Danger, Herman Melville! Much-Needed Literary Notes in the Lost in Space Re-boot

I’m always a little leery of re-boots of classics, particularly classic science fiction shows. I loved the cheesy old Image result for lost in space 2018Battlestar Galactica and was let down by the darker, modern interpretation, just for one example. However, I decided to give Netflix’s new take on Lost in Space a try, mainly because it looked good, and because I never cared much for the original, so I knew that it wouldn’t damage my youthful expectations. And, to be totally honest, I was just delighted by the fact that if the show becomes popular, most of my students may not look at me in bewilderment when I try to warn them off Wikipedia or Cliffnotes as sources for their essays by waving my arms and yelling, “Danger, Will Robinson!” So, I gave it a whirl. After just one episode, I am already intrigued, not just because the effects are awesome and the kids are charismatic (though really, kids, if your name is Will, and you are on a Netflix show, there is a really good chance that you will get lost someplace scary and that large chunks of the script will consist of family members yelling your name…). What excites me are the fantastic literary hints that tie this new series into some of the old texts that we love and discuss here. So fasten your safety belt, and join me after the jump to get lost in some literature! [Read more…]

Harry Potter and Joyce’s Ulysses? Reading Harry Potter as Literature

“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 9: “’Harry Potter’ and the Prisoner of the Academy: Reading ‘Harry Potter’ as Serious Literature”

Katy McDaniel, host of the ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ podcast at MuggleNet (on which program I am a featured guest), writes about the latest show:

Perhaps you’ve had the experience of people considering the Harry Potter books “just” children’s literature, or bestsellers with little literary merit. This week’s episode confronts the issue of academia’s view of great novels vs. popular novels and how different approaches to literary criticism might help us to see the Harry Potter novels as both.

Professor Konchar Farr explains the characteristics that make novels popular as well as the standards literary critics use to assess whether a novel qualifies as a classic. We consider why novels by women and children’s literature tend to be overlooked by academia and how that may be changing.

Dr. Konchar Farr’s book The Ulysses Delusion examines why James Joyce’s Ulysses always appears at the top of book critic lists when few people have read it and it does not make the lists of readers’ favorite books. She argues that we must pay attention to readers’ assessments of literature; Harry Potter fans demonstrate that readers can love books and critique them at the same time.

Readers’ creative responses to the wizarding world (through fan fiction, performative critiques, and social activist groups like the Harry Potter Alliance) illustrate the power that comes from deep reader engagement with novels. Professor Konchar Farr’s forthcoming edited volume examines the Harry Potterseries from a variety of literary critical perspectives that take the novels seriously as good literature.

The next generation of scholars who grew up reading (and loving) the Harry Potterbooks yet also see them as important literature are adding their voices to academia. How are they bringing academic attention to popular novels like Harry Potter and what theories are they finding useful?

Listen to that conversation here. Please also join the conversation via email (ReadingWritingRowling@gmail.com) or Twitter (ReadWriteRowl)! We’d love to hear from you!

Attention UK Readers! LondonMoot is coming!

Get ready, dear readers in the United Kingdom, for the erudite nerdiness of Signum University and the Mythgard Institute to finally come to YOU! Later this month, on April 28, Signum U. (digital disseminators of some of the best and most accessible learning and teaching in imaginative fiction studies anywhere) will host its first London “moot” at the Sir David Davies lecture theater, Torrington Place.

A “moot,” of course, is a meeting of Ents (tree-people) in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; Signum’s version promises to feature few talking trees, allowing proceedings to be held at a slightly hastier pace. Signum/Mythgard has been hosting such moots around the US for a few years now, with their main gathering, Mythmoot, held annually over a weekend in Leesburg, Virginia.  [Read more…]

Guest Post: The Meaning of ‘Scamander’

From long-time friend of this blog, Lancelot Schaubert, a big find! Newt’s last name is taken from classical Greek mythology and may point to the number of his coming confrontations with Grindelwald and how the magizoologist may eventually help Dumbledore defeat him. Enjoy!

Newt Scamander, Xanthos, and Achilles

My bride and I started a new book club with our neighbors in Brooklyn called Western Canonball (iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher) where we read through classic literature that’s either new to us or that we read so long ago we’ve forgotten most of it. This brought me across Hesiod’s Theogony for the first time and a new encounter with The Illiad where the name Scamander – as in Newt Scamander – emerged.

Scamander in Greek mythology went by the name Xanthos: a river God. The gods called him Xanthos and men called him Scamander and in the triadic system, that seems to indicate that Xanthos is the consciousness, the god, behind the river and that Scamander is the manifestation, both the man in the Trojan war and the river that flows from Mount Ida straight over the plain that lies before Troy and then it merges as a tributary of the Hellespont. We’ll come back to the river in a minute, but let’s focus on Scamander the man:

The latter part of Scamander’s name comes from the greek word andros like St. Andrew which means “of a man” or “manly” or the thing that comes from manfulness, “courage.” But the first part “scam” doesn’t come from some word for a con man, but rather from either skadzo which means “to limp or stumble” or from the Greek skaios meaning “left-handed” or “awkward.” A limping man or an awkward man is precisely what Newt Scamander is. [Read more…]

Crimes of Grindelwald Trailer Released

Let me know what you think. Why can’t Dumbledore stand against Gellert Grindelwald?