Can You Say “Shared Text”?

Try to understand this article from The Stanford Daily, The Pensieve: Harry Potter and the Stanford Bubble, without a thorough knowledge of all seven Potter books. The title, premise, and argument of the whole piece is that you, the reader, know Harry’s adventures so well that I, the writer, have to explain absolutely nothing about it. The Hogwarts Saga is the foundation of the conversation, the cultural ‘given.’

Harry is the Shared Text of the 21st Century. I have a hard time imagining a faith community in the US discussing a topical issue with this many references to that faith’s scriptures with the kind of surety that this writer and The Stanford Daily editors have that their readers will get the allusions. (H/T to David G!)


  1. Arabella Figg says

    What a great article. Shared text, definitely. The author doesn’t even really notate references, either. No extrapolation. Either you understand this article or you are clueless. I think a non HP reader could get the overall intent of the author in relation to the college bubble references, but won’t get the richness of understanding to which the HP reader is privy.

  2. I love it. For one thing, it really describes the college experience, whether it’s Stanford or some other place. But the way they just sprinkled all the potter stuff throughout is very telling – they know (or assume) that the readers will get it. Cool.

  3. Red Rocker says

    Yeah, I see the assumption. I”m wondering how far we can generalize that assumption, however.

    Let’s assume it’s an article aimed at undergraduates. So they’d be how old? 17 to 20, maybe 21? The HP books were released between 1997 and 2007. When this generation were becoming readers. Assuming that most of these undergraduates are readers, then I think it’s safe to assume that a lot of the audience for this article will be familiar with the work: for them it is a shared text, much like LOTR was for their parents.

    Not sure that would apply to a non-undergraduate crowd though. I’m suspecting that to a large part of the general population HP would be a shared text through the medium of the movies rather than the books. Which is still fair – literacy levels very pretty low in the days when the Bible was the shared text. I’m remembering a tour guide in Northern Italy pointing at the stained glasss windows in a Church depicting different scenes from the Bible and explaiing that this is how the largely illiterate church goers got their religious education.

  4. Bob Hawkins says

    I spent a winter in Orsay, France, living in an apartment owned by the university. There were also a couple of biochemists from Manchester staying there. I’m a physicist. Our shared text was classic science fiction. We explained the work we were doing to each other by saying things like “The Galloway Gallagher story about the alien that could evolve instantly? You remember how Gallagher figured out it’s weakness?”

    A shared text is really convenient.

Speak Your Mind