Archives for November 2012

Josh Richards: Rowling or Milton or Meyer or Joyce?

Votaries of Antiquity, a Guest Post from Prof Josh Richards, Palm Beach Atlantic University

Antiquity, like every other quality that attracts the notice of mankind, has undoubtedly votaries that reverence it, not from reason, but from prejudice. Some seem to admire indiscriminately whatever has been long preserved, without considering that time has sometimes co-operated with chance; all perhaps are more willing to honour past than present excellence; and the mind contemplates genius through the shades of age, as the eye surveys the sun through artificial opacity. The great contention of criticism is to find the faults of the moderns, and the beauties of the ancients. While an authour is yet living we estimate his powers by his worst performance, and when he is dead we rate them by his best.

Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare

Someone recently posted the following comment on an old thread at this site. At the risk of possibly feeding a troll, I have been asked to comment as several illustrative points may be drawn by response.

It follows:

Kids, stop reading this garbage. Do not try to give arguments which you know that are fake. There are better books than this. If you want to read bildungsroman novels, read Mario Vargas Llosa´s, “The Time of Hero” or James Joyce´s, “Portraid of the Artist as a Young Man”. If you like fantasy, read Lewis Carrol, Kipling, Stevenson, Wells, Swift, Wilde, Verne or Jorge Luis Borges. Borges especially will reeducate you and will teach you what literature is. You will discover that many good writers have what is called “style”. Style consists in writing euphonically, by avoiding repeated words, repeated phrases, cacophonies, clichés, anacoluthons and other things. Read good literature. Believe me: you will improve your culture and the way of using your language.

There are three matters that may be learnt from such a post (whose author I have somewhat arbitrarily gendered male for convenience). The first is whether or not there is something that can be learned from works like Harry Potter and Twilight; The second, on the weighing of writers, especially translations; the third on the dangers of pretension. [Read more…]

Guest Post: ‘Treasure Island’ as Ring Composition?

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island: An Exploration of its Possible Ring Composition Story Scaffolding

by Michael Murray

I would like to heartily thank Professor John Granger for drawing my attention to this book.

If any reader has not read it, or not read it recently then I urge them to do so; I have greatly enjoyed re-reading the book. The book was published in 1885, after having been serialised in the magazine Young Folks, between 1881 to 1882.

The scenes, characters, events are all very well realised; the seaman’s language is always used to great expressive effect, and never sounds unnatural, obscure or artificial.


The story is told wholly as narrative by the central character, young Jim Hawkins. The only times Hawkins is not the narrator are chapters sixteen, seventeen and eighteen when the narrative is supplied by Doctor Livesey.

The story is told in retrospect. It opens by explaining that the following is a record of the events and circumstances consequent upon the discovery of the treasure map of a notorious privateer/pirate Captain Flint.

For those unsure of the story by now, allow me a brief run-through. [Read more…]

J. K. Rowling as Ungrateful Liberal Wretch: The Anti-PC View

Friend of this blog and author of Thought Prison: The Fundamental Nature of Political Correctness, Bruce Charlton, has written perhaps the most damning critique of Ms. Rowling’s self-importance and agenda as a writer since Orson Scott Card let her have it with both barrels over the Copyright law suit years ago. Mr. Charlton thinks we need to have a ‘Emperor Wearing No Clothes’ moment in the wake of Casual Vacancy’s transparent screed against everyone not celebrating Redistribution of Wealth. You can read it in a piece he’s titled ‘Case study of Leftist resentment, moral inversion and the corrosion of character: J.K Rowling.’

Mr. Charlton errs on the side of the right, perhaps, in his hyperbole but it seems like a small breeze of fresh air and something of a counter balance from the excess Jo adoration we are accustomed to from the political left (can you say ‘Harry Potter Alliance‘? I can). Reading Ms. Rowling’s recent ‘By the Book’ interview in the New York Times , you’d have to be numb not to be struck by the author’s pretense and desire to be admired and respected by the cognoscenti. As a UK correspondent of no little reading penetration and literary accomplishment wrote me, “Reading the article made me feel dumb.  And boring.  And provincial, in the worst sense. Oh yes, and unsophisticated, too.”

This is a shame. As we’ve noted here many times over the years, Ms. Rowling’s charitable efforts and personal restraint in the Public Square have been remarkable and laudable given her unprecedented celebrity and the speed she traveled to it from total obscurity.  Her behavior has seemed wonderfully unnatural in her remaining balanced and not as pre-occupied with herself in public as fame encourages, even demands. It seems of late she is sadly human after all and, if Mr. Charlton is correct, her fame and wealth and power have left their mark.

[Read more…]

MuggleNet Academia 12: House-Elves — and House-Wives!

Marietta College Professor Katy McDaniel joined the MuggleNet Academia crew this week to talk about house-elves and the various ways to understand their trials and triumphs in Harry Potter’s adventures. Here’s a synopsis of the program:

Elfin Mystique in the Harry Potter Series’

House-elves are essential pieces in the setting and backdrop of the Hogwarts Saga, but, as individual actors and as a Magical species, do they really do much more than highlight the prejudice, ideas, and character of the ‘important’ players of the series? Dobby, Winky, Kreacher, and the kitchen crew are good for a great laugh and illustration of how evil the Malfoys are, of Dumbledore’s politics, how sensitive and idealistic Hermione is, what a boob Ron can be, and of Sirius’ serious blind-spots; do they matter, though, in the end? Kathryn McDaniel of Marietta College talks with Keith, John, and [student name] to argue that Rowling’s treatment of the House-elves (and Dobby particularly) is “at the core of her message for the whole series.” The MuggleNet Academia gang talk about feminism — are the House-elves really house-wives? — as well as why Hermione drops S.P.E.W. recruiting, the American Communist Party, even Dobby as Christian hero and Existentialist. Tune in for a wild ride with Kreacher and Kompany!

Check it out by clicking here and listening in! Many thanks to Prof McDaniel for the lively and challenging conversation. [Read more…]