News Release — August 22, 1998
"Reflections in a Looking Glass: A Lewis Carroll Centenary Exhibition"
to Open September 14, 1998
I'd give all the wealth that years have piled
The slow result of Life's decay
To be once more a little child
For one bright, summer-day
Jabberwocky, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Cheshire Cat, the Hatter, the March Hare, the Snark, and the Boojum. Perhaps no greater menagerie of eccentric cultural icons has ever been known. To honor the life of the reserved man who gave the world these unforgettable characters, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center presents "Reflections in a Looking Glass: A Lewis Carroll Centenary Exhibition."
Commemorating the 100-year anniversary of Carroll's death, "Reflections in a Looking Glass" celebrates the creative genius of the man who authored Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, two of the greatest children's stories ever penned. Today, nearly 130 years since they were first published, the two have yet to go out of print, have been translated into over 70 languages, and, in addition to the Bible and works by Shakespeare, are the most quoted books in the Western world. Yet while known to the world for his writing, the man born Charles L. Dodgson was also an accomplished photographer, mathematician, inventor of numerous games and puzzles, and an Oxford Don.
Produced by a unique collaboration of curators from a wide-range of disciplines, "Reflections in a Looking Glass" explores the breadth of Carroll's life and work, presenting a rare collection of original manuscripts, photographs, drawings, games, and letters. Notably, the exhibition displays precious treasures such as The Rectory Magazine, an illustrated journal created by Carroll and his siblings; the 1865 India Alice; photographs of Alice Liddell, the true-life inspiration for Carroll's famed character; a board game Carroll invented in 1887; and rare translations of the author's books, including one by Vladimir Nabokov.
While the exhibit's curators originally sought to independently present the varied aspects of Carroll's career, they soon discovered that their subjects seemingly disparate passions and pursuits were well-integrated throughout his life and work. This awareness informed the exhibition's design, leading to a final presentation that adeptly explores the relationship between Carroll's personal life and his creative opus. "His work as a teacher and mathematician, his hobby of photography, his soaring imagination, his fascination with words, and his deeply religious cast of mind, all were brought to bear in his friendships with children, the true 'family' of his life," notes co-curator Sally Leach.
Indeed Carroll delighted in creating story photography by dressing up child subjects in costume or placing them in history tableaux, revealing a love for fanciful play which so endeared him to his young friends. This pastime, and the sometimes provocative photos it produced, also engendered endless speculation on the full extent of Carroll's relationship with his young friends. Yet though perhaps disturbing to a contemporary audience, Morton N. Cohen, a preeminent Carroll scholar, asserts that Carroll "never transgressed propriety or violated innocence."
Opening September 14, 1998, the exhibit will be held in the Leeds Gallery of the Flawn Academic Center on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. Several related activities will complement "Reflections in a Looking Glass." On October 8, Professor Cohen speaks on Carroll's life; particularly his friendships with children. On Sunday, October 11, in conjunction with Austin's Museum Day, the Ransom Center hosts a "Mad Hatter's Tea-Party"--an afternoon of music, story-telling, puzzles, games, and other entertainment for children and their adult friends. Roy Flukinger, the Ransom Center's senior curator of photography, lectures on Lewis Carroll's accomplished photography on October 22. In addition, building on the popularity of Carroll's books, the Ransom Center worked with educational consultants to develop classroom materials for K-12 teachers, conducting an educational workshop to showcase these materials on July 22, 1998.
A catalogue devoted to Carroll's photography (published by Aperture and including many of the Ransom Center's holdings) will be for sale during the exhibition. After closing in Austin on December 11, 1998, "Reflections in a Looking Glass" will tour four sites in New York and California.