Mad Hatter in the Classroom: October 31st

I am very fond of Halloween, you know. Better than Frabjous Day. Perhaps it is the crisp fall air, or the skeletal trees poking free of bright foliage. Perhaps it is the grim decor, the predilection for black, the general tenor of Gothic spirits…

Or–as is more likely–perhaps it is the chance to dress up and play make-believe.


In any event, I like to think of Halloween–especially when it falls on a school day–as a time for throwing the static old rules of class decorum aside. (So unlike every other day, when I am the model of propriety).

We have just finished reading Alice in Wonderland in my fiction class, and just completed a viewing of Tim Burton’s rather Gothic take on the story. The point of this had been two-fold. First, it is my belief that fiction writing should give us wings–should remind us that our minds are a playground. The bizarre, uncanny world of Wonderland is an excellent tool for recapturing that essence. It is, after all, a text that grown-ups tend to dislike, tend to find too strange, too pointless, too unlike real life. Children, however, embrace it with relish. They do not ask why a rocking-horse fly. They will ask you why is it seven-o-clock, why is the sky blue, why can’t they run with scissors? But somehow the weird and wonderful (eat me, drink me, speaking flowers, painted roses, rabbits in waist-coats) doesn’t baffle them at all. Thus, Alice is a kind of tonic, an anodyne for adulthood’s mythbusting mayhem. Secondly,  Alice has been retold and reinvented many times. Such adaptation reminds us of the life of story-worlds: their staying power, their playfulness, their ability to capture our imagination (and our ability to re-imagine that world in new ways).

And so, today I came to class as the Mad Hatter. Today, I gave an extra credit quiz with one question (why is a raven like a writing desk?) Today, I taught with a pseudo-Scottish accent almost as bad as Johnny Depp’s. My students borrowed from Carroll–taking some of his characters and putting them into new scenarios, new scenes. My students played with time and with telling. What fun it is to toy with our boundaries–our commitment to “reality”! What fun to have at least one tea party of insanity!

We may as well enjoy it–

For tomorrow, we must revise.

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