‘Deathly Hallows’ and Penn’s ‘Fruits of Solitude’

I hope you have been following the discussion in the separate post below of what constitutes Harry Potter canon. The topic is of no little importance to the work we do here at Hogwarts Professor, of course, but that thread is also an excellent example of what internet exchanges can lead to but rarely do. I think we have come to a point, after no little give and take, that we accept there are four ways to understand literary canon with respect to the Potter novels, four ways that overlap to one degree or another but which differ enough to be understood independently. That discussion is certainly not over and I encourage you to jump in on that thread if you disagree or have a quintessential position that will square the circle and resolve all the contrary thinking there.

Here I want to apply what understanding we have reached and make an explicitly “textus primus” argument for the fullest understanding of the William Penn epigraph that is part of Ms. Rowling’s opening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. [Read more…]

Michael Ward on Prince Caspian, Mars, and CSL

Hogs Head Tavern landed an interview with Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, when he was in New York earlier this year and it is a WOW event. Of the many articles and reviews of the movie ‘Prince Caspian’ just released by Walden/Disney, all of which discuss the book as an aside or in lengthy comparisons, none of them captures what the book is about as powerfully as does Michael Ward in his answers to Johnny’s excellent questions at the Tavern. [Read more…]

Recovering the Medieval Imagination

“Isn’t Jupiter splendid these nights?” he exclaimed to one correspondent in 1938; “Do you ever notice Venus these mornings at about quarter past seven?” he asked his godson in 1946. “She has been terrifically bright lately, almost better than Jupiter.”

Sound familiar? How about Hagrid’s conversation with the Centaurs in Philosopher’s Stone? “Mars is bright tonight…”

But this isn’t a Centaur. It is C. S. Lewis. The quotations are from C. S. Lewis and the Star of Bethlehem, an excerpt taken from Dr. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia in Christianity Today’s Books and Culture. I commend it to your attention for these reasons: [Read more…]

What Alchemy Does in Harry Potter

Filit sent me a link to a livejournal posting by ‘Josef Djugashvili,’ Alchemy, What Might Have Been, in which post the writer and serious reader tries to assess the value of understanding alchemy (and specifically the stages of alchemy) in getting to the meaning of Harry Potter. The conclusion s/he comes to after examining the three stage process of black white, and red and a more involved seven stage process is that “IMVHO alchemy does not assist too much in our understanding of the Harry Potter series as it stands, whichever way one slices it.” S/He asks readers to “convince me otherwise.”

I’m pretty sure this kind of discussion doesn’t allow for premise-conclusion demonstrations that would convince any person of good will but I feel obliged to respond to the live-journalist (even if s/he has chosen Josef Stalin‘s birthname as an alias; I should confess this choice sets my teeth on edge and has made writing this an exercise). Here are three talking points for HogPro conversation today: [Read more…]

John Speaking in New York City this Friday Night: Literary Alchemy and C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

HogPro Alert! I have been invited to speak at the New York C. S. Lewis Society meeting this Friday night, 11 January 2008, and you are all invited. There will be no cover charge at the door and refreshments will be served after I talk (as good as those goodies are, the conversation is much better). If I run over time, I’m told, refreshments will be served during my talk.

The night’s topic is “C. S. Lewis and Literary Alchemy in the Ransom Trilogy” and I’m hoping to do three things in just under an hour: introduce literary alchemy as a stream in the river of English literature, explain why it is likely that Lewis was more familiar with the symbols and artistry of this tradition than any writer of the modern period, and, the big jump, that Lewis’ Ransom Trilogy or ‘Space Novels’ is an alchemical trilogy much as the Chronicles of Narnia are an astrological seven book set. I’ll be focusing on Perelandra, the second Ransom novel, both because it is the book in the set most readers I know remember clearly and because the alchemy of it is relatively transparent.

I hope you all will jump in your private jets and come! Here are the details from the website in case you can get there:

» Starting at 7:30 and breaking for refreshments at 9:00 pm
» At the Parish House of The Church of the Ascension,
» 12 West 11th St, Manhattan, NY
» Closest Subway: 14th St. Union Square
» On-street parking starts at 6:30 pm

If you cannot make it this Friday, you should make plans to come next month. I am really just the opening act for discussion of Lewis as hermetic artist; in February, Michael Ward, [Read more…]