Archives for December 2010

Mailbag: Revisiting the Albus-Severus Suicide Pact

A young reader wrote to me several weeks ago to thank me for my books and ask a question. He closed by saying he aspired to someday making his living by just reading, writing, and talking about Harry Potter, what he imagined was a “dream life.”

I couldn’t really encourage him in this aspiration — the Potter Pundit category is rapidly becoming a crowded space! — but he is right to say that my job, if you can call the time I spend as one of the Hogwarts Professors here a job, is delightful. Almost all of my interactions with serious readers in person, online, and by correspondence is edifying, enlightening, even challenging. I respond to all my mail, to my wife’s distress as I fall further behind on deadlines, even when it is only challenging.

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Jane Eyre 3: “Plain Jane” and the Mid-Nineteenth-Century Ideal of Beauty, Complexion to Corsets

Jane Eyre is, despite the fairy tale connections we mentioned in the first post, no beautiful princess.  How many times does Jane, the ever-self-deprecating first person narrator, point out her lack of physical beauty? As we’ll discuss later, Jane’s beauty is far more than the skin-deep variety, but, as we journey with Jane, it may be helpful to get a good idea of what “plain” meant in the mid-nineteenth-century, both to visualize Jane and to understand her perceptions of men, women, and herself.

A Gentleman’s Look

In the early nineteenth-century, men often cultivated a slim, boyish profile. As with the ladies, fashion  assisted individuals in their quest to fit the period’s ideals. Tall hats helped with the desired ramrod male profile, even for men who didn’t need height help (Abraham Lincoln clearly didn’t need enhancement in the height department).

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Mailbag: Questions About Literary Alchemy

I have been writing John Patrick Pazdziora the past two or three weeks on Narniad subjects and the last few days he has been peppering me with questions about literary alchemy. If you don’t know who Mr. Pazdziora is, stay tuned, because I hope he will be introducing himself soon enough. Though this exchange does not constitute anything like an introduction to the topic of literary alchemy as tradition and reader experience, I do think it is a helpful addition to the discussion of hermetic artistry in The Deathly Hallows Lectures. For those of you already familiar enough with the colors, sequences, and principal figures of alchemy, e.g., the Quarreling Couple, Philosophical Orphan, Alchemical Wedding, etc. from that and posts here, this Q&A back and forth between John Patrick in Scotland and John in Syracuse may help you grasp the sudden ubiquity of alchemy in today’s best sellers in the wake of Ms. Rowling’s juggernaut Hogwarts Saga.

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The Life and Lies of — Bertolt Brecht?

Amnon Halel, whose notes to me from Israel always throw new light on the Hogwarts Saga, sent this last week about a possible source for the title of Rita Skeeter’s acid-pen biography The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore. Mr. Halel wrote:

When I read the title The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore in Deathly Hallows, I thought of John Fuegi’s famous biography of Brecht: “The Life and Lies of Bertolt Brecht (1994). Both books are sensationalistic biographies that are hundreds of pages long, full of contempt for their subject, and each uses some  facts and evidence mixed in with strong biased interpretations and bad intentions to prove the man is not a hero but a liar.

I didn’t find any comparison or connection of these books on the Internet and I wonder what do you think? Is it just coincidence?

I asked Amnon to write up this catch as a post himself but he asked me to do it in return. Here, then, is a short survey of this fascinating possibility:

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CNN: ‘Was Harry Potter a Good Christian?’

The Rev. Danielle Tumminio, author of God and Harry Potter at Yale, was interviewed by CNN Religion blog reporter Eric Marrapodi for an article published today with the provocative title ‘Was Harry Potter a Good Christian?‘ The article contrasts the Rev. Tumminio’s perspective with Lauvre Steenhaussen at Georgetown who argues that Harry’s leading a moral life and “seeking” does not make him a Christian. Most interesting to me has been the volume and intensity of the response: almost a hundred comments before noon on a holiday recovery Tuesday. Folks are still wound up about Harry’s religious content — especially when reading articles headed by a picture of Daniel Radcliffe with a nimbus (halo) like the 2009 piece at your left.

See the HogPro interview with Rev. Tumminio here for for more on her class at Yale, how it came about, and what her students learned from and taught her about Harry and Christian faith. H/T to Eric in Houston!