Archives for February 2014

Marybeth Davis Baggett: In Praise of Imagination

I was not surprised or delighted by Ms Rowling’s recent comments about the Harry-Hermione pairing  in her Wonderland interview with Emma Watson (you can read my thoughts here and here). James Thomas, author of Re-Potting Harry Potter and Rowling Revisited, in contrast to my acerbic notes responded with his characteristically lighter and more engaging touch:

I have decided that my REPOTTING HARRY POTTER should now be entitled HARRY POTTER REPOTTED.  Please spread the word.  (I am also revisiting the title of ROWLING REVISITED and have tentatively decided that Dimmesdale needs to commite suicide, Mr. Darcy is arrested for spousal abuse, Daisy Buchanon swerved the car and missed Myrtle, and–even though the cow jumped over the moon–the dish ran away with the fork.)

Marybeth Davis Baggett — and, yes, that last name should be familiar to Potter Pundits of every degree (the professors Baggett are married) — is an English teacher at Liberty University. In the spirit of a balanced response to Ms Rowling’s rolling-revelation of what she really meant, I hope you will read Prof M. D. Baggett’s thoughts on the issue, which are much more charitable and edifying than my own! Her J. K. Rowling: In Praise of Imagination can be read at the Christ and Pop Culture web log.

Joshua Richards: The Wizarding Ghetto of Harry Potter

‘On the Wizarding Ghetto of Harry Potter,’ a Guest Post from Prof Josh Richards, Palm Beach Atlantic University.

The thought arose the other day: “Why isn’t the Wizarding World like Tolkien’s elves?”  A strange comparison to consider initially, sure, but it is not so unjust of one. Both are a race of secluded magical beings in possession of powers beyond the pale of the mortals around them. Yet, they could not be more different. Although Tolkien’s elves are less powerful magically than the wizards, they are enlightened epicureans, but the wizards… not so much.

Seeking the reason for the divergence led me to some interesting tensions in the Harry Potter series and the conclusion that Rowling’s 1960’s upbringing and concomitant class prejudices has a stifling, if not outright deleterious, affect on the world-building in Harry Potter. This may seem a strange thing to assert, but the positives of it—the focus on inclusion, social justice, and concern for the downtrodden—are well-known. However, the axioms of this background, especially in the world’s fantasy setting, produce substantial dissonance.

First, we must consider that it is axiomatic to Rowling’s upbringing that one human is never superior to another in any substantial way. However, she also creates a world divided by the possession of an innate ability by the whim of fortune: those who can cast magic and those who cannot. Yet, somewhat mysteriously, to think that wizards are, in any way, superior to muggles is seen as so monstrous a supposition that it is strictly the province of those who murder and torture for fun. [Read more…]

Essay Contest: Free Tickets to Leavesden Studios, London!

Imagine you are getting on an elevator in a high rise apartment building. You have had a long day and you’re looking forward to the evening in your penthouse apartment, an evening you plan to spend reading the book you’ve just received in the mail, hand delivered by Bob, the courteous desk attendant in the lobby. Probably the Concise History of World Populations: A Demographic History of the Planet. Can’t wait…

But as you get on the elevator, you overhear the conversation of the two women exiting, a grandmother and granddaughter pair judging from the ages, and this exchange:

Grandmother: “I’ve never understood your fascination with Harry Potter, Delilah. What is it that you find so enthralling about these stories?”

Granddaughter: “Oh. MaMa, how I wish you would read the books — or listen to them! Where do I begin?”

As they walk off hand in arm, oblivious to all others, you think —

What do you think?

In the first of what the faculty hopes are a series of HogwartsProfessor Short Essay Contests, we ask you to write a 500-750 word composition, poem, fictional vignette, whatever in answer to the question, “When I am asked why I love the Hogwarts Saga, I answer…” We will post the top ten responses we receive in the next two weeks — please share this challenge with your friends — and the essay receiving the most votes in an Ides of March tally will earn its author two free tickets to the Warner Brothers Studio Tours, London, a $100 value.

We won’t be paying your air fare to see the famous Leavesden Studios if you’re in North America, of course, or your stay, alas. Getting there is your job. We recommend with enthusiasm, though, that you make reservations at the Park Inn Watford  hotel, which establishment has kindly provided us with these tickets for a promotional give away. Hurrah!

Entries will be accepted until the stroke of midnight, Oklahoma City time, 1 March 2014. Get to work on those compositions and send them with the subject line ‘Park Inn Watford Leavensden Ticket Contest’ to john at hogwartsProfessor dot com.

Overseas Mailbag: Serbian Grad Student Needs Our Help!

Our Mailbag collection this week features inquiries from Serbia, Poland (“a country in central Europe”), Australia, and Planet California!

Dear Professor Granger,

I am a doctoral candidate in my second year of studies at the Faculty of Philology in Belgrade, Serbia. I obtained an MA in English Language and Literature and at present my field of research is Cultural Studies. I applied for participation in an academic conference which is to be held in October this year in Winnipeg, Canada, at the University of Manitoba.

Conference’s topic is “A matter of life and death”; and I sent an abstract on the themes of life, death, Christianity, liminality etc. in the Harry Potter series. The abstract has been accepted and the organisers are willing to provide me with a 450 CAD travel grant. However, the airplane ticket solely would cost me about 1300 CAD.

Having read your Harry Potter’s Bookshelf, which was a source of valuable information for my paper, I decided to write to you and ask for some suggestions or guidelines as to which organisation I could address that could perhaps give me any financial subsidy. Are there any associations or institutions that are especially supportive of research on J.K. Rowling? I would appreciate it if you could help me regarding the matter.

Best regards,

Andrea Stojilkov

I’ve written several friends and the best advice they’ve given is that Ms Stojilkov contact the University of Manitoba again, as well as her own university to see if they cannot help her make up the difference. She has given me permission to post this here to ask for more helpful guidance or even to accept contributions for her travel to Winnipeg. Leave advice in the comment boxes below; if you’d like to help pay for her flight, contact me at john@HogwartsProfessor.com and I’ll put you in touch with our Serbian friend.

Over to E–, writing from Poland: [Read more…]

The Wonderland Interview: Context, Confirmation, even Cars

Per Pallas Athene, we have word that the Emma Watson/J. K. Rowling interview in Wonderland magazine is now available in full and can be read at Mugglenet.com in its entirety until the copyright lawyers make them bring it down (not even a link to the source?). Reading the interview as it is published rather than just from the controversial excerpts brings context to those “Ron and Hermione were a bad idea as a Couple” and confirmation of criticism made here of Ms Rowling’s asides earlier this week.

Three quick thoughts:

(1) Read the Interview online while you can. As I wrote here earlier this week, excerpts are always a distortion of the original and this is the product from which Miss Watson and Ms Rowling wish us to make our conclusions, even we are interested in such things.

[Read more…]