Oyster Lovers Are Crazy for Carroll's Walrus & Carpenter, But What Do Scholars Think?

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Jon Rowley's annual series of Walrus & Carpenter after-dark oystering excursions , which starts up again this month, took its name from Lewis Carroll's rhyming

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Oyster Lovers Are Crazy for Carroll's Walrus & Carpenter, But What Do Scholars Think?

  • Oyster Lovers Are Crazy for Carroll's Walrus & Carpenter, But What Do Scholars Think?

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    walcarroll.jpg
    Jon Rowley's annual series of Walrus & Carpenter after-dark oystering excursions, which starts up again this month, took its name from Lewis Carroll's rhyming story of a man and a walrus. The mismatched companions beckon a parade of oysters to follow them for "a pleasant walk, a pleasant talk, along the briny beach," then eat all the bivalves at the end of their mile-long march.

    As oysters regain popularity nationwide, Carroll's poem has been cited more frequently by eaters who identify with the title figures' murderous impulses - and calls for an accompanying loaf of bread. In addition to Ballard's The Walrus and The Carpenter, a Rhode Island aquaculture operation has named itself after the poem.

    But a Carroll scholar says the poem may be of greater interest to culinarians than academics. "It's liked well-enough, but Jabberwocky gets more attention," says Matt Demakos, whose article "The Annotated Walrus" is slated for publication next year in The Lewis Carroll Society's journal.

    Demakos has previously written about a controversial 19th stanza added to the poem for an 1886 stage production: In the new verse, a retaliatory band of oyster ghosts stomp on the chests of their captors.

    "It's a cruel poem," Demakos says.

    Although Demakos refused to reveal his article's precise thesis, he discounts theories that the poem is about Anglo-Catholicism or highfalutin philosophies. "Some people have written crazy stuff about it, of course," he says. He believes the poem's central theme is science.

    "There's sense of geology, a sense of Darwinism," he says. "The underlying theme is the cruelty of nature."

    His article will include more specific examples, although he says oyster-loving civilians shouldn't brace for earth-shattering scholarship.

    "I don't have anything I would term very sexy," he says. "It's a rather tedious issue, only of interest to Carrollians."

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