Guest Post: Why Nabokov Would Have Liked Harry Potter (Michael Maar)

MaarIn yesterday’s post on the intertextual relationship of Vladimir Nabokov’s work and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, I all but said that no one has written on this subject. That is not the case. A Nabokov scholar of the first rank, Michael Maar, has written two books on the Hogwarts Saga, one of which is titled Why Nabokov Would Have Liked Harry Potter. Prof. Maar, in fact, offered the first course on Rowling’s work at a major university in 2002 when he was a visiting professor at Stanford.

WarumSo why have you never heard of this Potter Pundit and the Nabokov connection? Michael Maar has two books on Nabokov you can buy at Amazon, Speak, Nabokov and The Two Lolitas, but most of his work, to include his Potter scholarship, is only available auf  Deutsch.  I found an excerpt from Warum Nabokov Harry Potter Gemocht Hatte online, ran it through Google Translate, massaged it using German I discovered in the boxes put away in my mental basement thirty plus years ago from forgotten high school and college classes, and sent it to Maar for his review and permission to post here. He kindly agreed and only pointed out one of the gaffes I’d made.

For your reading pleasure, a flashback to 2003, the middle of the ‘Three Year Summer’ inter librum separating Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, for the thoughts of an expert on Vladimir Nabokov about J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.  Enjoy!

Maar1Why Nabokov would have liked Harry Potter

Michael Maar, 2002, an article excerpted from Warum Nabokov Harry Potter Gemocht Hatte, chapter 4

Nabokov the great author was also a great reader and his judgments were harsh. The list of his victims includes legends: Thomas Mann, Dostoyevsky, Sartre, TS Eliot, and Stendhal – all of them were regarded as third-rate writers by Vladimir Vladimirovich. He appreciated Franz Kafka, but this did not prevent the insect expert lepidopterist from explaining that the transformed beetle Gregor chose to transform into could easily have flown out of the window. Not to leave the room, one expects, but to flee from the critic in desperation. Many other authors would have considered self-defenestration, too, if Nabokov’s judgment on their efforts had come to their ears.  [Read more…]

Guest Post: Tax Calculation by Computer Science in Diagon Alley (David Martin)

From Professor and profound Potter Pundit David Martin:

As a Harry Potter fan who teaches Computer Science, I envy my fellow academics in other disciplines – such as philosophy and psychology – who can easily find so many ways to incorporate the Harry Potter novels into their courses.  However, I have found one small area I can use in my Computer Science One course.  Here it is:

========= The Assignment =================================

In the Harry Potter novels, the money used in the magical world comes in three denominations: bronze Knuts, silver Sickles, and golden Galleons.  29 Knuts equal one Sickle, and 17 Sickles equal one Galleon.

(I suppose that Rowling is here acknowledging – or satirizing? – the older British system of currency that was used until the “decimalization” reform of the 1970s.  Under that older system there were 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound.  British school children had a whole additional topic to study in math class just learning how to handle calculations in that non-decimal system.)

Let us imagine that the Ministry of Magic finances itself, in part, with a 4.5% sales tax on all goods sold in Diagon Alley, the main shopping area in the magical world.

Here is the assignment: Write a program to calculate this tax and add it to the cost of the sale.

Your program should begin by asking for the amount of the sale (in Galleons, Sickles, and Knuts) and then print out the amount the sale, the amount of the sales tax, and the total to be paid.

Here are two sample executions:

[Read more…]

Guest Post: Wizarding World Names! Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them 

fb3A Guest Post from Wayne Stauffer — ‘The Names We Need to Understand in Fantastic Beasts.’

In the Harry Potter series a major theme Rowling explored was the tension between alienation and inclusion–characters who are excluded from a group and who work to be included or start their own group for including others.

In working my way through A Year with CS Lewis, the December 14 excerpt is from Lewis’s “The Inner Ring,” delivered at King’s College, University of London, on December 14, 1944. He makes this point, “… in all men’s lives at certain periods,… one of the most dominant elements is the desire to be inside the local Ring and the terror of being left outside….Victorian literature is full of characters who are hagridden by the desire to get inside that particular Ring which is, or was, called Society….” (italics mine). And he continues to develop this idea of yearning for one’s place amid one group or another. 

rh1It was the word “hagridden” that caught my eye because of the similarity to our Harry Potter friend, Rubeus Hagrid. (Many of you are already with me on where this is going.) Lewis’s context clues about its meaning give a broad understanding, so I went to the dictionary to find its adjective form. “Worried” and “tormented” are meanings for this word that dates to the late 1600s. Well now, Hagrid most certainly has that yearning for acceptance into the wizarding community, that Ring of his choosing, and suffers his share of torment for his halfblood status as wizard/giant and the semi-ostracism that accompanies it. As with her other choices of words, Rowling isn’t simply tossing it out there simply for the sound or exotic attraction.

fb8Now, in the Fantastic Beasts series, this theme of alienation and acceptance/inclusion continues. And names continue to play a part. During questioning by Percival Graves, viewers find out that Newt Scamander was expelled from Hogwarts for endangering wizarding lives with some allegedly dangerous beast or another. Outside the film, however, we are told that Dumbledore intervened to have the expulsion dropped.

Let’s look at the names in Fantastic Beasts to begin our exegesis of their literal meanings and how that fits into the named character’s role in the story. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Christmas Gift List #4 — Forgotten Inkling: The Writings and Legacy of Roger Lancelyn Green

roger-lancelyn-green-2A Guest Post from Chris Calderon!

In an appendix to her otherwise excellent The Company They Keep, Diana Glyer provides a list of the members of the literary club known as the Inklings, an informal collection of writers centered around the twin fantasists J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.  While Glyer’s appendix is thorough, it is by no means complete.  There is at least one name missing from the roster of men who according to Philip and Carol Zaleski, “altered, in large or small measure, the course of imaginative literature (The Fellowship, 4).” The name belongs to Roger Lancelyn Green.

Roger Green made a decent enough use of his time on earth.  In a life that included friendships with both Tolkien and Lewis, he managed both a family, and a career as a critic and author of children’s books, as well as being a central yet overlooked member of the informal Inkling literary club.  Many of his books for kids are still available, while his criticism has been neglected and allowed to go out of print.  This is a mistake because what scholars have done is to let a valuable resource fall through the cracks.  Because of literary critical neglect there’s a gap in our knowledge about both Lewis and Tolkien, and of the shared literary aesthetic that was central to the lives of all three men. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Christmas Gift List #3 — From the Bookshelf of C.S. Lewis

1From the Bookshelf of C.S. Lewis —  A Third Hogwarts Professor Christmas Gift List for Serious Readers

By Chris C [Chris’ Christmas List #1 is here and List #2 here — and  we’ll post #4 after Thanksgiving!]

In 1963, a few days after C.S. Lewis had passed on (and according to one amateur historian, not long after the real Sixties got started with a literal bang), his literary executor named Walter Hooper returned to Lewis’s lifelong home known as the Kilns. When he arrived, he noticed smoke coming from the backyard. Hooper rounder the corner of the house, only to see the grounds and housekeeper Fred Paxford (the inspiration for Puddleglum from The Silver Chair) dutifully tossing most of Lewis’s letters along with volumes from his library into the oven of a backyard stove. The caretaker said he was just following orders on behalf of Warren Lewis (brother of C.S.) yet Hooper managed to convince Paxford to hand over what was left.

f38810022We may never know how much text or correspondence was rescued from that One thing is for certain, along with Hooper, the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College has done a very admirable job of compiling a list of most (if perhaps not all) the books Lewis kept on his shelves. I got to tell ya, I’d really like to see the length of those shelves, because it looks like it would take the Babylonian Library to house all the books named on the list. That’s where my idea for this installment of the HogPro Christmas Gift List came from. What better holiday gift for Inklings fans than some recommended reading more or less endorsed by none other than C.S. Lewis himself!

In presenting this list of possible gifts to fans of Lewis, Tolkien, or Rowling, I’d ask that everybody pay extra-special attention, because in addition to listing a number of select volumes for your inspection and delight, I also thought it was important to highlight just how the chosen books in question can help shed a light or two on the thought behind the Narnian Don and the Writer of the Rings (and perhaps, maybe, Ms. Rowling as well). [Read more…]