Deep Dive into Musicology Takes Top Prize at Annual Wonderland Awards Competition


2019 Wonderland Award winners and judges. From left to right: Brianna Beehler, Joseph Cadigan, Devin Griffiths, Linda Cassady, Joel Birenbaum, Molly Bendall, Brannen Haderle, and Justice Shellan.


A Stanford doctoral candidate majoring in musicology earned first prize at the fifteenth-annual USC Libraries Wonderland Award competition, held Thursday, April 18, in Doheny Memorial Library. Joseph Cadigan’s thesis “Through Ligeti’s Looking-glass:
The Composer’s Musical Reflections on Lewis Carroll” is the result of seven years of research into Hungarian composer György Ligeti (1923–2006) and his lifelong love of all things Carrollian. Cadigan draws deep connections between the two artists, comparing, for instance, their notions of childhood—especially their tendency to avoid overt expressions of sentimentality in favor of absurdity and playfulness. He finishes his work with a look at Ligeti’s lifelong (but never realized) plan for an Alice in Wonderland musical that he worked on until his death.

The Wonderland Award is an annual competition, established in 2005 by USC Libraries Board of Councilors member Linda Cassady, showcasing the interpretive talents of students from USC and other Southern California institutions as they transform the life and writing of Lewis Carroll into new creative and scholarly works. All student submissions become a permanent part of the G. Edward Cassady, MD, and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, RN, Lewis Carroll collection, which Linda’s husband Dr. George Cassady ’55 donated to the USC Libraries in 2000 and from which students draw inspiration and raw material for their Wonderland entries.

The second-place prize went to USC English doctoral student Brianna Beehler for “Red Kings,” an annotated poem set to music. Beehler’s work explores the notion of Carroll’s Alice being a kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl—but one with more depth than usually associated with the type. She also examines the motivations behind Carroll’s photographs of and voluminous correspondence with pre-teen children, and whether they could be construed as a case of him wanting to preserve them as they were, that is, before they grew up.

The Bellman’s Prize, established last year by Dean Catherine Quinlan of the USC Libraries and named after one of the characters in Carroll’s nonsense poem “The Hunting of the Snark,” went to USC Cinematic Arts student Brannen Haderle for his submission “The Aberration Habitation.” His animated short film, which was inspired by the surrealist illustrations Salvador Dalí created in 1969 for Alice in Wonderland (a copy of which is held in Special Collections), featured 1,668 frames that were painstakingly crafted by hand. The Bellman’s Prize recognizes particularly Carrollian, creative risk-taking in a student work.

Several judges in addition to award sponsor Linda Cassady assessed the Wonderland Award submissions: poet and USC professor of English, Molly Bendall; USC Professor of English and USC Libraries Carrollian Fellow Devin Griffiths; USC professor of Architecture Lisa Little; Carrollian scholar Joel Birenbaum; and Justice Shellan, last year’s first-place winner.

For more information about the award and the Cassady Lewis Carroll Collection, visit