Kasey Deems

Faculty Mentor

Molly Clark Hillard, PhD

Faculty Editor

Allison Machlis Meyer, PhD

Student Editor

Emily Boynton


This article investigates the significance of the presence and depiction of mental illness and changed bodies in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland through contextualizing the conceptions of mental illness and the presence of institutions like asylums that surrounded Carroll’s work. Through examining the way mental illness was defined by legally distinct categories and the architectural and social constructs of the asylum as a regulatory space, this article finds that Carroll’s work reacted against the strict routines and limits on creativity and imagination that Victorian physicians and society imposed on children and adults as a means to maintain “sanity.” As a result, Carroll’s text embraces the nonsensical and liberated experience of being or acting in ways that Victorian medicine would define as mentally ill. Through his depictions of how social environments like the schoolhouse and the home negatively impacted the minds and bodies of characters like the Duchess and Alice herself, Carroll demonstrated that the constructs of Victorian society directly influenced the manifestation of mental illness and disabilities. His fluidity between spaces in Wonderland also critiques the supposed binary of sane/insane and instead portrays that delineation as socially constructed and created.