Is it Mad to Pray for Better Hallucinations?: From Carroll to McGee; from Children's Novel to Horror Action-Adventure Video Game

Yu, Mimi, English - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Baker, Peter, Department of English, University of Virginia

Contemporary adaptations of Alice in Wonderland have deviated quite sharply from the original part children’s story, part political critique that Lewis Carroll originally imagined in 1865. In modern media and culture, Alice and her fantastic world have taken on new identities, slanting away from childish wonder and curiosity and veering into the realm of instability, reality distortion, and even insanity – topics better suited for adult fiction than the children of Carroll’s audience. The tumble down the rabbit hole has come to imply a change in mental space where the laws of reality and society have been warped or erased and innocent creatures such as the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, and the Hatter at his tea party have become twisted. Nowadays, the story of Alice evokes a ‘creepy’ feeling that make the viewer feel as mad as the Hatter himself. How did this transition happen?

Focusing primarily on American McGee’s Alice, a horror action-adventure video game released in 2000 for the PC, and its more well-known sequel: Alice: Madness Returns, released for the PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2011, I examine why and how Carroll’s Alice books have made the transition from text to more visual contemporary media adaptations, particularly the interactive medium of the video game interface. I also analyze why Alice lends particularly well to the horror genre, and what it means for developers to tease out horror from a text originally intended for children.

MA (Master of Arts)
alice in wonderland, game studies, adaptation
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