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The Place of Lewis Carroll in Children's Literature, by Jan Susina; pp. xvi + 232. London and New York: Routledge, 2010, 85.00 [pounds sterling], 28.99[pounds sterling] paper, $125.00, $39.95 paper.
Alice beyond Wonderland: Essays for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Cristopher Hollingsworth; pp. xxviii + 227. Iowa City: university of Iowa Press, 2009, $42.95, 38.50 [pounds sterling].
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. John Tenniel's illustration of Alice and Humpty Dumpty perfectly conveys how Jan Susina's The Place of Lewis Carroll in Children's Literature situates the Alice books within the context of children's literature, while the drawing of Alice and the Cheshire cat (by graphic novelist and artist Barnaby Ward) on the cover of Alice beyond Wonderland vividly represents the volume's focus on the Alice books' expansive influence. In Ward's illustration, Alice looks like a manga heroine, the cat resembles a serpent (albeit one with a furry tail), and the palette is brooding blacks and browns.
But that is not to suggest that Susina's study is narrowly conservative or academically provincial. Highly engaging, it is as well researched as it is, appropriately, curious. It contains two sustained analyses of book covers themselves--of Lewis Carroll's own innovation of the dust jacket and of recent paperback editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)--and its concerns range from the evolution of the fairy tale and the phenomenon of cross-writing to paratexts and the history of the hypertext.
The result is a study that snaps things into place--the proper generic classification of the Alice books as literary fairy tales, Wonderland's celebration of the middle class, and the domestic nature of its ending--and precisely situates Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (1871) in that too often …