of the 1865 novel

On the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland award-winning biographer Professor Robert Douglas-Fairhurst examines the lure and lunacy of one of the most iconic children's stories of all time.

Lewis Carroll's 19th century novel, which features a curious young girl named Alice, who discovers a peculiar world populated with even more peculiar creatures after falling down a rabbit hole, has entertained generations of children since it was first published on November 26, 1865.

To mark the milestone anniversary, Professor Douglas-Fairhurst, a Professor of English Literature at Magdalen College, Oxford, will explore the story behind Carroll's madcap creation as part of the University of Leicester's Literary Leicester festival.

Professor Douglas-Fairhurst will give his talk, The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, at the Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, at the University, on Saturday, November 14, at 6.30pm.

Among other things he will explore the impact the book has had on modern culture and will also look at Carroll's mysterious friendship with seven-year-old Alice Liddell, the real girl he transformed into a fictional heroine.

Professor Douglas-Fairhurst said: “The talk will examine why we’re so fascinated by Alice in Wonderland, Alice’s huge cultural presence today in everything from restaurants to theme parks, who ‘Lewis Carroll’ was and how the story came to be written.

“It will also look at Carroll’s relationship with the original Alice, the origins of ‘Wonderland’ as a name and an idea, what Wonderland is like as a place and how the story works and why we should still care about it.”

Professor Douglas-Fairhurst has researched the subject as part of his new biography, which goes by the same name as the lecture.

Festival director, Dr Harry Whitehead said: “Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's biography has been THE book on Alice in Wonderland on this, the 150th anniversary of its release. A Radio 4 Book of the Week, he has travelled around the world and spoken at many of the world's leading literary festivals this year. We are delighted that he is joining us to speak, and then to join us for our panel event after, 'What's the Point of Fantasy Fiction?' as part of Fantasy Fiction Saturday.”


Author biography

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is Professor of English Literature at Oxford University and a Fellow of Magdalen College. His previous books include Becoming Dickens (2011), which was awarded the 2011 Duff Cooper Prize, and Victorian Afterlives (2002), and he has also produced editions of Dickens's Christmas stories, Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, and Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies.

He writes regularly for publications including the Daily Telegraph, Guardian, and TLS, and has also been a columnist for the Oxford Times.

Recent radio and television appearances include Start the Week, BBC Breakfast, The Culture Show, and several documentaries including The Secret World of Lewis Carroll (BBC2).

He has also worked as a consultant on BBC adaptations of Jane Eyre, Emma, Great Expectations, and the forthcoming BBC/Red Planet Dickensian.

In 2013 he was one of the judges for the Man Booker Prize, and in 2015 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in Oxford.

Festival running order:

Wednesday 11 November 2015

  • Jamie Mollart: A Reading and Conversation with Henderson Mullin: Attenborough Arts, 12pm.
  • David Almond (Schools-only Event): English Martyrs' School, 12.50pm
  • James Joyce: Apocalypse and Exile: Quaker Meeting House, 2.30pm
  • Writing Women in the Midlands: Workshop: Leicestershire Records Office, 3.30pm
  • Raving Beauties - 'Hallelujah for 50 Foot Women': Attenborough Arts, 8pm

Thursday 12 November 2015

  • First Story: Young Writers' Showcase: Attenborough Arts, 1.30pm
  • Remembering G.S. Fraser: David Wilson Library, 3.30pm
  • Literary Salon: "Unlearning Childhoods" with novelists Caryl Phillips and Elleke Boehmer: Attenborough Arts, 4pm
  • Linton Kwesi Johnson and Caryl Phillips in Conversation: Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 6.30pm
  • Louis de Bernières: Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 8pm

Friday 13 November 2015

  • 'Does it Make a Difference if a Writer is Male or Female?' A panel discussion with authors, publishers and local students: Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 1.15pm
  • Why did Samuel Pepys Keep his Diary? Attenborough Arts, 2pm
  • 'Who Loves Jack the Ripper?' with Bruce Robinson: Phoenix, 6.30pm
  • Withnail and I: screening with an introduction by its director, Bruce Robinson: Phoenix, 8pm

Saturday 14 November 2015 - 'Fantasy Fiction Saturday'

  • Emily Gravett: Letterbox Club Event (children aged 6 and up): Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 11am
  • Rigby Graham: Artist and Writer: David Wilson Library Seminar Room, 1pm
  • Stuart Hill: “BLOOD, BLAST AND FIRE!" The Icemark Chronicles (for 10-15 year olds and readers of all ages): Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 3pm
  • The Kingdom of Dreams: The Uncanny Worlds of Graham Joyce: Ogden Lewis Suite, 4.30pm
  • The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland, with Robert Douglas-Fairhurst: Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 6.30pm
  • 60 Years of The Lord of the Rings, followed by panel discussion: 'What's the Point of Fantasy Fiction?' with leading authors Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Stuart Lee Juliet E. McKenna & Farah Mendlesohn: Peter Williams Lecture Theatre, 8pm

All events are free, but some are ticketed, so please check the University of Leicester website, or venue, for more information.

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