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. 

This course is part of the Inspiring Oxford summer school.

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 – but also the unexpected and little-known connections to Brasenose College. 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 – hints to which can be found in the famous Arts & Crafts décor of Victorian Brasenose by William de Morgan. All this will challenge us to rethink the question: was Alice really just a children’s book? 

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: Walking tour of Christ Church College

Website: www.chch.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) £2300.00
Fee option 2 (single standard accom and meals per person) £1970.00
Fee option 3 (twin en suite accom and meals per person) £2150.00
Fee option 4 (no accom; incl lunch and dinner per person) £1615.00


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.

Extended stay fee

Participants staying multiple, consecutive weeks will be charged an additional bed and breakfast fee for the cost of the Saturday night between courses.

Cancellations and refunds

1. Cancellation by you

Participants who wish to cancel must inform the Programme Administrator in writing: by email to inspiringoxford@conted.ox.ac.uk, or by post to Inspiring Oxford, 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 2024 – OUDCE will retain an administration fee of £100 per week booked; all other fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received between 1-31 May 2024 – OUDCE will retain 60% of the fees paid; the remaining 40% of fees paid will be refunded.
  • Cancellations received on and after 1 June 2024 - 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

Where there is good reason, OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course by giving you notice in writing at any time before the course is due to start. In these cases, we will endeavour to offer a transfer to another available course if practical and acceptable to you, subject to payment or refund of any difference in course fees. Alternatively, 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. The status of this course will be reviewed on 1 May 2024. If it is likely that the course may be cancelled, anyone affected will be notified by email within 7 days; if you have not heard from OUDCE by 8 May 2024, you should assume that your course will be running. You may wish to delay finalising your travel arrangements until after this date.

OUDCE reserves the right to cancel a course at short notice in exceptional circumstances that would prevent the course from being delivered e.g. tutor illness. In these rare instances, and if we are unable to find a replacement tutor, we will notify you as soon as possible and arrange a transfer to another available Inspiring Oxford course. 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.

3. Travel insurance

All participants must 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 an interdisciplinary scholar, writer and communicator in history of science, literature, and science communication, currently Leverhulme Research Fellow in History of Science at the University of Leeds. Her doctorate at Brasenose College, Oxford, investigated the emergence of Victorian Fantastic Literature and Psychology as sister phenomena. Fran regularly appears on international radio and television, and has curated award-winning exhibitions (on Insects, and Automata). She is the Editor of the Lewis Carroll Review and inaugural Carrollian Fellow at USC. When she isn’t engaged in academic work, she sings Gilbert& Sullivan operettas, practices historical fencing, and is an avid gardener. 

Teaching methods

Participants will be taught in seminar groups of up to 16 people, teaching methods used during this course may include:

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

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.


The deadline for registration has been extended to 24 June 2024. Please be aware that payment deadlines may also change.

Single accommodation 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 would like a twin en suite room, please send us a completed enrolment form that names the other course participant you will be sharing with. Please note these rooms have limited availability.

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

Level and demands

Inspiring Oxford 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 Brasenose College, in the heart of the city in buildings overlooked by the iconic Radcliffe Camera. Please note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished and do not have air-conditioning. 

You can find out more about Brasenose by visiting their website.

The following types of accommodation are available:

  • Single en suite
  • Twin en suite: shared between participants that apply to the programme together
  • Standard single: bathrooms are shared between, on average, four participants
  • a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have lunch and dinner at Brasenose, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

    Non-residential participants are encouraged to attend all aspects of the academic and social programme, and they have equal access to Brasenose as residential participants.

En suite rooms include private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet).