On Critical Reception of Harry Potter and Twilight Part 7: What the Critics missed (A: Surface)

For Part 1 of this ten post series, in which I discuss genre criticism, click here. for Part 2 on culture war critiques left and right, click here, for part 3 on artifact criticism, click here, for part 4 on derivative dismissal, click here, for part 5 on why there are four layers of meaning, click here, for part 6 on using traditional tools to interpret modern best sellers, click here, or just scroll down the home page.

A friend wrote me to report that this series of posts has reached at least the eccentric periphery of the Twilight fandom blogosphere. If Twi-hard sites are anything like Harry Potter fandom weblogs, I suspect that news of HogPro’s arrival there is very much a mixed blessing. [Update: It turns out this fan site is a “spoof” or satirical fan meeting place of some kind.] Regular readers of HogwartsProfessor.com know that as a rule I do not visit fan sites or live journals because they are demeaning to author, book, and discussion participants as often as not and I am not equal to the challenge of such conversations. Some of my best friends, though, have joined the conversation here after following a link from just such sites. A hearty HogPro “Welcome,” then, to any serious Twilight readers falling into this discussion midstream! Please make yourself at home; your comments and corrections are much appreciated.

Today in the seventh post of this series, we enter the third and last part of our look at the similarities in the critical reception that the first books by Joanne Rowling and Stephenie Meyer received. The first part, posts one to four, reviewed the mistaken approaches critics have made to both the Twilight and Harry Potter series. The second part, posts five to six, discussed iconological or Platonic literary criticism and the appropriateness of using a four tiered approach in books most readers only appreciate at a surface level. In the third part, posts seven to ten, we will explore just what the critics missed at each level: the surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical.

We’ll start, of course, at the surface. [Read more…]

On Critical Reception of Harry Potter and Twilight Part 6: Iconological Criticism and Best Sellers (B)

For Part 1 of this post on genre criticism, click here. for Part 2 on culture war critiques left and right, click here, for part 3 on artifact criticism, click here, for part 4 on derivative dismissal, click here, for part 5 on why there are four layers of meaning, click here, or just scroll down the home page.

First, a morning Grin and Giggle for Potter fans: ever wonder what it would be like if Penguin had bought the Hogwarts Adventures series instead of Bloomsbury and issued the books as part of their Penguin Classics paperback series? Me neither, but the covers have been prepared by a very thoughtful reader and are now available for view (and perhaps for purchase as prints). Check out the Deathly Hallows cover especially. Wonderful. And, if you have $8200 lying around you’re not using, consider buying the complete Penguin Classics set at Amazon. Free Shipping for 1,082 books! (H/T to Dr. Sturgis and The Spectacle weBlog for the Potter Classics link!)

Penguin is publishing my Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures but as a Berkley imprint rather than a ‘Classic.’ I hate to think what a Penguin Classic cover would look like for the book, especially because I like the facing they came up with so much. Except for the eyeball in the mirror on the podium of The Deathly Hallows Lectures cover, this new one from Penguin/Berkley is a favorite.

Anyway, back to the task at hand. Is there any point in looking at a book through the four layered lens of traditional, iconological criticism if the author only wrote the book as a trifling entertainment rather than serious fiction? Does a writer have to consciously be writing at four levels for there to be allegorical and anagogical meaning in addition to the surface story and moral messages? [Read more…]

On Critical Reception of Harry Potter and Twilight Part 5: Iconological Criticism and Best Sellers (A)

For Part 1 of this post, click here. for Part 2, click here, for part 3, click here, and for part 4, click here, or just scroll down the home page.

No, I haven’t finished the edits to Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures. But I’m making good progress.

The whole point of Bookshelf is to introduce the context of English literature in which Harry Potter is written to give a better understanding of Ms. Rowling’s novels while at the same time using these books to introduce a range of English literature subjects and authors to Potter-philes who slept through their survey classes or majored in Engineering. As the Shared Text of our generation, Harry is uniquely and wonderfully qualified for this multi-didactic-tasking.

Bookshelf is organized, for example, in ten chapters that fall into four categories corresponding to the four levels of meaning acknowledged by iconological criticism (surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical). Though it is a very short book relative to other things I’ve written and most of it is about authors and books “behind the Hogwarts Adventures,” it still serves as an introduction to what is a new way of thinking about books for most (especially, I’m afraid, if they majored in English) if only because of its layout. Today, I want to begin here, before jumping into an iconological look at what contemporary critics missed in both the Potter novels and the Twilight Saga, what I couldn’t do in Bookshelf, namely, give a longish account of why and how reading at four levels works, even when authors more than likely did not set out or resolve while editing to “write like Dante.” [Read more…]

Imitations of Immortality: Stony Hands and Dolls

In Harry Potter history, this month saw Ms. Rowling’s writing hands honored in Edinburgh (no reflection, I trust, on the heaviness of her prose (?) or the lack of height or majesty critics have found in her prose). And Twilight characters join the Hogwarts crew with their own set of action figures from the Tonner Doll Company. (H/T to David and Toni!)

I joked once that Pottermania was so widespread a phenomenon that Osama bin Laden probably had Hogwarts action figures under his pillow in whatever Pakistani cave he’s hiding in (not very funny, I know). Do any of you have one or more Harry Potter dolls or plans to buy the Tonner Twilight set?

Green Eyed Heroes and Heroines: The List

Real quick note today on a break from manuscript revisions. Here’s one more green eyed character for our collection of Dante’s Beatrice, Hodgson Burnett’s Little Princess, and Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Thisbe’s late love in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 5, Scene 1, line 330… [Read more…]