Posted by: malenfantable | December 9, 2011

Lewis Carroll, Alice and LSD

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, has as Lwinfree mentioned, become a major source of marketing in our modern world. Alice as a character has become a sort of cultural marker, an important figure, her character fitting many different niches in today’s society. She has functioned as a trite and seemingly overly happy Disneyworld character, she has been drawn into Disney film adaptations, made into toys, as well as manipulated in darker ways like in Tim Burton’s film, Alice and Wonderland.

With these more socially accepted adaptations there has also been a cult following of Lewis Carroll and the story of, Alice  In Wonderland, within in the drug culture. This topic has been largely ignored because the idea often seems laughable, but I think the manipulation of the text to fit the drug culture and implications of that manipulation proves interesting to the power of visuality combined with text or in addition to the text. (Below are images of backlight posters and a smoking caterpillar tattoo. Blacklight posters are often associated with drugs because of their ability to light up when triggered by a black light)


The most commonly associated drug with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is LSD. This concept is easily squashed by the fact that LSD was not invented and in use until the 1940’s. In 1938 Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman invented the drug, 40 years after Carroll died. (http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/motm/lsd/lsd1_text.htm)

What is interesting about this relation to drug culture is that those who are looking for drug references are rarely looking at the actual text for answers. When doing a simple google search I found many websites who aimed to prove Carroll’s drug use by utilizing images from various movie adaptations. The Disney movie for example, was produced in the 1950’s, how does this imagery then have anything to do with Lewis Carroll? It simply doesn’t.

This misunderstanding between text and visuality is a simple and silly one but, it still plays an important roll in understanding the effects of visuality both in the Victorian era and today. Without the caterpillar image in the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I believe it would be harder to make the jump from childhood dream to acid trip. There is a power within image to explain what words cannot, to further words. An image places the reader in a specific position, it can tell the reader how to read and how to see. Images and movies produced long after Lewis Carroll’s death seem to be able to manipulate his text no matter how nonsensical.


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