MuggleNet Academia: American Eugenics, German Genocide, and Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb60Ezra Miller, the actor who plays Credence Barebones in Fantastic Beasts, and David Yates have both said in interviews that Rowling’s New Salem Philanthropic Society is largely an allegorical depiction of the Progressive Era eugenics movement in the United States. This chapter of American history — how social engineering know-betters on the political left and right campaigned successfully for sterilization and extermination laws to rid the American gene pool of ‘moron women, sexual deviants, and racial inferiors’ in 31 states — has largely been scrubbed from the history textbooks. It’s more than a little embarrassing for us to learn, after all, that Adolf Hitler modeled his Final Solution, the Holocaust of European Jewry, on tracts, scientific publications, and laws written by Americans with the sponsorship of the Rockefeller Foundation (among others). Not only can it happen here, it started here.

gavaler-originTo discuss American eugenics and how Rowling chooses to give that history lesson as an embedded story within her screenplay, not to mention how some of her historical connections are bizarre and off-base, Keith Hawk and I asked Washington & Lee professor Christopher Gavaler to join us on MuggleNet Academia. Gavaler is the author of On the Origin of Superheroes which largely turns on the subject of eugenics as it was told in the Superman/Ubermensch dramas of the late 19th and early 20th Century UK and US and then in the first superhero comic books. He explained to us how Rowling’s Hogwarts Saga’s Pureblood/Mudblood purity theme is straight up anti-eugenics story-telling — and that in Fantastic Beasts she is picking up where she left off.

Another mind-blowing conversation on MuggleNet Academia! Here is a link to Professor Gavaler’s article ‘The Well Born’ Superhero’ that we discuss on the show. Enjoy that challenging read before or after you listen to our conversation — and please share your thoughts about the podcast in the comments boxes below!

Link to MNet Academia podcast on Fantastic Beasts and Eugenics with Chris Gavaler!

Fantastic Beasts Question: Is an Obscurus the Opposite of a Patronus?

obscurial-fantastic-beasts-3The Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie introduced wizarding fans to the Obscurus (and its host, the Obscurial). The Obscurus is described as a “dark, parasitic” force that develops in children forced to repress their magic. While Potter fans had not seen this entity before, they had seen something that seems to be the polar opposite of the Obscurus: the light, protective force known as the Patronus. Many viewers have questions about Obscurus manifestation: most notably: was Ariana Dumbledore an Obscurial?  And why did Harry not become one, during those years the Dursleys tried to “squash all that nonsense out of him?” I’m going to look more closely at the Patronus-Obscurus parallels to see if we can discern any answers.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-deleted-scene-description-answers-what-really-happened-to-credenceYoung witches and wizards develop an Obscurus when they are forced to suppress their magic.  Newt tells us that Obscurials  were more common when magic people were persecuted by Muggles, suggesting fear, isolation and abuse contribute to their formation.  Young Credence Barebones would seem to be a good example of this. In fact, his Obscurus seems to be most powerful and least controllable when he is most alone and frightened; he transforms into the Obscurus when Grindelgraves rejects him as a Squib, and returns to human form when Newt and Tina try connect with and calm him.

patronus_pm_silverstagpatronus_momentillustA Patronus, in contrast, is conjured with happy memories, and particularly depends on positive social connections.  Harry sometimes uses thoughts of escaping the abuse of the Durseleys and Umbridge to summon his Patronus; more often, he thinks of his friendship with Ron and Hermione. Patronuses often take the appearance of an animal of significance to a loved one (Tonk’s wolf, Snape’s doe). George loses his ability to cast his patronus after Fred’s death. [Read more…]

MNet Academia: Hogwarts Profs Talk Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Keith Hawk of MuggleNet Academia invited the HogwartsProfessor.com faculty, all of us, to talk about Fantastic Beasts, the film and the screenplay. A lot of laughs, insights, and questions on top of speculation and good grief guesswork — join us for some great conversation!

Link to MNet Academia podcast on Fantastic Beasts featuring Louise Freeman, Emily Strand, and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy!

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them: A Round Up of HogwartsProfessor Posts

fb21Your HogwartsProfessor faculty has been writing up a storm in the weeks since the release of the first Fantastic Beasts film and the publication of J. K. Rowling’s ‘Original Screenplay.’ We’ve had such a flurry — blizzard? — of posts that you might have missed one or two as they were bumped down and off the front page by recent arrivals.

In the local tradition of rounding up posts on a specific title for the convenience of serious readers (see our Hunger Games round up page for a previous effort), here is the growing catalog of links to the work here so far. We recorded a podcast last night with Keith Hawk at MuggleNet that I know you will enjoy (because we had a lot of laughs and mind-blown moments ourselves while recording it).

Until Keith posts that show (he has!), browse and catch-up on the posts we reference throughout that wild and wide ranging discussion of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

the-doom-bar-professorJohn Granger:

Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text Round Up

Part 5A: So What? The Found Text and Its Meaning

Part 5B: The Shooting Script — A Corrected Text for Serious Readers

Part 5C: Conclusions and Predictions

sprout

Elizabeth Baird-Hardy

Louise Freeman

Emily Strand

Christian Content in Newt’s Adventure? Third Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb17We’re working our way through the Seven Keys to J. K. Rowling’s artistry and meaning to work the locks on the novelist of renown’s first screenplay, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So far, we’ve covered the Ring Composition structure of the Newt Saga’s first installment and Narrative Slow Release, the over-arching questions that the author introduces in the opening episode of her various series. There is a fairly lively discussion still going on at both those threads and I hope you’ll join in to share your comments and corrections.

The key I want to take in hand today was once fairly controversial among serious readers of Harry Potter, not to mention the dedicated legion of Harry Haters, academic and church divisions. That key, of course, is the Christian content and traditional symbolism of the Hogwarts Saga. When I first wrote about this in 2002 at perhaps the height of the Potter Panic, Harry Potter had become something of touchstone or litmus strip for devotion or apostacy among certain Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox sects. Back then few professors were interested in Rowling’s work except as a cultural artifact and evidence of a world-wide return-to-the-intellectual-cradle.

fb28My demonstration in the book which eventually became How Harry Cast His Spell that the first four novels were nigh to overflowing with Christian symbols and artistry (and magic!) taken directly from the English literary tradition’s extensive vault and my argument that this was actually the reason for Harry’s global popularity were both well received among serious readers, less so with church ladies and academics. Now this radical idea is usually found in the “we’ve always known that” file of Rowling appreciation. Which is good news.

Today I want to open the discussion of the Christian content in Fantastic Beasts. I think, after seeing film once and having read the screenplay in the Scholastic 297 page edition, that Beasts promises to be at least as misunderstood as Harry’s adventures were and for much of the same reasons. The movies will have a traditional message and it will almost certainly be as obscured by cultural war concerns and virtue-signalling as was the Hogwart’s Saga’s artistry and meaning. For much more on that, join me after the jump. Spoilers everywhere below! [Read more…]