The common ground on which this association of writers and scholars
is founded is the hypothesis that Lewis Carroll - genius author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - has been the victim not the subject of his biography.
We believe a protracted lack of vital evidence has combined
with over-imaginative or misinformed biographers to create a widespread and pervasive mythology about his life, his personal relationships, his politcs, religion and even his literary output. And we think this needs to be put right if possible.
The new studies start, then, with a questioning of the myth. They begin with the assumption Lewis Carroll was 'simply' a man. Not the 'Repressed Paedophile', or
the 'Tragic Deviant with the Heart of Gold; not either the 'Pure and Innocent Lover
of Children' with no understanding of his own fantasy world',
nor the 'Ideal Friend', nor the 'Miraculous Writer'; not the 'Naive Uncle', not the 'Child-at-Heart', not the 'Social Hermit', not the 'Unfathomable Genius': all those are mythical constructs that can be questioned, because they can be shown to be extreme hypotheses which a simpler hypothesis might outdo.
They strive to examine the elements of this myth, to understand why it
was born and how it functions, what needs it fulfils. The fact that it has
evolved over time makes the task difficult, but not impossible. While this is
being done, the new studies also attempts a re-construction of a coherent
image of Carroll based on non-mythical data, and more particularly on
historical data long left unexplored: we now have access to what remains of
the unexpurgated diary, for example. Other data may also be gathered from the
exploration of his relationships with his contemporaries. Etc.
This will allow what might be termed a 'recontextualisation': in other words, it should help to make sense of the man's life and his works within his time. This step will in turn allow us to ask new questions.
This is very much a work in progress. In this sense, it makes sense to
recognize a debt to all who have worked on Carroll. 'Contrariwise' stands for a
continuation of research, even though it fundamentally challenges many old certitudes.
It is not a full-bodied theory, but a tentative new paradigm, a new way of looking at what are really very old questions. It's a whole field of research with its inherent
problems, to be solved as we go.