Guest Post: The Potter and the Pilgrim — Alchemical Parallelism in Geoffrey Chaucer and Joanne Rowling (Carol Eshleman)

Carol Eshleman sent me these notes before her paper on ‘Literary Alchemy in the Canterbury Tales‘ that I posted last week. This short essay, though it includes some of the same material, speaks to the Potter-Chaucer parallels more explicitly Enjoy!

The Potter and the Pilgrim: Alchemical Parallelism by Chaucer and Rowling

Since becoming a resident of the Potterverse and engrossing myself in John’s books on the series, I’ve become a ridiculous fan of literary alchemy. Therefore, when my Medieval Literature professor told us we could do our term paper on any aspect of Middle English writings, I immediately yelled, “Alchemy!” in a fashion that would’ve made either of my favorite Grangers proud. In an equally unsurprising manner, the research that I was doing on Chaucer seemed to resonate with my own thoughts on Harry Potter. When uncovering the alchemical parallels that are used in the Canterbury Tales, I discovered literary devices strikingly similar to the ones that Rowling uses in the Hogwarts Saga.

In analyzing Geoffrey Chaucer’s famous work, it is important to keep in mind that although the pilgrims are telling separate tales, these stories are not told in isolation. Chaucer’s characters tell stories that comment on, extend, and often mock other tales that have been told previously in the larger narrative. The Miller’s Tale is extremely funny to read on its own, but it becomes more meaningful when seen as a mockery of the Reeve and of the Knyght’s Tale. A lifetime could be spent deciphering parallels between the various tales. The complexity of this endeavor is heightened by the state of the work as a whole. Chaucer never finished writing the Canterbury Tales, and the tales that are completed exist in fragments containing only several stories apiece. Luckily, this can be used to our advantage. Tales within the same fragment tend to have the greatest amount of connections. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Literary Alchemy in The Canterbury Tales

A Guest Post from Carol Eshleman!

The Canterbury Alchemist: A Pilgrim’s Allegory

A canon and his yeoman race up to Geoffrey Chaucer’s pilgrims, begging to be allowed into their party. What follows is a tale of failed transformation and the subject of scholarly speculation spanning centuries. Analysts have argued about purposes of the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale along extremes from Chaucer merely imitating the alchemical literature of his time to Chaucer himself being an alchemist. What is more intriguing is why an author would have an outsider intrude upon a set cast of characters after taking such pains to describe them in detail. Mark J. Bruhn points out Chaucer’s self-reflectiveness in this scene: “Chaucer-the-narrator poses from within the dramatic moment the inevitable and crucial question it provokes: who are these unexpected interlopers?” (289). Because the premise of Canterbury Tales is that a group of people on a pilgrimage to Canterbury each tell story, the solution to Chaucer’s purpose must lie within the tale this intruding character tells. The Canon’s Yeoman’s tale of alchemy thrust upon the greater cast of pilgrims points to a larger alchemical allegory that Chaucer wishes to impart upon his readers.

An argument can be made for Chaucer’s use of alchemy as an imitation of other literature during his time period. Indeed, the general format of Canterbury Tales is an amalgamation of medieval literary genres, which fits with alchemical symbolism in general since alchemy “was not confined within the boundaries of few genres” (Linden 4). Because there were a plentitude of writings concerning the processes of alchemy, it’s highly possible that the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale was merely representative of this content as its own category of literature. The accuracy with which Chaucer portrays the alchemical process, however, is an extensive subject for debate. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Liturgy, Literature, and Mythopeia

A Guest Post from Chris Calderon!

Liturgy and Literature: an idea on Mythopoeia and the Nature and Origin of Story in relation to St. John

In his excellent book Planet Narnia, Michael Ward talked briefly about a theologian named Austin Farrer, who was an acquaintance of Lewis and Tolkien, and even mentioned a book he wrote, A Rebirth of Images, the Making of St. John’s Apocalypse. What Farrer wrote is really an exposition of both the layout and the philosophy behind the most controversial book in the Bible, Revelation. For many Christians just the mention of that name is all it takes to fill a whole room with uncomfortable looks, and they’re not alone. In fact, there is a rumor the early churches debated about whether it should ever even be in the Good Book. If any of it is true, thank Goodness sense prevailed.

Farrer’s book is the kind of tome you love to get a headache from. It is both frustrating in the extreme, and yet it rewards you for paying attention. Part of this has to do with Farrer’s subject matter (how could a theology of Revelations not be difficult?) and partly through his roundabout elliptical style of writing that winds round itself like a Ouroborus swallowing its own tail. Nonetheless, if the reader trudges on, and is very perceptive, perhaps some interesting ideas contained in St. John’s Revelation begin to show themselves, such as the apostle’s use of planetary symbolism, the intriguing suggestion that he is presenting a “Sacred Diagram” of the universe, and the possibility that we are presented with at least one of the possible origins of Western Literature as we know it.

The best place to start is from Farrer’s follow up to Images with a quote from page 44 of his The Revelation of St. John the Divine: Commentary on the English Text, which is given in full (italics mine): [Read more…]

Guest Post: A Sequel to E.M.W. Tillyard’s ‘World Picture’ Classic and a List of Holiday Gift Suggestions — Yes, More Books!

From Chris Calderon, friend of this blog and creative connector of disparate ideas, here are some notes and holiday gift ideas!

It all started about five or so years ago with this girl.  We’ve never met, I just ordered a copy of Diana Glyer’s The Company They Keep.  Which is about, as it’s subtitle says, C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community.

During the course of her book Glyer makes several references (pgs. 29, 217) to a book called The Precincts of Felicity by Charles Moorman.  According to Glyer, Moorman’s book was reviewed (and perhaps damned with maybe too much faint praise) by Warren Lewis.

Centering on The Inklings (with special emphasis on Charles Williams, along with Dorothy Sayers and T.S. Eliot), Moorman’s central thesis is that (following Williams) the central theme running through the entire oeuvre of the Big Three Mythopoeicists (and also in the work of Eliot and Sayers) is summed up by the image of “The City”, or De Citivis  Dei (New Jerusalem).

What does all this have to do with E.M. W. Tillyard, and why should I care about him? [Read more…]

Help ‘MuggleNet Academia’ Win a 2013 Podcast Award!

A Message from Keith Hawk, Host and Producer of ‘MuggleNet Academia,’ the Podcast for Serious Readers of Harry Potter:

Hello, HogwartsProfessor — MuggleNetAcademia Family!

I am incredibly honored to announce that MuggleNet Academia, featuring John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor, has received a nomination for the 2013 Podcast Awards in the category of Education. This is all due to what John and the guests of our show have brought to the discussion table and the fans are rewarding us with this nomination.

I would like nothing more than for MNet Academia to be announced as the winner for this award, but to do that, we have to beat some very good podcast competition in our category. I will need ALL of you to help with this by not only casting your votes, but helping to spread the word just like you have when you’ve heard a program that you really liked. i.e., Tweet, Like, Blog, Message all about the award nomination and how to vote.

The MuggleNet Podcast Family has been nominated in 4 categories, so while you are voting for the MuggleNet Academia show, I would like to ask that you also cast your vote for our other shows:

  • Alohomora! – People’s Choice and Entertainment Categories
  • Hogwarts Radio – Best Produced Category
  • MuggleNet Academia – Education Category