Reading, Writing, Rowling: Werewolves!

From Laurie Beckoff’s write-up at MuggleNet:

In this supersized episode, John and Katy talk with literary scholars and werewolf specialists Dr. Melissa Aaron (California Polytechnic State University) and Dr. Renée Ward (University of Lincoln, UK) to reveal the true nature of beastly transformations in the Harry Potter series. “Everything you know about werewolves is wrong,” Melissa tells us, explaining the literary origins of werewolf lore and its key elements. Renée explains the diversity of classical and medieval lycanthrope references, which were not necessarily judgmental but often emphasized martial violence and extreme difference. Melissa cautions that there is no stable “Ye Olde Book of Werewolves” with one static understanding of what werewolves are or were, but you will nevertheless get lots of ideas for your werewolf reading list from our discussion.

What do werewolves represent? Often they represent the beast within, and fear of oneself, which is clearly a theme of Rowling’s series, especially with Remus Lupin. Renée explains the significance also of Fenrir Greyback (and his name) and how both he and Lupin are searching for similar things: In struggling with their own identities, they look for communities in which they can find acceptance and play meaningful, powerful roles. Rowling’s archive of character histories reveals important contrasts between Remus’s and Fenrir’s developments. Werewolves in general, and these two characters in particular, explore the fear that having been a victim of a predator, one may become a predator oneself.

Newt Scamander in his Fantastic Beasts textbook has difficulty categorizing werewolves as “beings” or “beasts.” Rowling problematizes such a binary system, using the werewolf as a case study. Transformation is a fundamental, often involuntary part of werewolf nature. To her magical world, Rowling adds Animagi and Metamorphmagi, who transform at will. Why does she do that? What do we think about the concept of wolfsbane as a medical treatment for lycanthropy? We look at the various metaphorical readings scholars have used to understand Rowling’s transforming characters, the alchemy of these transformations, struggles with one’s own duality, and whether the novels support a romantic Beauty and the Beast reading of werewolf relationships. The movies, the Twilight series, and the new Fantastic Beasts films (especially Nagini) – we leave no stone unturned in this conversation! Human/animal transfiguration, we realize, is genuinely at the heart of Rowling’s most important themes.



Shared Text: Ragtime Hedwig, Smart Guy

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‘Beedle the Bard’ Celebrity Audiobook

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

Guest Post: Keats Epigraphs in Strike5?

Why John Keats “May” Provide Epigraphs (and other materials) for Strike Five

By ChrisC

A recent theory on this site is that Marilyn Manson’s lyrics will form the epigraphs for the next Cormoran Strike Mystery. I have an alternate take on that subject, however. What if the poetry of John Keats is what readers have to look forward to, at least in terms of thematic chapter-header quotes in Book 5?

My reasons for bringing this up center around one of the author’s clues and the literary subject matter attached to it. The clue was Ms. Rowling’s brochure for the Chelsea Physic Garden. It was founded by the Society of Apothecaries in 1837, and Keats was an intern there as part of his early medical studies. His notebooks demonstrate a remarkable knowledge of pharmacology, and both Hermione De Almeida and Jennifer M. Wunder have shown that Keats’ medical studies intertwined with his neo-Platonic-hermetic poetical interests. In addition to this, Keats was not the only Rowling linked artist to be related to the Chelsea Garden. There is one other author who, along with Keats, may form a major part of the fifth book’s creative compost. To find out more about this, and how Agatha Christie may have a part to play, join me after the jump. [Read more…]