10,000 Classic Movie Posters Getting Digitized & Put Online by the Harry Ransom Center at UT-Austin: Free to Browse & Download

Who hasn’t pinned one of Saul Bass’s elegant film posters on their wall—with either thumbtacks above the dormroom bed or in frame and glass in grown-up environs? Or maybe it’s 70s kitsch you prefer—the art of the grindhouse and sensationalist drive-in exploitation film? Or 20s silent avant-garde, the cool noir of the 30s and 40s, 50s B-grade sci-fi, 60s psychedelia and French new wave, or 80s popcorn flicks…? Whatever kind of cinema grabs your attention probably first grabbed your attention through the design of the movie poster, a genre that gets its due in novelty shops and specialist exhibitions, but often goes unheralded in popular conceptions of art.

Despite its utilitarian and unabashedly commercial function, the movie poster can just as well be a work of art as any other form. Failing that, movie posters are at least always essential archival artifacts, snapshots of the weird collective unconscious of mass culture: from Saul and Elaine Bass’s minimalist poster for West Side Story (1961), “with its bright orange-red background over the title with a silhouette of a fire escape with dancers” to more complex tableaux, like the baldly neo-imperialist Africa Texas Style! (1967), "which features a realistic image of the protagonist on a horse, lassoing a zebra in front of a stampede of wildebeest, elephants, and giraffes.”

These two descriptions only hint at the range of posters archived at the University of Texas Harry Ransom Center—upwards of 10,000 in all, “from when the film industry was just beginning to compete with vaudeville acts in the 1920s to the rise of the modern megaplex and drive-in theaters in the 1970s.” So writes Erin Willard in the Ransom Center’s announcement of the digitization of its massive collection, expected to reach completion in 2019. So far, around 4,000 posters have been photographed and are becoming available online, downloadable in “Large,” “Extra Large,” and “High-Quality” resolutions.

The bulk of the collection comes from the Interstate Theater Circuit—a chain that, at one time, “consisted of almost every movie theater in Texas”—and encompasses not only posters but film stills, lobby cards, and press books from “the 1940s through the 1970s with a particular strength in the films of the 1950s and 60s, including musicals, epics, westerns, sword and sandal, horror, and counter culture films.” Other individual collectors have made sizable donations of their posters to the center, and the result is a tour of the many spectacles available to the mid-century American mind: lurid, violent excesses, maudlin moralizing, bizarre erotic fantasies, dime-store adolescent adventures....

Some of the films are well-known examples from the period; most of them are not, and therein lies the thrill of browsing this online repository, discovering obscure oddities like the 1956 film Barefoot Battalion, in which “teen-age wolf packs become heroes in a nation’s fight for freedom!” The number of quirks and kinks on display offer us a prurient view of a decade too often flatly characterized by its penchant for grey flannel suits. The Mad Men era was a period of institutional repression and rampant sexual harassment, not unlike our own time. It was also a laboratory for a libidinous anarchy that threatened to unleash the pent-up energy and cultural anxiety of millions of frustrated teenagers onto the world at large, as would happen in the decades to come.

What we see in the marketing of films like Five Branded Women (1960) will vary widely depending on our orientations and political sensibilities. Is this cheap exploitation or an empowering precursor to Mad Max: Fury Road? Maybe both. For cultural theorists and film historians, these pulpy advertisements offer windows into the psyches of their audiences and the filmmakers and production companies who gave them what they supposedly wanted. For the ordinary film buff, the Ransom Center collection offers eye candy of all sorts, and if you happen to own a high-quality printer, the chance to hang posters on your wall that you probably won’t see anywhere else. Enter the online collection here.

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40 Years of Saul Bass’ Groundbreaking Title Sequences in One Compilation

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How a Virtual Reality Model of Auschwitz Helped Convict an SS Concentration Camp Guard: A Short Documentary on a High Tech Prosecution

In 2016, Reinhold Hanning, a former SS guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp, was tried and convicted for being an accessory to at least 170,000 deaths. In making their case, prosecutors did something novel--they relied on a virtual reality version of the Auschwitz concentration camp, which helped undermine Hanning's claim that he wasn't aware of what happened inside the camp. The virtual reality headset let viewers see the camp from almost any angle, and established that "Hanning would have seen the atrocities taking place all around him."

The high-tech prosecution of Hanning gets well documented in "Nazi VR," the short documentary above. It comes from MEL Films, and will be added to our collection of online documentaries.

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Celebrate the Women’s March with 24 Goddess GIFs Created by Animator Nina Paley: They’re Free to Download and Remix

As millions of women, men, and friends beyond the binary gear up for Women's March events around the world this weekend, we can’t help but draw strength from the Venus of Willendorf in Graphics Interchange Format, above.

Like the pussy hats that became the most visible symbol of last year’s march, there’s a strong element of humor at play here.

Also respect for the female form.

As Dr. Bryan Zygmont notes in his Khan Academy essay on the Venus of Willendorf, her existence is evidence that “nomadic people living almost 25,000 years ago cared about making objects beautiful. And … that these Paleolithic people had an awareness of the importance of the women.”

Animator Nina Paley has taken up our Paleolithic ancestors’ baton by creating two dozen early goddess GIFs, including the Venus.

As further proof that sisterhood is powerful, Paley is sharing her unashamedly bouncy pantheon with the public. Visit her blog to download all 24 individual goddess GIFs. Disseminate them widely. Use them for good! No permission needed.

Paley is no stranger to goddesses, having previously placed the divine heroine of the Ramayana front and center in her semi-autobiographical feature length animation, Sita Sings the Blues.

She’s also incredibly familiar with rights issues, following massive complications with some vintage recordings her Betty Boop-ish Sita lip-synchs in the film. (She had previously believed them to be in the public domain.) Unable to pay the huge sum the copyright holders demanded to license the tunes, Paley ultimately decided to relinquish all legal claims to her own film, placing Sita Sings the Blues in the public domain, to be freely shared, exhibited, or even remixed.

If Paley's the poster child for copyright issues she’s also a shining example of deriving power from unlikely sources.

As she wrote on her website nearly ten years ago:

My personal experience confirms audiences are generous and want to support artists. Surely there's a way for this to happen without centrally controlling every transaction. The old business model of coercion and extortion is failing. New models are emerging, and I'm happy to be part of that. But we're still making this up as we go along. You are free to make money with the free content of Sita Sings the Blues, and you are free to share money with me. People have been making money in Free Software for years; it's time for Free Culture to follow. I look forward to your innovations.

As for Paley's own plans for her goddesses, they’ll be a part of her upcoming animated musical, Seder-Masochism, noting that “all early peoples conceived the divine as female.”

Download Nina Paley’s Goddess GIFs here. Watch Sita Sings the Blues here. March ever onward!

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Join her on February 8 for Necromancers of the Public Domain, when a host of New York City-based performers and musicians will resurrect  a long forgotten work from 1911 as a low budget, variety show. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Ian McKellen Chokes Up While Reading a Poignant Coming-Out Letter

"In 1977, Armistead Maupin wrote a letter to his parents that he had been composing for half his life," writes the Guardian's Tim Adams. "He addressed it directly to his mother, but rather than send it to her, he published it in the San Francisco Chronicle, the paper in which he had made his name with his loosely fictionalised Tales of the City, the daily serial written from the alternative, gay world in which he lived." The late 1970s saw a final flowering of newspaper-serialized novels, the same form in which Charles Dickens had grown famous nearly a century and a half before. But of all the zeitgeisty stories then told a day at a time in urban centers across America, none has had anything like the lasting impact of San Francisco as envisioned by Maupin.

Much of Tales of the City's now-acknowledged importance comes from the manner in which Maupin populated that San Francisco with a sexually diverse cast of characters — gay, straight, and everything in between — and presented their lives without moral judgment.

He saved his condemnation for the likes of Anita Bryant, the singer and Florida Citrus Commission spokeswoman who inspired Maupin to write that veiled letter to his own parents when she headed up the anti-homosexual "Save Our Children" political campaign. When Michael Tolliver, one of the series' main gay characters, discovers that his folks back in Florida have thrown in their lot with Bryant, he responds with an eloquent and long-delayed coming-out that begins thus:

Dear Mama,

I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write. Every time I try to write you and Papa I realize I'm not saying the things that are in my heart. That would be OK, if I loved you any less than I do, but you are still my parents and I am still your child.

I have friends who think I'm foolish to write this letter. I hope they're wrong. I hope their doubts are based on parents who love and trust them less than mine do. I hope especially that you'll see this as an act of love on my part, a sign of my continuing need to share my life with you. I wouldn't have written, I guess, if you hadn't told me about your involvement in the Save Our Children campaign. That, more than anything, made it clear that my responsibility was to tell you the truth, that your own child is homosexual, and that I never needed saving from anything except the cruel and ignorant piety of people like Anita Bryant.

I'm sorry, Mama. Not for what I am, but for how you must feel at this moment. I know what that feeling is, for I felt it for most of my life. Revulsion, shame, disbelief — rejection through fear of something I knew, even as a child, was as basic to my nature as the color of my eyes.

You can hear Michael's, and Maupin's, full letter read aloud by Sir Ian McKellen in the Letters Live video above. In response to its initial publication, Adams writes, "Maupin had received hundreds of other letters, nearly all of them from readers who had cut out the column, substituted their own names for Michael’s and sent it verbatim to their own parents. Maupin’s Letter to Mama has since been set to music three times and become 'a standard for gay men’s choruses around the world.'"

Those words come from a piece on Maupin's autobiography Logical Family, published just last year, in which the Tales of the City author tells of his own coming out as well as his friendships with other non-straight cultural icons, one such icon being McKellen himself. "I have many regrets about not having come out earlier," McKellen told BOMB magazine in 1998, "but one of them might be that I didn't engage myself in the politicking." He'd come out ten years before, as a stand in opposition to Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, then under consideration in the British Parliament, which prohibited local authorities from depicting homosexuality "as a kind of pretended family relationship."

McKellen entered the realm of activism in earnest after choosing that moment to reveal his sexual orientation on the BBC, which he did on the advice of Maupin and other friends. A few years later he appeared in the television miniseries adaptation of Tales of the City as Archibald Anson-Gidde, a wealthy real-estate and cultural impresario (one, as Maupin puts it, of the city's "A-gays"). In the novels, Archibald Anson-Gidde dies closeted, of AIDS, provoking the ire of certain other characters for not having done enough for the cause in life — a charge, thanks in part to the words of Michael Tolliver, that neither Maupin nor McKellen will surely never face.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch David Byrne Lead a Massive Choir in Singing David Bowie’s “Heroes”

Throughout the years, we've featured performances of Choir!Choir!Choir!--a large amateur choir from Toronto that meets weekly and sings their hearts out. You've seen them sing Prince's "When Doves Cry," Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" (to honor Chris Cornell) and Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah."

If you dig through their Youtube archive, you can also revisit performances of two Talking Heads classics--"Psycho Killer" and "Burning Down the House." (Both below.) Which brings us to the videos above. According to Consequence of Sound, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne has long been a big fan of Choir!Choir!Choir!. He writes on his web site:

I’ve sat mesmerized watching online videos of the Canadian group Choir! Choir! Choir! They somehow manage to get hundreds of strangers to sing beautifully together—in tune and full-voiced—with rich harmonies and detailed arrangements. With almost no rehearsal—how do they do it??

They manage to achieve lift off—that feeling of surrender when groups sing together—when we all become part of something larger than ourselves.

And last Saturday, Byrne got to experience some of that lift off firsthand. Hear him sing a moving version of David Bowie's "Heroes" with Choir!Choir!Choir!, and a snippet of Madonna's "Borderline." Enjoy.

Psycho Killer

Burning Down the House

via Consequence of Sound

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Filmmaker Michel Gondry Brings Classic Album Covers to Life in a Visually-Packed Commercial: Purple Rain, Beggars Banquet, Nevermind & More

File this under “why didn’t I see this earlier?”

Here’s a too short but visually packed Michel Gondry-directed commercial for the Pandora app. Here, he indulges in all the things that make Gondry so beloved: large sets, in-camera effects, huge props, and a visual wit.

For the “Sounds Like You” campaign, Gondry has a short-haired young woman running through various rooms and landscapes, all of which reveal themselves to be album covers from the famous (Metallica’s Master of Puppets) to the more recent (Big Sean’s Moves). We even get a Bowie shout-out and it’s not what you’d expect. We’d say more, but hey it’s so short, why spoil the surprise. It does however feel like Gondry has been hired to do something he’s already done--somewhere before he got the call you can hear an ad exec saying “hey, who’s available, who can do a Gondry-like thing with this campaign?”

Indeed, it is very reminiscent of his reality-bending video for the Chemical Brothers’ “Let Forever Be” (including the running woman):

And choreographing a series of tableaux is also similar to Gondry's “Lucas with the Lid Off” from 1994:

So, yes, in a world where a third of all music videos are biting from Gondry’s career, it’s good to see the best imitator of Gondry is the man himself.

(But if bringing album covers to life is your jam, have you watched "Dave" yet?)

Album covers referenced in the video include:

0:08 The Doors - Morrison Hotel (1970)

0:12 Prince - Purple Rain (1984)

0:17 The Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet (1968)

0:20 Metallica - Master of Puppets (1986)

0:26 The Weeknd - Starboy (2016)

0:28 Devo - Freedom of Choice (1980)

0:31 Nirvana - Nevermind (1991)

0:38 Drake - Nothing Was the Same (2013)

0:39 The Cure ‎– A Forest (1980)

0:46 Joy Division - Unknown Pleasures (1979)

0:49 David Bowie ‎– ★ (Blackstar) (2016)

0:55 Big Sean - I Decided. (2017)

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Coursera and Google Launch an Online Certificate Program to Help Students Become IT Professionals & Get Attractive Jobs

If you've so much as set foot in the realm of massive online open courses (MOOCs) — a list of which we offer right here on Open Culture — you've no doubt heard of Coursera, which, since it started up in 2012, has become one of the biggest MOOC providers around. Like most growing Silicon Valley companies, Coursera has branched out in several different directions, bringing in courses from universities from all over the world as well as offering certificate and Master's programs. Now, in partnership with Google, it has launched a program to train information-technology professionals for jobs in the industry.

Techcrunch's Ingrid Lunden describes Coursera's Google IT Support Professional Certificate program as "a course written by Googlers for the Coursera platform to teach and then test across six fundamental areas of customer support: troubleshooting and customer service, networking, operating systems, system administration, automation, and security. No prior IT experience is necessary." The global, English-language program "has 64 hours of coursework in all, and students are expected to complete it in eight to 12 months, at a cost of $49/month." This means "the typical cost of the course for full-paying students will be between $392 and $588 depending on how long it takes," which Lunden calls "a pretty good deal" compared to other IT training programs.

Amid talk of vanishing jobs across so many sectors of the economy, Coursera and Google are marketing the IT Support Professional Certificate as a promising path to gainful employment: "There’s no better example of a dynamic, fast-growing field than IT support," writes Google Product Lead Natalie Van Kleef Conley, citing statistics showing 150,000 IT support jobs currently open in the United states and an average starting salary of $52,000. Coursera notes that "upon completion of the certificate, you can share your information with top employers, like Bank of America, Walmart, Sprint, GE Digital, PNC Bank, Infosys, TEKSystems, UPMC, and, of course, Google."

If you suspect that you might share professional aspirations with young Edgar Barragan of Queens, whose testimonial video shows how he became a Google IT support specialist after participating in the program that evolved into the IT Support Professional Certificate, visit the official page on Coursera. There you can read up on the details of the six courses that make up the program and read answers to the questions frequently asked about it. Do you think you'd excel in a career amid the nuts and bolts of computers? With Google and Coursera's program officially opening next Wednesday, January 24th, now's a good time indeed to figure out whether it could get you where you want to be. Get more information and/or enroll here.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Cousera courses, it helps support Open Culture.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Western Music Moves in Three and Even Four (!) Dimensional Spaces: How the Pioneering Research of Princeton Theorist Dmitri Tymoczko Helps Us Visualize Music in Radical, New Ways

Every musician has some basic sense of how math and music relate conceptually through geometry, in the circular and triadic shapes formed by clusters of notes when grouped together in chords and scales. The connections date back to the work of Pythagoras, and composers who explore and exploit those connections happen upon profound, sometimes mystical, insights. For example, the two-dimensional geometry of music finds near-religious expression in the compositional strategies of John Coltrane, who left behind diagrams of his chromatic modulation that theorists still puzzle over and find inspiring. It will be interesting to see what imaginative composers do with a theory that extends the geometry of music into three—and even four (!)—dimensions.

Pioneering Princeton University music theorist and composer Dmitri Tymoczko has made discoveries that allow us to visualize music in entirely new ways. He began with the insight that two-note chords on the piano could form a Möbius strip, as Princeton Alumni Weekly reported in 2011, a two-dimensional surface extended into three-dimensional space. (See one such Möbius strip diagram above.) “Music is not just something that can be heard, he realized. It has a shape.”

He soon saw that he could transform more complex chords the same way. Three-note chords occupy a twisted three-dimensional space, and four-note chords live in a corresponding but impossible-to-visualize four-dimensional space. In fact, it worked for any number of notes — each chord inhabited a multidimensional space that twisted back on itself in unusual ways — a non-Euclidean space that does not adhere to the classical rules of geometry. 

Tymoczko discovered that musical geometry (as Coltrane—and Einstein—had earlier intuited) has a close relationship to physics, when a physicist friend told him the multidimensional spaces he was exploring were called “orbifolds,” which had found some application “in arcane areas of string theory.” These discoveries have “physicalized” music, providing a way to “convert melodies and harmonies into movements in higher dimensional spaces.”

This work has caused “quite a buzz in Anglo-American music-theory circles,” says Princeton music historian Scott Burnham. As Tymoczko puts it in his short report "The Geometry of Musical Chords," the “orbifold” theory seems to answer a question that occupied music theorists for centuries: “how is it that Western music can satisfy harmonic and contrapuntal constraints at once?” On his website, he outlines his theory of “macroharmonic consistency,” the compositional constraints that make music sound “good.” He also introduces a software application, ChordGeometries 1.1, that creates complex visualizations of musical “orbifolds” like that you see above of Chopin supposedly moving through four-dimensions.

The theorist first published his work in a 2006 issue of Science, then followed up two years later with a paper co-written with Clifton Callendar and Ian Quinn called “Generalized Voice-Leading Spaces” (read a three-page summary here). Finally, he turned his work into a book, A Geometry of Music: Harmony and Counterpoint in the Extended Common Practice, which explores the geometric connections between classical and modernist composition, jazz, and rock. Those connections have never been solely conceptual for Tymoczko. A longtime fan of Coltrane, as well as Talking Heads, Brian Eno, and Stravinsky, he has put his theory into practice in a number of strangely moving compositions of his own, such as The Agony of Modern Music (hear movement one above) and Strawberry Field Theory (movement one below). His compositional work is as novel-sounding as his theoretical work is brilliant: his two Science publications were the first on music theory in the magazine’s 129-year history. It’s well worth paying close attention to where his work, and that of those inspired by it, goes next.

via Princeton Alumni Weekly/@dark_shark

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Watch the Bayeux Tapestry Come to Life in a Short Animated Film

With the news this morning that the Bayeux Tapestry will make its first visit to England, we're bringing back a wonderful little animation of the medieval embroidery that offers a pictorial interpretation of the Norman Conquest of England (1066) and the events leading up to it. Forever housed in France, the tapestry measures 20 inches by 230 feet, and you can now see an animated version of the story it narrates. The clip above starts roughly halfway through the historical narrative, with the appearance of Halley's Comet, and it concludes with the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The video created by David Newton began as a student project at Goldsmiths College.

You can find courses on Medieval History in the History section of our big collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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The Psychological & Neurological Disorders Experienced by Characters in Alice in Wonderland: A Neuroscience Reading of Lewis Carroll’s Classic Tale

Most reputable doctors tend to refrain from diagnosing people they’ve never met or examined. Unfortunately, this circumspection doesn't obtain as often among lay folk. When we lob uninformed diagnoses at other people, we may do those with genuine mental health issues a serious disservice. But what about fictional characters? Can we ascribe mental illnesses to the surreal menagerie, say, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? It’s almost impossible not to, given the overt themes of madness in the story.

Carroll himself, it seems, drew many of his depictions directly from the treatment of mental disorders in 19th century England, many of which were linked to “extremely poor working conditions,” notes Franziska Kohlt at The Conversation. During the industrial revolution, “populations in so-called ‘pauper lunatic asylums’ for the working class skyrocketed.” Carroll’s uncle, Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, happened to be an officer of the Lunacy Commission, which supervised such institutions, and his work offers “stunning insights into the madness in Alice.”

Yet we should be careful. Like the supposed drug references in Alice, some of the lay diagnoses now applied to Alice’s characters may be a little far-fetched. Do we really see diagnosable PTSD or Tourette’s? Anxiety Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder? These conditions hadn’t been categorized in Carroll’s day, though their symptoms are nothing new. And yet, experts have long looked to his nonsense fable for its depictions of abnormal psychology. One British psychiatrist didn’t just diagnose Alice, he named a condition after her.

In 1955, Dr. John Todd coined the term Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS) to describe a rare condition in which—write researchers in the Journal of Pediatric Neurosciences—“the sizes of body parts or sizes of external objects are perceived incorrectly.” Among other illnesses, Alice in Wonderland Syndrome may be linked to migraines, which Carroll himself reportedly suffered.

We might justifiably assume the Mad Hatter has mercury poisoning, but what other disorders might the text plausibly present? Holly Barker, doctoral candidate in clinical neuroscience at King’s College London, has used her scholarly expertise to identify and describe in detail two other conditions she thinks are evident in Alice.

Depersonalization:

“At several points in the story,” writes Barker, “Alice questions her own identity and feels ‘different’ in some way from when she first awoke.” Seeing in these descriptions the symptoms of Depersonalization Disorder (DPD), Barker describes the condition and its location in the brain.

This disorder encompasses a wide range of symptoms, including feelings of not belonging in one’s own body, a lack of ownership of thoughts and memories, that movements are initiated without conscious intention and a numbing of emotions. Patients often comment that they feel as though they are not really there in the present moment, likening the experience to dreaming or watching a movie. These symptoms occur in the absence of psychosis, and patients are usually aware of the absurdity of their situation. DPD is often a feature of migraine or epileptic auras and is sometimes experienced momentarily by healthy individuals, in response to stress, tiredness or drug use.

Also highly associated with childhood abuse and trauma, the condition “acts as a sort of defense mechanism, allowing an individual to become disconnected from adverse life events.” Perhaps there is PTSD in Carroll’s text after all, since an estimated 51% of DPD patients also meet those criteria.

Prosopagnosia:

This condition is characterized by “the selective inability to recognize faces.” Though it can be hereditary, prosopagnosia can also result from stroke or head trauma. Fittingly, the character supposedly affected by it is none other than Humpty-Dumpty, who tells Alice “I shouldn’t know you again if we did meet.”

“Your face is the same as everybody else has – the two eyes, so-” (marking their places in the air with his thumb) “nose in the middle, mouth under. It’s always the same. Now if you had two eyes on the same side of the nose, for instance – or the mouth at the top – that would be some help.”

This “precise description” of prosopagnosia shows how individuals with the condition rely on particularly “discriminating features to tell people apart," since they are unable to distinguish family members and close friends from total strangers.

Scholars know that Carroll’s text contains within it several abstract and seemingly absurd mathematical concepts, such as imaginary numbers and projective geometry. The informed work of researchers like Kohit and Barker shows that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland might also present a complex 19th century understanding of mental illness and neurological disorders, conveyed in a superficially silly way, but possibly informed by serious research and observation. Read Barker’s article in full here to learn more about the conditions she diagnoses.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.





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