Farewell to the Last Inkling: Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020)

Last week, the news broke that Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien, had passed away at the age of 95, and Image result for christopher tolkienwhile we might all have hoped he would make it to 111, 95 is quite a run for a human being, even one whose story is so deeply entwined with those long-lived denizens of Middle Earth. While I am not a Tolkien expert (my area of focus is usually an elder Inkling, C.S. Lewis), I hope you will indulge me in a few thoughts about the gentleman who is the last of the Inklings, why his legacy matters, and what this means for his father’s creations. [Read more…]

The Personal Heresy Afoot at Hogwarts

As the school break affords some time for getting up some long-overdue posts, I had been planning a few, but I’ve shunted those to the backburner, with hopes of pulling them forward before I must return toImage result for the personal heresy grading, preaching the virtues of the Oxford comma, and catching incompetent plagiarizers. Instead, I find myself having to do something rather odd, defend J.K. Rowling, but not against the usual antagonists: misguided Puritans, well-meaning but overprotective parents, and the sad horde of people whose imaginations were apparently damaged or removed in some sort of unfortunate childhood accident. Now, I’m defending her against the “fans” who are presently foaming at the mouth over a tweet she refuses to recant despite their most petulant whines and threats. The controversy and the subsequent venom of some members of the once-loyal fandom likely come as no surprise to the savvy Rowling, whose own work predicts just this sort of thing, but it is also reflective of a phenomenon rampant in a number of fandoms these days, a phenomenon C.S. Lewis foresaw with his brilliant examination of what he called “the Personal Heresy.” Join me after the jump for some thoughts on this phenomenon as it is playing out in Potterdom.(If you’ve been under a rock, catch up here and here.) [Read more…]

Fantastic Beasts Thesis Presentation Today!

It is always a joy to encourage scholars in their journey! Today, at 2 pm EST, Kelly Orazi will be featured in the Signum University Thesis Theater, talking about her thesis  Fantastic Beasts and Why to Find Them: Animals and Thesis TheaterNature in Harry Potter.  It’s been my great delight to serve as Kelly’s thesis director, and I’m excited to help her share this fascinating project. If you are unfamiliar with Signum, it is a wonderful online university with opportunities for anyone interested in a deeper study of Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling, and much more. Signum is also in the middle of its annual fund campaign. Check out signumuniversity.org/fund/ for more info about the campaign and other events.

I hope you’ll join us today to “meet” Kelly and hear about her project. You will also be able to watch the theater on the Signum Youtube page if you miss it live. I’ve had a great time working with her, and I know you’ll enjoy her amazing insights!

 

Carnival Row: Literary Value Worth the Unsavory Package?

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This week, I had one of those wonderful moments that reminds me why I teach. In my ENG 112 class, we were having a great literary conversation, starting to unpack W.B. Yeats’s fantastic poem “The Stolen Child,” which describes the fae and their efforts to lure a human child away from the human world. The students had already asked great questions about the geographical references and some of the vocabulary, but I could see they were trying to really grasp the poem. I explained about the amorality of the fae, their differences from cutesy fairies and their connections in literature and Irish mythology, and then, one of my students exclaimed, “They’re kidnappers!” I wish I could have captured the look on his face, an a-ha expression that combined both his delight at making his connection and his discomfort with the unsavory undertones of the poem. His combined reaction is very similar to my own in response to the new Amazon Original series Carnival Row, starring Orlando Bloom, Cara Delevinge, and an impressible ensemble cast in a tale of good and evil, of fae and of men.

The steamnoir series is set in a world where the fae world is not a myth or fantasy, but a very real geographical location that has been torn asunder by warfare between competing armies of men. It is visually stunning as well as thought provoking, making some fascinating allusions to history, mythology, and literature, but it is definitely not family viewing, with language and scenes that would make Cormoron Strike blush. [Read more…]

Universal Studios Launches New Dark Arts Show

There is no need to use Veritaserum to discover the truth that the Wizarding World parks are big business at Image result for dark arts universal studios orlandoOrlando’s Universal Studios parks. The Diagon Alley area, located in the original Universal Studios Park, features Muggle versions of many of the shops in Harry’s world, along with the ever-popular Escape from Gringotts ride. The Hogwarts Express will take guests (as long as they have tickets that will get them into both parks) to the Hogsmeade section of the Universal Islands of Adventure theme park. Here guests can join Harry on the Forbidden Adventure ride, or on Flight of the Hippogriff, or even on the newly opened Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure. Tonight, Universal will debut a new attraction at Hogwarts Castle (located in the Islands of Adventure if you are having trouble keeping up). Join us after the jump to talk about the new Dark Arts show and what it means, aside from the obvious—more money for Universal. [Read more…]