Histories Series – Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk? Lewis Carroll and the Art of Reading from Memory

  • Language: English
  • Target Audience: Adults, Educators/Parents
  • Category: Read, Other Happenings
Availability: 56
Tue, 26 Feb, 2019, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM (GMT+8)

National Library

Level 5 - Possibility and Imagination Rooms

100 Victoria Street National Library Board

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  • Language: English
  • Target Audience: Adults, Educators/Parents

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HISTORIES SERIES (The History of the Book and Reading)
This series explores the book as both a material and an imaginative object, as well as the rich range of encounters that are possible between reader and text. 


Since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865, the Mad Hatter’s famous riddle has drawn considerable speculation: why is a raven like a writing desk? The solution may lie in 19th-century memory culture, with its emphasis on safeguarding poetry and prose, word perfect, within the mind. When Alice attempts to read from memory, words tumble out of her mouth in strange configurations, distorting the sense of the original compositions. Yet Carroll took great pains to ensure that his own mental storehouse was better organised, relying on reading from memory as a vital, and perhaps even lifesaving, pastime. 

Join Assistant Professor Katherine Wakely-Mulroney as she explores the practice of reading “off book” through the life of Lewis Carroll and his fictional creations.

Free admission.

The series is organised by the National Library, in collaboration with the School of Humanities, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University.



Katherine Wakely-Mulroney is an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University's School of Humanities, where she specialises in literature of the long 18th century and children’s literature.


Andrew Duffy is an Assistant Professor at Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information.

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