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Greenacre, P. (1976). Play, Games, and Sport. The Literary Works of Lewis Carroll: By Kathleen Blake. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1974. 216 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 45:162-164.
(1976). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 45:162-164
Play, Games, and Sport. The Literary Works of Lewis Carroll: By Kathleen Blake. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1974. 216 pp.
Review by: Phyllis Greenacre
That Lewis Carroll's works were the expression of the genius of the Reverend Charles L. Dodgson is an almost indisputable historical fact.1 The 'Alice' books have been translated into more foreign languages than any other book in the English language, except the Bible. Although this would seem to testify to their immense, almost universal appeal, many of Carroll's greatest admirers are not very clear as to the significance of this appeal or the meaning of the work's content, and the sharpest disagreements have arisen about the interpretations that have been offered. To me it seems that this wide appeal rests on the fact that the Alice books are expressions in vivid verbal collages of the fundamental intricacies of human nature. It is an indication of Dodgson's genius that through Carroll he touches such a wide range of his readers' unconscious feelings even more than their consciously reasoned reactions.
The present volume by Kathleen Blake, an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Washington, deals only with play, games, and sport. It is based on her study of all of Carroll's literary works, including his stories, journals, notes, and documents, as well as the letters to his little girl friends which contained a variety of games and puzzles. She does not mention his drawings or his attitudes toward the artists who illustrated his books. Her general thesis, which in her estimation can be applied to all of Carroll's work, is that play is a pleasurable expression of practice derived from the primary urge toward mastery, originating in oral incorporation, and that games are extensions and diversifications of this. Both play and games are considered to be without any significant animus or hostility and to belong to the innocent world of childhood. Hostile aggression emerges, then, only in those sports which are cruel and unacceptable.
Blake's approach is in the language of a student of literature and philosophy. When she undertakes a psychological critique as well, she is obviously not thoroughly at home.
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