Reading, Writing Rowling 39: When in Doubt, Go to the Library: The Books Within the Books



Reading, Writing Rowling 38: Harry Potter and the Deadly Virus



Reading, Writing, Rowling 37: Troubled Blood? Spenser, Manson, and More!


From the MuggleNet write-up by Laurie Beckoff:

In this bonus episode John and Katy predict what will happen in the next novel in the Rowling/Galbraith Cormoran Strike series with the help of Elizabeth Baird Hardy (Milton, Spencer, and the Chronicles of Narnia) and Beatrice Groves (Literary Allusion in Harry Potter). Given the Strike 5 title Troubled Blood, John explains Rowling’s reliance on the blood motif in Harry Potter and ponders its recurrence in Cormoran Strike. We speculate about the possibility of Marilyn Manson epigraphs through the book, how Manson lyrics could connect with key characters, and whether this blows apart the potential for repeating the chiastic structure of the Harry Potter series. Other clues point to the phrase “troubled blood” in Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene. Like Rowling, Spenser mixes genres, with literary allusions abounding. Britomart, Florimell, and the Redcrosse Knight provide hints for the plot and characters of Strike 5: women in danger, Robin in disguise, depression and suicide, doppelgängers. From tattoos to Twitter headers, we leave no clue unexamined! Are we on the right track? What do you think?

Reading, Writing, Rowling: Werewolves!

From Laurie Beckoff’s write-up at MuggleNet:

In this supersized episode, John and Katy talk with literary scholars and werewolf specialists Dr. Melissa Aaron (California Polytechnic State University) and Dr. Renée Ward (University of Lincoln, UK) to reveal the true nature of beastly transformations in the Harry Potter series. “Everything you know about werewolves is wrong,” Melissa tells us, explaining the literary origins of werewolf lore and its key elements. Renée explains the diversity of classical and medieval lycanthrope references, which were not necessarily judgmental but often emphasized martial violence and extreme difference. Melissa cautions that there is no stable “Ye Olde Book of Werewolves” with one static understanding of what werewolves are or were, but you will nevertheless get lots of ideas for your werewolf reading list from our discussion.

What do werewolves represent? Often they represent the beast within, and fear of oneself, which is clearly a theme of Rowling’s series, especially with Remus Lupin. Renée explains the significance also of Fenrir Greyback (and his name) and how both he and Lupin are searching for similar things: In struggling with their own identities, they look for communities in which they can find acceptance and play meaningful, powerful roles. Rowling’s archive of character histories reveals important contrasts between Remus’s and Fenrir’s developments. Werewolves in general, and these two characters in particular, explore the fear that having been a victim of a predator, one may become a predator oneself.

Newt Scamander in his Fantastic Beasts textbook has difficulty categorizing werewolves as “beings” or “beasts.” Rowling problematizes such a binary system, using the werewolf as a case study. Transformation is a fundamental, often involuntary part of werewolf nature. To her magical world, Rowling adds Animagi and Metamorphmagi, who transform at will. Why does she do that? What do we think about the concept of wolfsbane as a medical treatment for lycanthropy? We look at the various metaphorical readings scholars have used to understand Rowling’s transforming characters, the alchemy of these transformations, struggles with one’s own duality, and whether the novels support a romantic Beauty and the Beast reading of werewolf relationships. The movies, the Twilight series, and the new Fantastic Beasts films (especially Nagini) – we leave no stone unturned in this conversation! Human/animal transfiguration, we realize, is genuinely at the heart of Rowling’s most important themes.



Reading, Writing, Rowling #33: Draco!


Laurie Beckoff at MuggleNet describes the conversation about the bad boy everybody loves to hate:

In this month’s episode, John and Katy talk with “Hogwarts Professor” Louise Freeman (Mary Baldwin University) and “Bathilda’s Notebook author Beatrice Groves (Oxford University) about the many facets of Draco Malfoy. We consider his literary and film predecessors, whether he’s the cool kid or not, and whether he breaks out of the cardboard villain stereotype. What does J.K. Rowling want us to think about him? Bea reveals surprising connections to both Kipling and the movie The Young Sherlock Holmes.

We also parallel Draco and other villainous characters in the series, like Dudley, to see how they compare as bullies and whether they have redemptive experiences. How do their relationships with their parents affect them? Both have life-changing experiences with evil that influence their actions at the end of the series. Louise explains the importance of parental influence and we consider the degree to which Dudley and Draco both operate as extensions of their larger families. Harry, as an orphan and a stranger to the magical world, has an ability to act independently that his antagonists do not. We look at the arc of the two characters over the whole course of the series and what events have the most profound influence on them. Particularly, Malfoy’s moment in “The Lightning-Struck Tower” gets our full attention, complete with Biblical and Shakespearean allusions.

Is the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child version of Draco the same character? We consider how the parenting, bullying, and friendship themes are carried into the play, and how it influences our understanding of Draco as a character. The Albus and Scorpius friendship might be a reimagining of Harry and Draco’s relationship, with Rose as perhaps the prejudiced bully character. Draco also functions as a symbol – with his cratylic name and dragon/snake references – which we explore in relation to literary allusions as well as the larger themes in the series. Harry’s ability to communicate with snakes, and his use of the Slytherin spell Sectumsempra against Draco, reflect his own ambivalence as his relationship with Draco develops. Should we feel pity for Malfoy, especially during that last year stuck in Malfoy Manor with the Dark Lord? Does Draco demonstrate any regret at the end? You do not want to miss this debate!