Guest Post: Harry Potter and ‘The Goldfinch’

Today’s Guest post is from Claudia in Germany.  Claudia has a Master of Arts in Linguistics and German Literature, whose thesis was titled (auf Deutsch) ‘The Art of Reading: About the Cognitive Foundations of Reading in light of its Historical Development.’ She and I have corresponded on several topics and I begged her to write up her notes about the relationship of the Hogwarts Saga and the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch. Enjoy!

Dear Professors and Readers of the “Hogwarts Professor”,

This spring I received “The Goldfinch”, the Pulitzer Price winning novel by Donna Tartt, as a birthday present. Hesitatingly I began to read because the book has got 1000 pages (in German; English nearly 800; German title “Der Distelfink” = translation of the bird’s name).  And although I wanted to read the book because Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” was an unforgettable reading experience, I was not exactly looking forward to the story: I don’t like stories about adolescent teenagers, honestly, if they’re not about our favourite one.

And: I nearly didn’t make it to the end. I was constantly comparing the book to Harry’s story and all the time I wanted to step in and shake the guy (the protagonist) to make him come to his senses and react normally, positively, to come out of his depression. But he didn’t. I tried to jump to the end to find out if he made it, but it didn’t work, I couldn’t find out like that. So I did a fast read through to the end.

Well, my attitude towards the protagonist didn’t change and I’m still kind of cross with Ms Tartt for writing her protagonist the way she did.  But I made up my mind about the book. In my eyes “The Goldfinch” is possibly having a literary dialogue with the Potterverse. And I would be very interested in the HogPros opinions on this.

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Guest Post: Katniss Everdeen as Female Hero Archetype

Wayne Stauffer teaches writing and literature at Houston Community College in Houston, Texas. He has taught a Literature and Film class on the Harry Potter books and films and is preparing one on the Hunger Games.

The release of Mockingjay Pt. 1, the third installment of The Hunger Games movies, will give us our next cinematic visualization of Katniss Everdeen and the world of Panem. Since she is such a strong character and the protagonist of the books and films, our first thoughts turn to her as the heroine of the series. But Collins has written her as different kind of action/adventure story Hero than we have seen previously. Although she has many of the qualities of a Hero that initially come to mind, there is still something about Katniss that the usual hero analysis does not address.

Conventional literary hero analysis of fictional protagonists usually examines one or more of the following Heroic Male Archetypes as the protagonist seems to exhibit a preponderance of qualities of a given kind: [Read more…]

Guest Post: On ‘The Shadow,’ Harry Potter, and the Dark Lord

From Ying Zhao, an Augustana College student and serious reader of Harry Potter. I wish Eric, the name he asked me to use when I spoke with him at the Stronghold Castle retreat, had spent more time in this paper clarifying Jung’s idea of the Shadow and I am uncomfortable with the relativist aspect of Taoism, divorced from its foundation in the Absolute. The paper, however, is certainly an important stepping off point for excellent conversation! Enjoy.

Dark, the Other Side of Light

The conflict between the good and the evil has lasted for thousands of years. We say that the evil belongs to darkness; the good is blessed by brightness. However, what exactly are the evil and the good? Are they totally opposite to each other, or are they related, but we fail to see the hidden connection? As we can see in the novel series, Harry Potter, its main theme is also the battle between evil and justice, dark against light, Lord Voldemort versus Harry Potter.

So the question becomes: is Voldemort truly evil or is he the “shadow” of Harry which Harry must own and turn toward good? Of course, those who are Potter supporters will argue that Lord Voldemort, the Dark Lord, is evil and destined to be overcome by justice, because of his mercilessness, racism, cruelty and his unhesitant ability to murder. However, if we see the seven Harry Potter books as a whole circle, which is the transformation of both Harry and Voldemort, we shall find that the hero and the Dark Lord are connected tightly, and to some extent, Harry “is” Voldemort and Voldemort “is” Harry. It is Voldemort who makes Harry the hero of the wizard world.

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Guest Post: A Conversation (and Drink) with Aristotle

Ever wonder what Aristotle, whom Thomas Aquinas called simply “the Philosopher,” would say about life in these United States? About the possibility of living a fully human life in an increasingly autocratic democracy? About television? I have. Hence my excitement about this essay written by Joshua Sturgill, a student at St John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Enjoy!

A Symposium with Aristotle

It is said that one day the Caliph Mamun saw a bald-headed man with a long beard and broad forehead sitting on his private couch. In awe and with a trembling voice the Caliph inquired: “Who are you?”  The man replied, “I am Aristotle.”

–          9th century Islamic legend

For most of the evening, I had been reading in my room at a desk built from empty wooden wine crates and a thrift-store-find end table.  My old lamp poured light over pens and papers, a wine bottle still three quarters full, and an open copy of the Nicomachean Ethics. I was deep in thought, considering a particular question – an uncomfortable but intriguing question growing in my mind since I’d come across the phrase “the Philosopher will, more than any other, be happy.”  Certain modes of concentration cause a loss of connection with time and the senses.  I don’t recall how long I was in that suspended state when I was suddenly aware of a strange noise behind me.

It wasn’t actually strange; it was the quite usual sound of the sigh of springs in my reclining chair, which I hear repeatedly throughout the day.  What made the familiar sound so strange – for a moment, ominous – was that I’d been alone in the room a moment before.  Dread, curiosity and surprise erupted simultaneously, and startled me back to the present.  I reflexively turned to see the cause of the noise.  An old man, he wouldn’t have been very tall if standing but he seemed weighty, a broad-shouldered old man with a long beard and sand-colored robes was sitting casually in my chair as if waiting.  He stared calmly at me with eyes blue as the Aegean.

“Who…?” I began, but lifting his hand with a dismissive gesture, he brushed away the question.

“I believe you had something to ask me,” he said.

For a moment, I couldn’t even remember what I’d been pondering all evening.  I simply stared back at him in mild unbelief.  The old man smiled – a smile mostly in his eyes – and said, “Those who know will pass their time more pleasantly than those who inquire.  But both may equally enjoy a glass of wine during the lesson.”  My brain coming ‘on-line’ so to speak, I immediately stood up to fetch an extra coffee mug and I poured him some of the Bordeaux I’d opened an hour earlier.

“Very good!” he said, “we’ll make it a proper Symposium, and have your question as the topic of our discussion.”  He took a drink of the wine, and settled back into the chair.  He seemed ready for me to begin.

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Joshua Richards: The Wizarding Ghetto of Harry Potter

‘On the Wizarding Ghetto of Harry Potter,’ a Guest Post from Prof Josh Richards, Palm Beach Atlantic University.

The thought arose the other day: “Why isn’t the Wizarding World like Tolkien’s elves?”  A strange comparison to consider initially, sure, but it is not so unjust of one. Both are a race of secluded magical beings in possession of powers beyond the pale of the mortals around them. Yet, they could not be more different. Although Tolkien’s elves are less powerful magically than the wizards, they are enlightened epicureans, but the wizards… not so much.

Seeking the reason for the divergence led me to some interesting tensions in the Harry Potter series and the conclusion that Rowling’s 1960’s upbringing and concomitant class prejudices has a stifling, if not outright deleterious, affect on the world-building in Harry Potter. This may seem a strange thing to assert, but the positives of it—the focus on inclusion, social justice, and concern for the downtrodden—are well-known. However, the axioms of this background, especially in the world’s fantasy setting, produce substantial dissonance.

First, we must consider that it is axiomatic to Rowling’s upbringing that one human is never superior to another in any substantial way. However, she also creates a world divided by the possession of an innate ability by the whim of fortune: those who can cast magic and those who cannot. Yet, somewhat mysteriously, to think that wizards are, in any way, superior to muggles is seen as so monstrous a supposition that it is strictly the province of those who murder and torture for fun. [Read more…]