The Wonderland Project

American Alice: The Wonderland Project


When Alice falls down the hole, the order of her life is shaken up.  We quickly realize that that the order of her normal world depended on doubles and opposites—what we have called in this course, binaries.  Sometimes binaries are simply inverted (i.e. big is small, and small is big), but sometimes binaries are escaped by sliding into a whole other set of logics.  Alice’s beating time is not a matter of being on or off the beat, but a violent gesture towards some being named Time.  And when Alice plays with the other creatures by the sea, there are no winners and losers, but rather everyone wins and gets a prize.    These twists in logic are funny, fun, and difficult because they thwart our binary understandings of the world. In their slide out of the binary narrative they invite us to question the limits of the binary narratives we tell to and through children while also encouraging us to imagining with the child other possibilities.

Accordingly the final project for this class is called “American Alice: The Wonderland Project” because the purpose of this assignment is for each group to interrogate and break open one of the binary types we have explored throughout the semester.   The final project will be an online site that takes us down the rabbit hole and explores, interrogates, and perhaps even completely obliterates a particular set of binary narratives told to and through children.  Your group will use the site to bring us into your American version of a wonderland imagined in order to specifically interrogate the particular binary your group is exploring.  Remember binaries are subtle, deceptive, and amazingly hard to break out of because they very quickly reassert themselves in another form.   The purpose of this project is to explore how thinking about depictions for and of children can move us into and beyond a particular binary narrative.

When viewers enter your site, it should be as if they are entering a Wonderland space that interrogates and challenges this theory. This project is both analytic and creative. In the project you will identify some binary rule governing the “real” world of American history and everyday life, and then you will create a world (or a glimpse of a world) on your site that takes all the American Alices down a rabbit hole (or through a looking glass or some other portal) that turns that binary upside down and all around.  You will create that world but the world won’t be spawned wholly from just your own imagination.  You will create the world first by thinking about historical and contemporary moments in this real world when that binary has been challenged, and then you will add to that with your own creative and analytic texts in order to build your group’s American Wonderland.

Each Group Will:

  • Identify a binary narrative pervasive in American history, culture, and particularly in the literature we’ve read.   You should articulate the details of this narrative using your own individual assignments and any other material you believe might help make the binary more clear
  • Imagine an alternative world that escapes and thwarts and plays with this binary narrative
  • Find historical and contemporary moments in the literature, art, politics, and everyday life in which the actions of children mess with and compel others to mess with the structures of the binary narrative your Wonderland is challenging.   You will integrate these real texts into how you illustrate and build your world.
  • Create original texts to add to the real texts and thus further develop your Wonderland World.
  • Articulate a Wonderland Manifesto in which the premise, details, major players (particularly the primary child players), and hope of this Wonderland alternative world are made clear using references from the literature we’ve read along with references to any other properly cited material  you may find relevant.