In a World Full of Umbridge, Who Would You Be?

Like a lot of Potterphiles, I have Harry Potter merchandise popping up on my social media feeds on a near-daily basis. One of the more recent appearances was a T-shirt reading “In a world full of Umbridge, be a Fred and George.”  While the mischievous redheads were undoubtedly major nemeses of the Toad Lady, I found it hard to envision myself wearing one of these shirts. I guess I’m at the age where I identify more with the middle-aged ladies of the Wizarding World than the kids.

Which led me to think, who would I put on mine?  Two answers immediately sprung to mind.   First, the teacher who was the antithesis of Dolores: Minerva McGonagall. In our humor episode of Reading, Writing, Rowling, several McGonagall v. Umbridge moments made it into our “funniest scenes” lists. Certainly McGonagall is one of the finest teachers in the series, one with high standards of excellence and who daily earns the respect of her students. In other words, everything dear Dolores wanted to be. Harry’s regard for her is clear: when even his own godfather’s murder could not push him into performing a Cruciatus curse on the perp, Amycus Carrow’s spitting in McGonagall’s face did.

The second, of course, is the best (or, at least the best living) mom of the series, Molly Weasley. In addition to being a surrogate mom and regular source of comfort (as opposed to pain) for Harry, Molly is also a loving mother to the twins. Yes, she gets exasperated with them frequently, sometimes seeming as short-tempered as Umbridge, but her love never wavers and she is never cruel. In the end, she accepts that the twins are successful in their own right, even with their poor OWL results, aborted education and non-conventional career choice.

More on Minerva, Molly and T-shirts after the jump! [Read more…]

Three Thoughts about ‘Troubled Blood’

(1) The only purpose of releasing the title of a book and its release date is marketing, i.e., it creates buzz which generates pre-orders from booksellers. ‘Buzz’ from a book title alone these days means speculation and conversation about the book beyond, “Ooh, cant’wait.” I confess to being a little resistant to furthering marketers’ ends but, hey, we were already discussing the possibility that Strike5 would have Marilyn Manson title and epigraphs before we were given the title. I might as well continue along that line, no?

If you’ve been following the comment threads here at HogwartsProfessor since the announcement (here is a link to Louise Freeman’s handy collection of same in a post), you know that Marilyn Manson is still in the game because the words “troubled” and “blood” appear in his ‘Mind of a Lunatic‘ and similar tortured rock groups lyricists use the words (cf., Miss World’s album of that name and Love Me Destroyer’s ‘Add Vice’). Nick Jeffrey found ‘troubled blood’ in an Edmund Spencer poem and another reference in a George Chapman play, the latter of which ChrisC tied into previous speculation about Keats. I’ll be delighted if it’s Manson because of the clear parallel with Strike3’s Blue Oyster Cult epigraphs; I’ll be at least as relieved if Rowling departs from ring formula, though, and gives us another Silkworm journey down a neglected part of the Western Canon and English literature.

(2) I’ve been doing a re-read of all the Rowling novels this past month, Strike, Potter and Vacancy, and you’d have to blind and deaf not to be struck by all the references to blood and specifically the eugenic agonies of ‘pure blood.’ Not only is blood-status a recurrent back-drop to the core conflicts of the Hogwarts Saga, it plays out as well in the Wizarding World film franchise spin-off Fantastic Beasts. Harry’s victory over the Dark Lord in Hallows turns as much on Voldemort’s mistaken calculation about using Harry’s blood to reconstitute his body in Goblet as it does on the wand lore surprise.

And Strike? Well, Serious Striker Joanne Gray has already written about this. Strike’s parentage makes him a de facto mud-blood to Charlotte’s clan but the inbreeding of the aristocracy seems to have caused more than a touch of madness in Jago Ross and the Campbells as well. The observation by the old friend that Strike’s mysterious attractive power that works on the flighty women drawn to him is their hope for an infusion of “carthorse blood” is an echo of this blood-line back-drop. Troubled Blood, whatever the reference source turns out to be, is a natural for Rowling’s concerns as a writer.

(3) The publisher’s announcement promised a cover and a story blurb “very soon” which I expect will give us a much better idea about the origins of the Troubled Blood title. It also will provide a story outline of sorts, the central conflict, as a taste-teaser to create further buzz and bookstore orders in advance. So what? Well, if you want to take a guess about the plot line of Troubled Blood, you’d better make your guesses yesterday; you won’t get any credit for predictions made along the lines of the story the cover blurb or excerpt points us to. Please review Louise Freeman’s predictions for Strike5 as the baseline for last minute speculation!

And here is the helpful page you’ll want to keep at hand: Countdown to Troubled Blood

3rd Annual Summit on Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature: Coming this June to UNLV.


I was delighted to learn yesterday that my proposal for a panel on Young Adult Literature: a Tool for Empathy Development? was accepted for the 2020 UNLV Summit on Research and Teaching of Young Adult Literature,  I will be presenting with Dr. Kia Jane Richmond, author of Mental Illness in Young Adult Literature: Exploring Real Struggles Through Fictional Characters.

I presented my work on PTSD in young adult literature (including Harry Potter, of course) at the inaugural summit two years ago, which, as some of you may remember, attracted some criticism for featuring authors that one particular journalist found overly dark and distressing. The fact that the editorial writer did not even attend the Summit did not stop him speculating  that immersion in the “unsavory worldviews” seen in some books of the keynote authors is a likely contributor to mental illness in adolescent readers.  In fact, my own research and that of many others suggests just the opposite.

I hope teachers, readers and other people interested in the societal impact of young adult literature will join us at the summit. Along with the academics, there will be a number of amazing authors present, including Ashley Hope Perez (whose incredible Out of Darkness I would like to see as required reading for university students),  Chris Crowe (his Death Coming Up the Hill can, like Harry Potter, be appreciated by everyone from Boomers to Millennials), Matt de la Pena (Newbery winner whose The Living has been featured here on Hogpro) and more.

The conference is reasonably priced, and lots of fun. And the Las Vegas strip is a short Uber-hop away.

Title of Cormoran Strike 5 Released; Readers Jump in with Speculation About Its Meaning

Breaking news today that the title of the next Cormoran Strike book will be Troubled Blood.  Your Hogpro faculty were too busy to post on this earlier today, but thankfully some of our Serious Striker readers have already chimed in comments section as to what this might mean.

I’m reprinting a few of the comments here, so discussion  of the title and what it could represent can take place in a centralized location.  Please check all of the comments out, and add your own!  Thanks and a toast of Doom Bar to all who have begun the sleuthing process!

[Read more…]

What is the Place of Pottermania in the Cormoran Strike World?

In the first Reading Writing Rowling podcast on Cormoran Strike, we speculated about whether the Harry Potter phenomenon would ever be mentioned in the Robert Galbraith series. The series is well-known for including mention of contemporary news stories in the series: William and Kate’s engagement and marriage, the shutdown of the News of the World amid the phone-tapping scandal, the London Olympics. But, there has been no mention another major news event of the time: the premiere of the final Harry Potter movies. Deathly Hallows Part 1  opened on the day of the Roper Chard party in The Silkworm; Part 2 would have premiered during the prologue of Lethal White, when Robin was nursing Matthew back to health after his encounter with the sea-borne bacteria.  Save a mention of Emma Watson on a real-life magazine cover–at the same time Charlotte Campbell graced the cover of the fictional Tatler–there has been no hint of the Harry Potter phenomenon in any of the Strike books. It was Dr. Karen Keblare’s opinion, and I think the rest of us concurred, that Mr. Galbraith would probably avoid the awkwardness that mention of Ms. Rowling’s creation would bring.

That doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t wonder, though.  Overlapping key Harry Potter dates on the Strike books’ timeline shows that Robin would have been prime Generation Hex age, as a twelve-year-old schoolgirl at the time of Philosopher’s Stone’s publication. As a straight-A student with an inquisitive mind and a thirst for mysteries, it is highly likely she would have been a fan of the series. Moreover, she would have been near the end of secondary school and preparing for university when the three-year book drought was broken by the publication of Order of the Phoenix. This puts the start of her university career, the rape, and Matthew’s first betrayal during the gap between Order of the Phoenix and the Half-Blood Prince. 

Once you realize that, it becomes easy to imagine Robin as a Potterphile, and even speculate that she, like many other readers, found the series a source of comfort after trauma. I’ll admit that idea has been percolating in my head for some time.  Therefore, when I saw a fan-fiction challenge to write a short, romantic story with the prompt of “That Touch of Magic,” I saw an opportunity to flesh out this idea a bit.  Thus, I have written my first real fan-fiction in probably a quarter of a century, and the first not to involve a DC Comics character. As you can see, I took the opportunity to plug Hogwartsprofessor.com, pull an extensive Mary-Sue on Robin by letting her write my own paper, and even give Strike a chance to meet his own author.

Please check it out and comment, here or there.  It is quite G-rated, except for a few of Strike’s usual swear words. And be assured, I have no intention of contributing further to his particular genre.