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Research Presentation on The Use of Ambiguous Pronouns in Winnie the Pooh and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Posted on: Oct 9, 2018

Research Cluster on Linguistics and Language Education proudly presents
The Use of Ambiguous Pronouns in Winnie the Pooh and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Presenter: Dr. Conrad van Dyk, Associate Professor of English at CUE
Time: Noon – 12:50 pm, Wednesday, October 10, 2018
Location: HA 208

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland could only have been written by a logician, by a stickler for correct expression, which is why when the trial of the Knave of Hearts finally breaks down over the correct interpretation of a poem, it’s the ambiguity of the pronouns that causes much of the trouble. By contrast, when A. A. Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh, his approach to both pronoun usage and capitalization was much more carefree, some might even say negligent. Of course you might not care much about parts of speech or proper capitalization, but when it comes to children’s literature these subjects are about much more than grammar or syntax. They’re about the problem of reference, of whether childhood can ever be understood in isolation, as a hazy dream with no connection to the antecedent world of reality. And that’s why Milne’s odd and ambiguous use of pronouns and capitals makes Winnie the Pooh what it is: a nostalgic, romantic, and simultaneously ironic look at the innocence of children. So come and listen to a quirky, engaging, meandering introduction to the linguistic and philosophical implications of some classic children’s books.


Dr. Conrad van Dyk specializes in Middle English literature and legal history. His book John Gower and the Limits of the Law (Boydell and Brewer, 2013) deals with the intersection of law and literature in the fourteenth century, particularly in the works of John Gower. More recent articles explore such legal maxims as necessity knows no law as well as the theory of literature and law. He has also made a major contribution to the Online Gower Bibliography, for which he has annotated 162 entries for the years prior to 1981.

At present, Dr. van Dyk is at work on creating an open access writing guide for students. The Nature of Writing combines prose and video instruction to teach all aspects of academic writing. This comprehensive free guide also comes with numerous practice exercises at various levels of difficulty.

Conrad van Dyk teaches a broad range of courses, including medieval literature, first year composition, children’s literature, critical theory, and contemporary British literature.