Lewis Carroll on the Problem of Architectural Meaning


  • Caroline Dionne


In the work of English author/mathematician/logician Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson), questions of language and meaning constantly lurk beneath the surface. As a literary genre, Carroll’s nonsense has been shown to address changing theories of language in the specific context of the nineteenth century. This essay identifies how Carroll’s architectural criticism, exposed in his short pamphlets on architecture and in The Vision of the Three T’s (1873) in particular, connects issues of architectural meaning to changing understanding in the propriety and usage of language. Those changes were brought about in the context of Oxford by scientific positivism and approaches to language such as the German-influenced New Philology. The aim is to unveil how such philological themes are chosen targets for several of Carroll’s jokes in the architectural pamphlets. I argue that Carroll’s position is grounded in a broader enquiry on the theme of architecture’s significance and questions of interpretation in that specific context.