Influence of Math Logic vs. The Influence of Shakespeare in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Term Paper

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Logic/Shakespeare in Alice and Wonderland

Surpassing Shakespeare:

Mathematics and Logic vs. The Influence of Shakespeare in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Epigraph:

The ultimate use of Shakespeare is to let him teach you to think too well, to whatever truth you can sustain without perishing." - Harold BloomDownload full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Term Paper on Influence of Math Logic vs. The Influence of Shakespeare in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Assignment

In Harold Bloom's Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, the author alludes to the Bard of Avon's ability not only to entertain his readers but to engage them in quizzical and logical puzzles of character that result in their redefinitions of truth and themselves. In fact, in Robert Atwan's review of Bloom's book he likens the bard's "multilayered architecture and dramatic intricacy" to a diagram of a complex hi-fi system. Though the quote and these attributes most definitely describe Shakespeare's plays, they also ring true of the complex logic displayed in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Though the greatest plays in the Englsh language and a children's story written by an eloquent mathematician who, according to Karoline Leach, may have been more man than myth, may not seem similar at first, both literary works present truth as a complex puzzle, a Rubik's Cube for the mind. A simple perusal of the Bible, Greek Mythology, and Bhagavad Gita suggest that the search for truth has been at the center of literature since its earliest conception. For example, Paul's letter to the Corinthians explains humans' search for truth as seeing "through a glass darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12), and Sophocles' Oedipus tragedies are nothing more than an allegory for the danger involved in humans' search for truth. Shakespeare, therefore, cannot be credited with the theme of searching for truth, but he can be recognized for his contribution to the logic and mystery of that Rubik's Cube. But though Bloom and other scholars like Atwan have long considered Shakespeare to be the most modern authority on the literary theme of searching for truth, Carroll's use of mathematics and logic in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland allow the more modern author to throw his own Rubick's Cube into the running for the author that used literature to most accurately portray or consider humans' search for truth. Though Bloom is one of the most respected English literature scholars of the post modern era, his assumptions about Carrol and Shakespeare can and should be challenged.

Though preeminent and foremost in many things, I refuse to admit that Shakespeare is the modern father of humans' search for truth. Furthermore, refuse to accept Bloom's generalizations of Carroll's witty novel with respect to the playwright and poet. In the following article, I suggest that Bloom could be wrong, at least partially. Certainly Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is not devoid of Shakespeare's influence, but it does not seem to fall conveniently into place amongst Bloom's theories either. Through penning this article, I set out take Bloom to the wrack, combing through Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to find not only references to Shakespeare, but also much grander references to Carroll's own discipline of mathematics and logic.

Upon my initial research I found that Bloom recognized Carroll's literary genius, his "astonishing exuberance in both verse and prose," but surprisingly, did not excuse him from Shakespeare's influence (Bloom?). According to Bloom, "Lewis Carroll is Shakespearean to the degree that his writing has become a kind of Scripture for us (Bloom 2)."

Bloom also did not excuse him from "belatedness," accusing the humorist of revolutionary ideas that came too late, once Shakespeare's were already mainstream in the literary world. Bloom best intimates this by suggesting that "Carroll's parodies, sometimes brilliant though they are, do not transcend their echoes, do not reverse Carroll's own burden of literary belatedness (Bloom 2)."

Bloom's judgment of Carroll's originality and contribution to the undying literary theme of humans' search for meaning was, at least, unfair, as the parodies of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland comprise only a small element of the novel, and intentionally mimic their origins. Furthermore, not only are the parodies purposely belated, but also they exemplify a complex system of logic and mathematics that threaten to rival the great Bard himself. Still, I was pleasantly surprised and flattered to find that Bloom appreciated Carroll, and found his work worthy of comparison to Shakespeare. I held strong though, refusing to be pacified by this compliment, and began the search for something greater in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Introduction:

Upon reading Lewis Carroll's delightful novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the reader is at once struck and seduced by the peculiarity of the text. The language is riddled, the characters "mad," and the environment fantastical. Beyond this, it is possible to infer multiple antithetical meanings for almost every aspect presented in the novel. A mock turtle is an animal that resembles a turtle, but only was once a turtle; anything with a head can be beheaded, even if it has no body; and the most simple way to correct a white rose is simply to paint it red. The novel is not only "mad," but it is maddeningly hilarious in that the absurdities it points out turn out to make absolute sense. Why else would a lesson be called a lesson unless the number of hours one must take it lessen every day (Carroll?)? To those trained to seek out and interpret symbols and motifs especially, the novel is overwhelmingly ambiguous. Once the reader follows Alice down the rabbit hole however, there is no turning back to passive reading, he or she is forced to tussle through the same events and encounters as Alice, making what sense he or she can of the experience. Knowledge and confidence in Wonderland come only through experience, and chaos and madness avoided only by finding stability -- Wonderland.

Upon falling into Wonderland, it becomes quickly apparent that this is a land where language and words are significant, mathematics is rendered unrecognizable and where logical reasoning is a continuing struggle. Or is the logic contained in wonderland simply too fantastical, and in a sense too logical, for the casual reader to understand? As a mathematician, Carroll uses logic several times to prove an argument that seems impossible; Carroll uses an illogical syllogism to make a logical argument for the illogical. For instance, when considering whether or not a bodiless Cheshire cat can be beheaded, the King presents this syllogism:

Premise 1: All things with a head can be beheaded.

Premise 2: The Cheshire cat has a head.

Conclusion: The Cheshire cat can be headed.

Of course, any rational human being would understand that something must have both a head and a body to be beheaded, but Carroll here uses seamless logic to prove the absolute illogical, a feat that some may call the mark of a true genius. Thus, far beyond his parodies that mimic and mock Shakespeare, Carroll meets and even exceeds Shakespeare through his use of logic and mathematics. Though the Bard of Avon certainly used logic to wind together the complex strings of his plays, using the illogical to prove the logical is nothing "belated," in fact, it is originally and ingeniously Carroll. Thus, by proving Bloom's fallacy of Shakespearean influence on Carroll and exploring the influence of mathematics and logic on his writing, I contend that although Shakespeare may have influenced Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the principles of mathematical and logical reasoning are a grander source of influence on Carroll's novel, as they are the only concepts which seem to remain constant and true in Wonderland, and they are the only method by which chaos is harnessed and order is established.

Bloom's Argument of Shakespearean Influence:

Though it is impossible to argue that one can find no evidence of Shakespearean influence in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Harold Bloom's suggestion that Carroll's novel is simply a belated tale mimicking Shakespeare's logic and complexities is stretched. Because a syllogism worked well in explaining how Carroll's unique literary contribution allows him to explain the illogical using the logical, a second syllogism will suffice to prove the fallacy in Bloom's argument.

Premise 1: if a literary work is post Shakespearean and Western, then Shakespeare influenced it.

Premise 2: No other theories are capable of encompassing Shakespeare, and Shakespearean

Theory encompasses all other theories.

Conclusion: Shakespeare is the dominant source of influence in all Western works of literature that succeed him.

While Bloom's first premise, or his argument of Shakespearean influence seems feasible, his claim that the Shakespearean Theory dominates all other theories, or the second premise, is bold and argumentative; and the extreme conclusion that results is even more disagreeable and offensive. Essentially, the fallacy of Bloom's logic is overreaching. While it is correct to assume that Shakespeare is perhaps the largest source of influence on Western literature, one cannot argue that he has influenced every piece of literature that succeeded him without being somewhat ridiculous. Take, for instance, genres of modern literature that have sprung up anew in the modern or post modern era: the film inspired novel, Christian fiction, and the murder mystery. Among the novels of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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