Lewis Carroll's Oxford and the Surprising Histories of Alice's Wonderland


Many myths have sprung up around one of Oxford’s most famous exports: Alice in Wonderland. But what are the real origins of the unlikely children’s tale penned by an Oxford lecturer in mathematics? This course will explore Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, their origins in Oxford – town and gown, architecture, personalities, hidden histories and controversies. It will also cast a look beyond Oxford, to Alice’s further adventures in art and popular culture, science and politics and, finally, take a fresh look at the question of why, 150 years later, Alice is still so fascinating to us.

Programme details

Seminars meet each weekday morning, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study, or exploring the many places of interest in and around the city.


We will begin the course with an exploration of the lives of Alice, and Lewis Carroll in the context of the place in which the Alice books originated: Christ Church, and the city of Oxford. On this journey, within and beyond the classroom, we will encounter uncannily familiar faces and locations from mock turtles to girls with astoundingly long necks, to quirky shops formerly owned by an old sheep.


The second part of the course will explore the fascinating origins of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Following the often unexpected path from the story’s first telling to manuscript and publication, it will re-examine the story’s plot and characters in a fresh light.


As the often less-discussed of the two Alice books, Through the Looking Glass - the book Carroll wrote emboldened by the success of its predecessor - provides perhaps even more interesting insights to the author, his times and opinions, which the third part of this course will uncover.


Alice and its cultural history - science, religion, children’s literature in the Victorian age. We will zoom out, and reconsider the contribution of the Alice books to the genre of children’s literature, but also to Victorian culture, in which Alice’s author, a clergyman, mathematician, and amateur scientist wore many hats. It will challenge us to rethink the question: was Alice really just a children’s book?

Visit on foot to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History.


Where Alice went next: the final session will explore Alice’s further adventures beyond her novels, from her immediate sojourns onto the theatrical stage, to political caricature, to silent film, role in the world wars – and recovery from them, to modern multimedia popular culture, videogames and music. The final part of the course will dwell on why, more than 150 years after its creation, we are still so fascinated with the book extemporised on a sunny afternoon for a little girl in Oxford.


Field Trip

Destination: Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Website: www.oumnh.ox.ac.uk

Excursion Rating: Easy - up to an hour’s walk on even ground or less than half an hour’s walk on uneven/unpaved ground.


Description Costs
Fee option 1 (single en suite accom and meals per person) £1895.00
Fee option 2 (double en suite accom and meals per person) £1750.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals per person) £1750.00
Fee option 4 (twin set standard accom and meals per person) £1750.00
Fee option 5 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner per person) £1315.00
Fee option 6 (single standard accom and meals per person) £1795.00


Please note there are no sources of funding (scholarships, bursaries, etc) available for applicants.


All fees are charged on a per week, per person basis.

Please be aware that all payments made via non-UK credit/debit cards and bank accounts are subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

Payment terms

  • If enrolling online: full payment by credit/debit card at the time of booking.
  • If submitting an enrolment form: full payment online by credit/debit card or via bank transfer within 30 days of invoice date.

Supplementary costs

  • Extended-stay fee: Participants staying multiple, consecutive weeks will be charged an additional £90 for the cost of the Saturday night between courses. An invoice will be emailed to participants alongside confirmation of their enrolment.
  • Excursion fee where applicable: £15-125. This fee is built into the above course fees and will not require a separate payment. If your course includes a day-long excursion, you may need to make your own lunch arrangements.
  • Course change administration fee: Please note that course transfers may be permitted in exceptional circumstances at the discretion of the programme administrator, up to the 1 May 2023. In accordance with our Terms and Conditions, an administration fee of £50 will be charged.
  • Any ticketed activities, as outlined in the Social Programme.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk, or by post to The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, OXFORD, OX1 2JA, UK.

The following cancellation and refund policy applies in all cases:

  • Cancellation within 14 days of online enrolment / payment of fees – full refund of all fees paid.

  • Cancellations received up to and including 30 April 2023 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2023 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2023 - no refunds will be made under any circumstances.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

2. Cancellation by us

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course where there is good reason, for example, if exceptionally low enrolment would make it educationally unviable. In these cases we will refund the course fees that you have already paid. If we cancel a course, our liability is limited to the fees that we have received from you; this means that we will not compensate you for any pre-booked travel costs or any other expenses incurred.

Where course fees have been paid in currencies other than pounds sterling, refunds will be subject to the exchange rate on the day they are processed.

The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2023. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, all those affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2023, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

3. Travel insurance

All participants need to purchase travel insurance to cover the programme fee, travel costs, and any other expenses incurred. OUDCE cannot be held responsible for any costs you may incur in relation to travel or accommodation bookings as a result of a course cancellation, or if you are unable to attend the course for any other reason. 


Dr Franziska Kohlt


Dr Franziska Kohlt is a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of Science at the University of Leeds. She previously held a post at the University of York’s Department of Sociology, researching science-religion narratives in science communication, past and present. She completed her DPhil in English Literature and the History of Science at Brasenose College, Oxford, and her thesis investigated the emergence of both fields as sister phenomena. Franziska’s work focuses on science communication, especially on the interactions between evolutionary psychology and built and natural environments. She also holds degrees in communication & media science, and has appeared on international radio and television, and at literary festivals. She has curated award-winning exhibitions on Insects, together with the Royal Entomological Society, and on Automata at Compton Verney, and presented at events exploring the literature of AI and Humour, together with the makers of Have I Got News for You. Franziska is also the Editor of the Lewis Carroll Review, and Reviews Editor of the British Society for Literature and Science, and inaugural Carrollian Fellow at USC. When she isn’t engaged in academic work sings in several choral ensembles and Gilbert & Sullivan operettas, and is an avid gardener.

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 12 people. The teaching methods used during this course will include:

  • Short lectures/Presentations
  • Physical handouts
  • Seminars/group discussions
  • Video recordings
  • Field Trip

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


Registration closes on 1 May 2023.

Please note: most courses fill up fast so early registration is strongly recommended.

Single accommodation and non-residential places may be booked online by clicking on the “Book now” button in the “Course details” box at the top right-hand side of the course page.

If you experience any difficulties enrolling online please contact the Programme Administrator at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk

Those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an enrolment form as these rooms cannot be booked online. Completed forms should be sent:

Level and demands

The Oxford Experience is aimed at non-specialists: no prior knowledge is required, and classes are pitched at an introductory level. The courses are designed for an international audience aged 18 and over.


During your course you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church, in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. The course fee includes breakfasts Monday-Saturday, lunches Sunday-Friday, and 3-course dinners Sunday-Friday. All meals are taken in Christ Church’s spectacular dining hall.

Please note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished and do not have air-conditioning. Photographs of example rooms can be found at: www.chch.ox.ac.uk/chch-rooms.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite;
  • Double en suite;
  • Twin en suite;
  • ‘Twin set’ standard.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). ‘Twin set’ standard rooms comprise two separate single standard rooms, each with a washbasin and shaver point only, opening onto a private sitting room. Bathroom facilities are shared with other rooms. All twin, twin set and double rooms are shared between participants that apply to the programme together, and cannot be booked by individuals.

Please note that only single accommodation may be booked online; those requiring twin or double accommodation should complete an enrolment form (see ‘Application’).

Please note that Christ Church rooms do not have lift access, and the higher rooms can be located up a few flights of stairs. If you need a room on a ground or lower floor please indicate this either online or on your enrolment form, or contact the programme administrator directly at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk prior to your arrival.

We regret that we are unable to offer accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.

Participants Attending Multiple Weeks

The Oxford Experience welcomes participants who want to attend multiple courses over a number of weeks. Resident participants staying in Christ Church for consecutive weeks will be offered a reduced rate for the Saturday night between their courses.

This extended-stay fee is £90 per person, per Saturday. An invoice will be emailed to participants alongside confirmation of their enrolment. Please note that Saturday lunch and dinner and Sunday breakfast are not provided, however we are happy to make recommendations for alternative places to eat in Oxford.