Shared Text: Rep. Giffords Reading Harry Potter

Like all of you, I was horrified by the shootings in Arizona two weeks ago and have followed the story of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ recovery, from the reports of her having died by an assassin’s bullet in her brain to her plans for a move to rehab as early as tomorrow. As we live in a Harry Potter universe, of course, I should not have been surprised that this story, which, for better or worse, overshadows even the murders of tens of thousands of people not far from Arizona, has a Hogwarts element to it. Prof. Freeman alerted me this morning to an article in Entertainment Weekly about the first book Rep. Giffords is reading since being shot: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

What else? Be sure to read the article to the last line. If the Hogwarts Saga were not this generation’s ‘Shared Text,’ could the reporter have used that as her exit line with surety that all her readers would ‘get it’? Of course not.

The KJV, Our Real ‘Shared Text,’ Hits 400 Years

We talk here about Harry Potter as a ‘Shared Text,’ meaning that it serves, because so many people have read it, as a common reference for discussion, almost a shoe-horn for getting into larger topics and as a language or experience for facilitating exchange of ideas. The Hogwarts Saga only has this function, though, because the Shared Text of Western Civilization, the book known as “The Book” and “The Holy Book” or more commonly The Bible, has lost much of its power via commonality and reverence even among  serious readers.

Allan Bloom noted this in his Closing of the American Mind:

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Shared Text: The Smithsonian Institute’s Three Cheetahs Are Named Draco, Granger, and Zabini

I am curious, of course, about why they named one of the three brothers ‘Granger.’ You can read more about the SI Zoo’s cheetahs and the decision to name them for Harry Potter characters here. The breeding idea seems to have worked out well, too. H/T to Lynn!

Call For Papers: ‘The Power to Imagine Better’

There will be an academic conference at which serious readers of Harry Potter are welcome in late October next year on the campus of Marymount Manhattan College (Upper East Side, NYC). The aim is to foster discussion of the “philosophical themes” of the Hogwarts Saga but it is interdisciplinary in the sense that “submissions are welcome on any philosophical theme or issue arising in the Harry Potter corpus that intersects with metaphysics, ethics, religion, literature, and/or politics.” The premise, dear to readers of this site I think, is that this is a justified exercise both in light of the value of the work itself and because of its pervaviseness in the global culture, i.e., that Harry is our “Shared Text,” like it or not.

I’ve already checked my calendar to be sure I can go and blocked out the dates. I hope to see you all there! [The complete ‘Call For Papers’ with proposal, location, date, and contact specifics is below the jump.]

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Shared Text: “Ze Who Shall Not Be Named”