The Imaginary – How do we step into the imaginary?

The Imaginary – LMA LELE
March 3rd.

Text 1 – Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll.

Full text Alice’s adventures in Wonderland

Imaginary bac file

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 20.27.10

John Tenniel. Illustration for Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”, 1865, wood engraving.


> How do we step into the imaginary?

From reality to the imaginary.

1- How / When does Alice step into the imaginary world?
> facts / what happens?

She steps / falls into the Imaginary through a rabbit hole.

The scale / perspective is illogical / non-sensical but we follow her.

Our imagination follows hers.

There is a speaking rabbit just like in fables or fairy tales. In fables or fairy tales animals are personifications / metaphors for moral values. We know the code. We accept to believe it.
> literary technique called the suspension of disbelief.
The rabbit is dressed as an upper class / aristocratic man with a waistcoat and a watch.
He says he’s “running late” and we can see him ‘running’.

2- How does Carroll represent the step into the imaginary? > symbols / literary tools
reality scene : a garden / bored / tired / with her sister / on a bank / boring book / falling asleep
SEES a rabbit.
> step into the Imaginary through perception verbs / sight and hearing
“hear the rabbit say to himself” > triggers her curiosity.

> running > pace / movement
We say “follow a story” or “to rush the reader into the story” here it’s literally what happends, we follow the rabbit and Alice > sense of speed

> the boring book is a sharp criticism of literature without images > imagination/ creativity

“Down. Down. Down.” ‘plunged’. We not only follow the rabbit and Alice, we fall ‘down down down’ with her. The movement downwards could correspond to the expression ‘Dig into the meaning’
> the ’empty marmalade jar’ is another metaphor for pleasure / curiosity and the will to discover and find treasures.

> the words ‘latitude and longitude’ appear at the bottom of the page and we could suppose that the latitude and longitude of Alice correspond to where she is in the book itself: on page 13. Numbers correspond to numbers. Not only does Carroll play with words he also plays with the book itself as a visual object. Alice in Wonderland is one of the most popular illustrated book.

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 20.22.25

“The White Rabbit” Emily Prime Delafield, illustrated by Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue. Alice in Wonderland: A Play: Compiled from Lewis Carroll’s Stories Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1898.

Based on Carroll’s book, this edition of the story is notable for its Arts and Crafts decoration and production. As stated on the title page, it was originally presented for the benefit of The Society of Decorative Arts.

Text 2 – Extract from Through the Looking-Glass by Carroll.

We still follow Alice, but this time she steps through her looking glass, reality is upset / reversed / upside down. Best example > the Jabberwocky poem.

1- upside down : à l’envers
2- a knight: un chevalier
3- tin: étain / fer blanc
4- a deal box: une boîte en bois
5- to fasten: attacher
6- the lid: couvercle
7- a bee: une abeille
8- a bee-hive: une ruche
9- the saddle: une bandoulière
10- anklets: des anneaux de cheville
11- a shark: un requin
12- a tight fit: une coupe un peu serrée/juste
13- candlestick: bougeoir

3- Who does she meet?

Compared to your idea of a knight, what’s different?

Usually a knight is strong, proud, charismatic. He defends / fights for his king.
> loyalty / bravery / a shield and sword / an armour
magical stories / fairy tales / Epic stories / Arthur and the Knights of the round Table
> medieval times

This knight wears ‘ a tin armour ‘ badly fitted, he’s carrying a small wooden box which is ‘upside down’ with ‘the lid open’, the horse is equipped with 3 inventions: a beehive, a mouse trap and anti-sharks anklets. This knight is ridiculous yet could appear as a twisted genius.

Are any of the knight’s inventions useful?

All the inventions could be useful in Alice’s world.
They all have a coherent, logical explanation.
Yet none of them really make sense for us, in our reality.

What object does Alice mention? Is it useful? (in general? Here?)

She has a plum-cake dish. This dish represents an ordinary useful tool.
But in this context it seems incongruous / useless unless we find a plum tree in the chapter. If we use our imagination, it might come in handy!

4- What / Who does it / he stand for?

This crazy inventor might well be a caricature of Lewis Carroll himself.
A twisted version of the knight, the upside down version of the writer.
He is here to lead us with Alice a step further into the imaginary.
He wants to see ‘useful’ things as ‘creative’ tools.

Text 3 – The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

March 10th , 2014

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Screen Shot 2014-03-15 at 20.29.14 Short story called The Yellow Wallpaper

Full text

Audio book

> plot: a woman is ‘trapped’ inside her house because her husband diagnosed her as ‘depressed’. So she can’t write or read or think. She starts seeing things on her wallpaper.


On the image :

she is alone / We can’t see her face / she looks sad / depressed

there’s the wallpaper.

She looks like she is floating on the wall paper.

The wallpaper has a repeated pattern.

We find repetition and leitmotivs / patterns / anaphora in literature.

The wallpaper is a metaphor for her depression / oppression and

also the way she writes about it.

‘I’ narrative > récit à la première personne + her ‘eye’ > her personal way of writing about herself.

Form = contents

Background info:

Women in the 19th century = didn’t have the right to vote.

They had to stay in the private sphere / have kids and cook.

They were considered as kids, they were dependent on men, tied in corsets, they couldn’t get a divorce.

This story is also a metaphor for the status of women in a Puritan society.

She is trapped in front of the wallpaper just like she would be behind bars in a prison.

Suffragettes > beg. of 20th century


drought: courant

draught: sècheresse

strong: fort

strength: la force

sprawling: s’étendre, ramper

curves: courbes

curls: boucles

repelling: répugnant / repoussant

ghostliness: aspect fantômatique

  • Signs of strangeness / madness / insanity / what is ‘queer’ in this text?


The setting :

l.1 To stay within ‘ancestral halls’ in the Summer.

l.3 I would say ‘haunted house’

> Gothic feature/pattern.

is strange but the description

of the house triggers our curiosity.

We know that her brother and her husband are physicians.

We can notice the lexical field of science / chemicals / drugs throughout the text.

So we feel like she is using the vocabulary of men who keep her inside.

She is playing with it. She manipulates it and creates a poetical pattern with it.

She manages to be as poetic as she is political.

She uses the very names of the drugs that drive her crazy to describe her condition.

She uses the vocabulary of those who drive her / see her as crazy.

The way she writes about this setting is also strange, she insists on how ‘haunted’ yet ‘ queer’ it is, this triggering our curiosity.

  • Signs of entrapment how many boxes / prisons? Where?

Different levels of entrapment > house > nursery > bedroom > inside herself

Garden > l.36 box-bordered path.

Golden cage > yellow > ‘sickly sulphur tint’

Pathetic fallacy > paysage intérieur

When your environment / landscape mirrors your mental state.

  • Literary techniques that show how obsessive or confused she is.

An aparte > instance of personal comment on the writing process. (l. 12.)

Anaphora in appearance > with a small variation ‘airy’ > ‘air’

Personification > the curves … commit suicide / destroy

violence created by the wallpaper could be a self-inflicted violence.

> catharsis

> mise en abîme

> Oxymoron ‘artistic sin’

There are hints of irony throughout the text too.   “He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.”

Clearly if her husband was so loving he would probably be less oppressive.


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