Shared Text: Lord Volderdoch?

This just in: Rupert Murdoch to buy The Daily Prophet!

This, at any rate, is what’s reported in an article in Slate (7/11/2011). Jack Shafer, the magazine’s editor-at-large, has written a rather scathing column comparing the media oligarch to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. With a headline calling Murdoch ‘the Dark Lord of Media’, Shafer reveals more than passing knowledge of Potterlore in writing his critique:

The more obvious acquisition for Murdoch would be the Quibbler, an off-the-wall tabloid given to half-baked conspiracy theories. But Murdoch has experience in reshaping prestigious or dominant newspapers, such as the Times of London and theWall Street Journal, to his design. So rejiggering the Prophet, the establishment voice in the wizard world, to a more popular format shouldn’t be too difficult for him.

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Thoughts on Life Imitating Fiction

Shared Text and Osama bin Laden
by John Granger and John Patrick Pazdziora

Amid the endless stream of op-eds surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden, The New York Times provides us with a surprising example of shared text. In “9/11 Inspires Student Patriotism and Celebration” (NYT, 3 May 2011), Kate Zernike reports on analyses of the jubilation many young Americans have expressed in recent days:

In the world of the so-called millennial generation, said Neil Howe, a writer and historian who is often credited with defining that term for the generation, “Evil is evil, good is good. There are no antiheroes, there is no gray area. This is a Harry Potter vignette, and Voldemort is dead.”

“In a Harry Potter world,” he said, “their mission is to save the world for the rest of society. This is their taking pride in what their generation is able to do.”

All political questions aside, Mr. Howe’s assessment is striking for a few reasons. First, it seems to affirm what we’ve said around HogPro often enough—the fictional character and the real world elide in a transcendent, near-religious experience that creates a sense of communal identity. The man who may have defined the “millennial generation” now asserts that they find their identity through Rowling’s fantasies; they live in “a Harry Potter world.”

Second, this is a casebook study of the classic misreading of Rowling’s work.

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A Conference for Muggles

The academy seems to have finally discovered Harry Potter. And I’m not talking about any of those embarrassing incidents where my fellow academics release ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘field-defining’ monographs which unwittingly reiterate ideas Professor Granger wrote ten years ago. My news today is much more par for the academic course.

The School of  Writing, Rhetoric, and Technical Communication, James Madison University, is hosting ‘Replacing Wands with Quills: A Harry Potter Symposium for Muggle Scholars,’ a two-day conference in November. They’ve invited proposals from scholars and enthusiasts from all disciplines and levels. Their intention seems to be to prove that academic readers care about Harry and his friend just as much as the next reader, and that no one really cares what A. S. Byatt said about the series anymore.

The deadline for proposals is 15 May, so think fast. The academy is inviting us in–is that sort of like asking Fred and George to work in a research library? Hopefully this conference, like the one in Manhattan, will help deluminate the wonderful world of Potter Studies. As the CFP itself says: ‘After all, for us muggle scholars, magic happens when we make knowledge and meaning.’

You can read the call-for-papers below the jump, or at this website.

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Why Read Fiction? A Perspective

So, what's this lady in a boat got to do with anything?

When was the last time you read a book for fun? For education? For spiritual enlightenment?

When was the last time it was all the same book?

If you’ve been studying here under the Hogwarts Professor, I’m guessing that might be pretty recently. But I think for many readers—including myself, in fact—the association between basking in a good story, didactic reception of knowledge, and the spiritual apotheosis of great art isn’t immediate or easy. It’s an old trope but it’s a true trope: we of the West have learned how to compartmentalise.*

The problem with implicit assumptions about the world, of course, is that they’re implicit. It takes a lot of self-scrutiny and a willingness to succumb to an outside critique from art and truth to expose them.

So what do you do when you’re too busy to read those sorts of books, watch those sorts of films, visit those sorts of galleries? What do you do when you’ve been trained to operate within rigid compartments and methods of scrutiny that ignore the silent power of Story? What do you do when you’re supposed to be the one with all the answers?

Mike Duran of deCOMPOSE, author of The Resurrection (Realms/Strang, 2011), asks similar questions in a recent blog post: ‘5 Reasons Why Your Pastor Should Read Fiction.’ [Read more…]

There Be Dragons

[Editor’s Note: Welcome to the next title in the HogPro Book Club: C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. To get things started, Professor Pazdziora offers some reflections on literary and spiritual themes in the book. So, grab your copy and your reading memories, and get ready for a great series of challenging discussions on The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.]

There Be Dragons

A Reader Remembers
The Voyage of the
Dawn Treader

I know nothing about cartography. So maybe that’s why it’s always seemed to me like a strange and mystical science. There’s poetry in maps. I stare at those squiggled lines and neat text—geological tortures reduced to splotches of ink—the Sahara to Yellow 5 and the Nile to Blue 47—and wonder: have the mapmakers really been there? Did they sketch this from memory? From travellers’ tales?
From dreams?

It’s no surprise, really, that maps are central to modern fantasy literature. Tolkien began it, of course, perhaps following the example of Rider Haggard and the researches of (ahem) Allan Quartermain, or the legendary map that sent Squire Trelawney and the good doctor on their ill-fated adventure.

Any edition of The Lord of the Rings is incomplete without a large foldout of Christopher Tolkien’s painstaking and perfect maps of the Shire, Middle-Earth, and Mordor. Bilbo Baggins began his adventure with a map, of course. A map that showed where the treasure was hidden, a map with a secret door. And on the edge of the map—at the end of the journey—was the dragon.

And so the mapmakers gave us the warning:

Here there be dragons.

That was the legend on the edges of maps, the signifier that admitted fear of the unknown. The ancient cartographers drew dragons around the boundaries of the world. The quarters inaccessible to human voyagers were realms of deathly peril. Sea Serpents. Giant Squid. Sirens. Kraken. And dragons.

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