Game Theory: A New Key to Young Adult Fiction?

There’s a new book out that I would love to read and discuss with HogPro regulars: Jane Austen, Game Theorist.  Game theory and neuroeconomics are a relatively new interest for me in my field, psychology ( though hormones and neuroscience will always be my first love), but that interest has grown thanks to an Honors Course (Phil/Psych 306) I have been privileged  to teach a few times with a colleague in the Philosophy Department.  We recently completed a class research project using the Ultimatum Game.

According to the reviews, Dr. Chwe seems more interested in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which makes since.  The Prisoner’s Dilemma has been getting a lot of popular press of late, even serving as the basis for a popular game show (I’ve only seen it once, and, yes, both contestants defected and went home with nothing).  But with themes like trust, loyalty, betrayal and survival bearing at the heart of so many of our favorite series here at Hogpro, it is likely game theory could give us some fresh insights.

Other writers have already applied the Prisoner’s Dilemma to the Hunger Games.  Brent Keller points out that a district who trusted each other could request unlimited tesserae without increasing the probablity of any individual child dying the the Games…  as long as everyone requested the same number. The economics blog Centives explains Tribute alliances in terms of the Prisoners Dilemma, as does Samuel Arbesman of Wired Magazine.

Ally Condi’s Matched series refers to the Prisoner’s Dilemma as one of the limited game choices the youth can play during their free time, although, in the Society’s version, it purely a game of chance that will, statistically, result in equal numbers of wins and losses for both players.  Only Ky, the Aberration, knows that the original game involved a human decision-making process and that a favorable outcome depended on two partners absolutely trusting each other.

As a fairly recent Psychology student, Veronica Roth likely encountered game theory.  Did it, like personality theory and biopsychology, make it into her books?  That is something I will consider after I have read Dr. Chwe’s book, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

But, it is likely in my own economic best interest to get my semester grades turned in first.

Bronte Sisters Power Dolls with Kung Fu Grip!

If there had been a Potter Mania before the Georgian Era, what might the Austen Age have been like? Here is one possibility:

Frankly, this 1998 spoof says a lot about Twilight and Harry Potter fandoms, from the requisite political correctness to the ubiquitous riding of the commercialization wave via movies and “fan events” organized by non-fans. It says a lot, but I will let someone else unpack it.

Pride and Prejudice — and Zombies?

When I describe the influence of Jane Austen on Joanne Rowling to lecture audiences, my pet phrase is that a good way for them to understand the Harry Potter novels is as “Pride and Prejudice with wands.” This hyperbole is more true than not because (1) the Hogwarts Adventures feature narrative misdirection consequent to the voice chosen by the author, a voice lifted straight from Austen’s Emma, (2) the moral message of both authors is anti-empiricist, that is, not trusting unexamined prejudices or “first impressions,” the original title of Pride and Prejudice, and (3) the satirical quality of Austen’s manners-and-morals fiction is a big part of the genre melange the writing of which is Ms. Rowling’s peculiar genius. Inside a Schoolboy novel and gothic thriller, she includes without hiccup a Georgian era romance.

This genre mixing is postmodern “double coding,” which I explain at length in Unlocking Harry Potter. But Ms. Rowling isn’t the only author to include Austen in their genre story mix. Stephenie Meyer has said Twilight, the first book of her ‘Twilight Saga,’ is a re-telling of Pride and Prejudice (if Jane Eyre is behind and within many of that book’s scenes and characters, too). But Meyers and Rowling are way too subtle with their allusions and recasting for the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; it’s time for a real re-telling, straight up, with gothic horror elements on steroids thrown in. Regency romance meets Texas Chain Saw Massacre? You get the idea. [Read more…]

Guest Post: On Harry and Hamlet

One of the frustrating things about writing a weblog is that, as often as not, the things I think are brilliant get little feedback or response (cough-Dante-cough) and filler-posts about a Potter movie star’s alchemical aside fuel exciting discussion from all quarters. The reward, of course, is when a reader catches hold of an idea and takes it in a direction I hadn’t thought of and takes it to some altitude as well.

That happened this morning when I received the following comment from Tinuvielas in Germany in response to my post on literary influence, Austen, Shakespeare, and Rowling, a post that very few others thought worthy of comment. Needless to say, the shared insights were a double delight for me. I hope you enjoy them even half as much as I did — and that you’ll respond to the invitation for comment and correction at post’s end. Thank you, Tinuvielas!

Hi John,

Thanks a lot for that truly great post, including the fantastic Leavis-quote. Your comments are always inspirational… and [in response] to Arabella Figg’s [question]: There actually is a course (by Monica Arellano-Espizia, entitled “similarities between Harry Potter and Hamlet”), that tries to do just what you said, “use the series as an introduction (…) to read Shakespeare”. Only, it’s not high-school-level, but fourth-grade…

As to how Shakespeare influenced JKR, in addition to the Macbeth-stuff above, there’s another, perhaps less obvious point, i.e. the similarities between those international superstars of the literary universum, Harry and Hamlet. There’s quite a list of them, actually (and not only the fact that both names begin with an “H”…): [Read more…]

On Literary Influence: How Austen and Shakespeare Affect Rowling — and Vice Versa

Travis Prinzi, brother Potter blogger and fellow Zossima Press author, sent me an email two weeks ago about a Russian professor who believes that the best way to understand Voldemort is an echo of Dostoevsky’s character Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. He posted on the subject at Hog’s Head — a Pub for Potter and the conversation on the resulting thread was very good. The speculation that Severus was the real Raskolnikovian echo I thought was especially intriguing.

My thoughts about this went in a different direction, so, rather than hijack Travis’ post, I add my two thoughts here, namely, (1) that this kind of comparison confirms the theory that Ms. Rowling’s books will prove to be a gateway to English and World literature and (2) in a post-Deathly Hallows landscape where Harry Potter is the shared text, we will come to understand other books and the tradition as a whole through her books, like it or not. Literary influence is not a one way street, oddly enough, but sometimes works ‘present to past’ as well. [Read more…]