Troubled Blood: Rowling Father Echoes

There are five crises in Rowling’s life that, because of the author’s description of her inspiration and writing process (‘The Lake and the Shed’) as beginning with subconscious resolution of her personal issues, serious readers of her work are obliged to acknowledge. The terminal illness and death of Anne Volant Rowling is the first crisis in sequence and power of influence and the break-up of The Presence’s first marriage and consequent years in the UK’s social safety net are a close second. Next come her break with her father Peter after Anne’s death and his re-marriage, the Potter-panic of international criticism from Christian groups about the magic in her Harry Potter books, and, most recently, the avalanche of criticism and de facto blacklisting she has endured in the past year consequent to her stand against transgender activist overreach in the United Kingdom.

There are other events that caused extensive media coverage or personal problems — I think of the Vander Ark plagiarism lawsuit, the Levesden Inquiry testimony, the Amanda Donaldson kerfuffle, her Skydome talk in Toronto, the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony in London, and the Harvard Commencement speech — but the five crises that challenged her sufficiently that the echoes are evident in her work stand apart and above these. Only the Harvard talk, the only time she has spoken even indirectly to an audience about how to live one’s life, is important in this collection of what could be filed under ‘Rowling Media Moments.’

Today I want to review Rowling’s relationship history with her father Peter and its reflections in her work, the “stuff” given to her by her interior Lake to work out her daddy issues that was reworked in story. I ‘go there,’ not because any of it is news or new ground, but because it has not been updated with respect to the story events of Troubled Blood, in whose characters and testimony ‘Peter Rowling,’ archetypal Bad Dad, gets a fresh treatment.

Join me after the jump for a review of the family history, of Peter Rowling’s shadow in Rowling’s work, for the Troubled Blood reappearance, and why we should care about Rowling’s “exteriorization” in story of her interior conflicts with her father. [Read more…]

Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic Co-sponsors Breakthrough Research in Motor Neuron Disease.

In January, neuroscientists from the University of Edinburgh announced that they had identified, and more importantly, repaired a defect in cultured motoneurons from an inheritable form of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This condition is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease here in the States, and is a sub-class of a larger family of conditions known as motoneuron (or motor neurone to the Brits) disease. What’s the Harry Potter connection?

The study was funded by the Medical Research Council, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Euan MacDonald Centre for MND Research, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, UK Dementia Research Institute and Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

J.K. Rowling founded the clinic in 2013, in honor of her mother, Anne, who died of multiple sclerosis. She made another major gift in 2019. 

The neurons turned out to have defective mitochondria, the “powerhouse” of the cells, which shorted the axon, the all-important long fiber that carries electrical signals from the spinal cord to the muscle. But, when a virus was used to boost mitochondria, the axons were restored to their normal length. This opens the possibility of using drugs already available in clinical trials to treat this condition.

As a neuroscientist whose own dissertation work focused on a motor nucleus of particular interest to both motoneuron disease and sexual differentiation, I am delighted to see this research. Although JK Rowling has received criticism for her position on transgender issues, some of which is, in my opinion, well-deserved, she must be given credit for the great use she has made of her wealth. Research like this doesn’t happen without funding. ALS is currently a death sentence, with most patients dying within two years, and there are few treatments available. The benefits of this work cannot be understated.

The Chessmen in the First Potter Film

What a delight! Thank you to Viktor for sharing this find; I had no idea the chessmen in the film version of Philosopher’s Stone had such a great backstory. Read more about these pieces — their history and where to find a replica set — at the British Museum blog page, ChessEquipments.com’s Lewis Chess Set page, Etsy, or at LewisChessPieces.co.uk!

Does anyone think the film’s chessboard pieces “miles beneath Hogwarts” resemble the Lewis chessmen?

Troubled Blood: Poisoned Chocolates

Happy Valentine’s Day!

This is the second of three Valentine’s Day posts at HogwartsProfessor. The day before yesterday I reviewed the five gifts Cormoran gives to Robin in Troubled Blood and how each is an echo of a previous gift and a metaphor for the status of their relationship. The last, a birthday trip to the Ritz Hotel for champagne, pretty much seals the deal that these two characters named for birds are now ‘love birds’ as well.

That first V-Day post had a relatively obvious romantic message, even though the only person who gives anyone a gift on the actual Valentine’s Day in Troubled Blood is the “smarmy” Saul Morris who brings flowers to Pat. Today’s post on chocolates in Strike5 and poisoned chocolates in particular is not romantic at all, except that two male characters do give Robin Ellacott salted caramel chocolates as tokens of their affection for her. I write this up, as, truth be told, I do the other two posts as well, because Valentine’s Day’s centrality and importance in Troubled Blood means that this is an apt time to highlight aspects of Rowling’s artistry and meaning in her most recent and I think best novel that almost certainly escape the casual reader.

Today, it’s chocolates, Rowling’s bon mots from the literary genre in which she works and her playful hat-tipping to the masters while turning a trope or cliche of detective fiction to her fresh ends. Join me after the jump for that Valentine’s Day discussion! [Read more…]

Elizabeth(s) the Phoenix

The centrality of Elizabethan imagery in Troubled Blood is hard to miss. The  Faerie Queene epigraphs and structuring, already well documented on this site, show the basis of the connection. That this work is meant to parallel Order of the Phoenix is also well documented. I want to suggest that Rowling has clarified much of the meaning of Order of the Phoenix using this imagery, which in turn continues and strengthens a long-running undercurrent in Rowling’s writing: a extensive set of references to 15th through 17th century English ecclesiastical, political, and philosophical history (earlier work directly touching this set of associations in Rowling’s work can be found in this 2009 post).

My core thought here is this: it is not just the one Elizabeth, Elizabeth I, who we are meant to consider. Instead, I think we are meant to focus on the societal and literary impact of four closely intertwined Elizabeths and their associations with the development of English Christianity and esotericism in its many forms. These four are Elizabeth of York, Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Stuart, and Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia.

I’ll grant that this is a fairly large claim, and I may be hunting Crumple Horned Snorkacks (if I am, please let me know), but I think there is this strong thread here worth tracing.
[Read more…]