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Alice in Wonder[less]land (or Fabricating Stories)

Part 2 Dissertation 2013
Ashley Mason
Newcastle University | UK
“When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less. The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things.” 1

The non-sense of Lewis Carroll has captured the imagination of many readers since the first publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Some might even wonder where he may be referring to with his wonderful wordplay. Carroll’s manipulation of language in order to allow for a multiplicity of different meanings illuminates the creative potential that exists within the gap between a text and its interpretation. His fabricated stories may also prompt the reader to critically question their surroundings.

After the closures of the ship-yards and the coal mines, the city of Sunderland experienced a period of post-industrial decline. Whilst efforts have since been made to regenerate the region, it has still suffered from dereliction and demolition, generating sites that might be described as ‘wonder-less’. Yet, if wonder may be seen to exist in the search for meaning – in the lacunae in the fabric of the story – might it be possible to suggest that the perception of these sites as ‘wonder-less’ – the lacunae in the fabric of the city – is inaccurate and that wonder may exist there after all?

In a series of case studies, five such sites were selected in Sunderland, each specifically chosen in order to represent different areas within the council’s framework of on-going regeneration - areas it might seem, on the surface, are in desperate need of meaning and wonder. The focus of each study was a sign situated within each site - a textual spatial intervention that defines the linguistic landscape of the city. It is hoped that all is not lost for these sites and that these signs and site-writings may have revealed the wonder and the wonderful that is in fact already there, lying beneath the surface.

1 Carroll, L., Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, (London; Vintage, 2007), p.254

Ashley Mason

Adam Sharr
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