MNet Academia: Hogwarts Profs Talk Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Keith Hawk of MuggleNet Academia invited the faculty, all of us, to talk about Fantastic Beasts, the film and the screenplay. A lot of laughs, insights, and questions on top of speculation and good grief guesswork — join us for some great conversation!

Link to MNet Academia podcast on Fantastic Beasts featuring Louise Freeman, Emily Strand, and Elizabeth Baird-Hardy!

Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them: A Round Up of HogwartsProfessor Posts

fb21Your HogwartsProfessor faculty has been writing up a storm in the weeks since the release of the first Fantastic Beasts film and the publication of J. K. Rowling’s ‘Original Screenplay.’ We’ve had such a flurry — blizzard? — of posts that you might have missed one or two as they were bumped down and off the front page by recent arrivals.

In the local tradition of rounding up posts on a specific title for the convenience of serious readers (see our Hunger Games round up page for a previous effort), here is the growing catalog of links to the work here so far. We recorded a podcast last night with Keith Hawk at MuggleNet that I know you will enjoy (because we had a lot of laughs and mind-blown moments ourselves while recording it).

Until Keith posts that show (he has!), browse and catch-up on the posts we reference throughout that wild and wide ranging discussion of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them!

the-doom-bar-professorJohn Granger:

Unlocking Fantastic Beasts: Finding the Text Round Up

Part 5A: So What? The Found Text and Its Meaning

Part 5B: The Shooting Script — A Corrected Text for Serious Readers

Part 5C: Conclusions and Predictions


Elizabeth Baird-Hardy

Louise Freeman

Emily Strand

Christian Content in Newt’s Adventure? Third Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb17We’re working our way through the Seven Keys to J. K. Rowling’s artistry and meaning to work the locks on the novelist of renown’s first screenplay, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. So far, we’ve covered the Ring Composition structure of the Newt Saga’s first installment and Narrative Slow Release, the over-arching questions that the author introduces in the opening episode of her various series. There is a fairly lively discussion still going on at both those threads and I hope you’ll join in to share your comments and corrections.

The key I want to take in hand today was once fairly controversial among serious readers of Harry Potter, not to mention the dedicated legion of Harry Haters, academic and church divisions. That key, of course, is the Christian content and traditional symbolism of the Hogwarts Saga. When I first wrote about this in 2002 at perhaps the height of the Potter Panic, Harry Potter had become something of touchstone or litmus strip for devotion or apostacy among certain Evangelical, Catholic and Orthodox sects. Back then few professors were interested in Rowling’s work except as a cultural artifact and evidence of a world-wide return-to-the-intellectual-cradle.

fb28My demonstration in the book which eventually became How Harry Cast His Spell that the first four novels were nigh to overflowing with Christian symbols and artistry (and magic!) taken directly from the English literary tradition’s extensive vault and my argument that this was actually the reason for Harry’s global popularity were both well received among serious readers, less so with church ladies and academics. Now this radical idea is usually found in the “we’ve always known that” file of Rowling appreciation. Which is good news.

Today I want to open the discussion of the Christian content in Fantastic Beasts. I think, after seeing film once and having read the screenplay in the Scholastic 297 page edition, that Beasts promises to be at least as misunderstood as Harry’s adventures were and for much of the same reasons. The movies will have a traditional message and it will almost certainly be as obscured by cultural war concerns and virtue-signalling as was the Hogwart’s Saga’s artistry and meaning. For much more on that, join me after the jump. Spoilers everywhere below! [Read more…]

The Back Story We’re Not Told (Yet): Second Thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

fb21Is Newt Scamander working as Dumbledore’s secret agent in Fantastic Beasts? I think so.

Last Sunday I posted my first thoughts about J. K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts screenplay-as-filmed and the response to that  post has been rewarding and exciting. If you haven’t read that long-playing post, please do. The short version is that Rowling, whose Harry Potter series and individual novels were written on the traditional story-telling turtle-back template of hyper-parallelism (tagged ‘Ring Composition’ by anthropologist Mary Douglas), has not departed from form but has written her first screenplay on the same model. The blowback in my inbox this week, from Potter Pundits who have seen the film but not read the screenplay text, and from two traditionalists who have read the screenplay but not seen the movie, has been uniformly positive.

In the week since I wrote that post, Fantastic Beasts has been blowing its competition out of the water in box office sales. Reviews have been positive for the most part but, really, do Potter-philes read reviews to make the go/no-go decision? We’re all but obliged to see the film and read the screenplay, if only to keep up in conversation with other Harry-heads about Newt’s adventures (and complain about while secretly looking forward to seven years of Harry Potter on teevee beginning in 2018).

fb30Today, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, I want to take the next big step in understanding Fantastic Beasts to fuel those conversations. In this marathon discusssion, I’ll be pointing out the probable parallels we should expect, not between scenes in this movie, but between Rowling’s series artistry here, just begun, and that of her Hogwarts Saga, complete, and her Cormoran Strike mysteries, of which unfolding work we have the first three books. I think there are significant pointers in the first Beasts installment about what the five film franchise will divulge just as there were in Harry’s Philosopher’s Stone and Cormoran’s Cuckoo’s Calling. Hint: it’s the back-story to-be-uncovered in each chapter.

The big reveal is that Scamander and Grindelwald are already well known to each other — and that Newt’s mission impossible from a certain Transfiguration professor is to find and subdue his nemesis.

If you haven’t seen the movie or read the published screenplay, you might want to stop here. If you’ve already enjoyed the story once or twice (or more) in the week since it opened, join me after the jump for a first sally in what very well may be an almost decade long adventure in story interpretation and speculation. [Read more…]

Louise’s Belated Fantastic Beasts Response

fb-pictureI couldn’t hit the opening night of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them because I was attending the Morality, Moral Philosophy and the Humanities in the Age of Neuroscience Conference, so I decided to wait until my daughter was home from college so we could go as a family. As a result, I have been avoiding spoilers for almost a week. Last night, after we got home, I went through a bunch of Hogpro posts, emails and my copy of the screenplay that had been sitting in its cardboard Amazon box since last week. So, after bit of day-before Thanksgiving cooking, and a nice hot cup of cranberry wassail, I’m finally sitting down to write my initial response.

I share the positive response of most other Wizarding World fans: it was a well-written, exciting film that fills in part of the backstory of JKR’s magical world without infringing on (or re-writing) any of Harry’s story. Newt was a lovable if unlikely hero, the Goldstein sisters strong female leads and Jacob Kowalski a delightful Mary-Sue character for all Muggles:  the No-Maj who got to be part of the Wizarding World, albeit for a short time. Add that to the speculation that Queenie and Jacob’s descendent will eventually play Quidditch on the US team, and you have the ultimate wish fulfillment for many fans. [Read more…]