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It is well known that Lewis Carroll wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass and What Alice Found There, which are two of the most beloved, confusing, and studied pieces of children’s literature produced in the past two hundred years. However, it is not as widely known that Lewis Carroll, whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a mathematician and logician who taught at Christ’s Church, Oxford. “Solving for Nonsense” explores Carroll’s signature nonsense style in the Alice books and how his mathematical background affects it. His primary occupation shines through his narratives in many ways. In his linguistic play Carroll often utilizes mathematical structures or practices in conjunction with language. For example, throughout the text Carroll’s treatment of words mirrors a mathematician’s approach to variables. This approach allows him to replace key words in sentences with others, rearrange order as he pleases, and apply whatever definition he pleases to words (whether they are words he has made up himself or words that all ready have meaning). By applying mathematical structures and approaches to language Carroll created one of the most memorable works of children’s literature in history.
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Jump, Kathleen M., "Solving for Nonsense: Mathematics and Lewis Carroll's Linguistic Play in the Alice Books" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 304.
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