chapter  6
16 Pages

VICTORIAN FANTASIES

Life slips away and life on the other side of the great river becomes more and more the reality, of which this is only a shadow.

Lewis Carroll

THE more popular Victorian fantasists, Lewis Carroll, George MacDonald, Charles Kingsley, reveal an attraction towards that ‘zero’ point of undifferentia­ tion and inorganicism which characterizes fantasy, but with a strong repudiation of its a-moral, barbaric elements. Car­ roll’s writings are the most clearly ‘fantastic’. They draw attention to problems of signification, presenting a con­ fused, topsy-turvy world which lays no claim to re-present absolute meaning or ‘reality’. When Alice falls down the rabbit hole and walks through the m irror in Alice in Wonder­ land (1865) andThrough the Looking-Glass (1872), she enters a realm of non-signification, of non-sense. She is faced with semiotic chaos, and her acquired language systems cease to be of any help. Things slip away from words — a baby becomes a pig, a grin becomes a cat-and words assume lives of their own, ‘the phrase insisted on conjugating itself. ‘No word’, writes Carroll, ‘has a meaning inseparably attached to

it.’ For Carroll, as for Wittgenstein, language is the means of constructing meaning - outside a language world, there lies only non-meaning.1