Substack HogwartsProfessor New Posts

We’re at a little short of a month since I announced the opening of HogwartsProfessor on Substack and it’s been several weeks since I updated this site with links to articles there, pieces that are sent directly to our subscribers. Here is a quick review of how things work with a free subscription to our Substack posts and a survey of our first articles on that platform:

I write a longish piece on the artistry and meaning of stories (with a special focus on the work of Rowling-Galbraith) that is sent out every Thursday. On Monday, Nick Jeffery, Evan Willis, Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, and an occasional Guest Post writer share their thoughts and insights. We hope to be adding a podcast soon, which project of three years’ gestation, now that I’ve found a potential host and engineer, may at last be taking off.

Here are short summaries with links to articles you missed if you don’t have a subscription or follow our Twitter feed:

Traditional Symbols in Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike: A Perennialist View

The purpose of the move to Substack (for me at least!) was to get away from the grind of daily posting and the inevitable adulterization of prime content due to deadline pressure. Too many YouTube videos, discussions of Rowling’s twitter feeds, and fruitless-if-fun speculation about plot points in future books made by following the bread crumbs of Rowling, Inc’s marketing team. Not enough pieces about the power and meaning of story to enrich and transform lives via the imagination. This first post, one taken almost directly from my PhD thesis, was a marker of our change in direction at the new HogwartsProfessor and what makes us different and, yes, better than other sites for serious readers of Rowling and other writers.

Cormoran in Cornwall

Nick Jeffery explains why he thinks Strike will be returning to Cornwall, if not in Running Grave then soon after, and what this might mean in terms of the legendary story background Rowling-Galbraith has rolled into her Strike mysteries.

Literary Alchemy: Sacred Science, Sacred Art, and ‘The Alembic of Story’ (A Perennialist Explanation of J. K. Rowling’s Signature Hermetic Symbolism)

A fellow Potter Pundit last month wrote me to say that “No one living has made the contributions to Rowling Studies that you have” and I was chuffed, of course. When I am criticized by twitter-talents and third tier academics as a snob or non-entity, it is nice to have a note from someone who knows the score as a bit of reassurance. The contributions I think this writer was referring to are my exegesis of Rowling’s use of traditional symbolism, her psychomachia, the ring composition structure of her novels and Series, the Parallel Series Idea, her “bookshelf,” and Literary Alchemy. I get a lot of questions about the alchemy aspect of Rowling’s work, a subject that brilliant readers have been building on since I first discussed it in 2002’s Hidden Key to Harry Potter, so I decided to share another piece from my PhD thesis, this one on what Beatrice Groves calls “the alembic of story.”

Cyber Strike: AI Created Plot Synopsis for The Running Grave

I begged Nick Jeffery to write a piece on the use of artificial intelligence to predict the plot of Strike 7, and, gentleman-genius that he is, he obliged. Rowling twitter-teased her fan base to guess the next book’s subject matter as part of The Running Grave marketing roll-out, an effort more intense and more involved with each book as first week sales for the last several novels continue to fall. Nick’s piece is simultaneously a fascinating look at Strike7 possibilities and a fairly persuasive argument that AI technology will not be displacing serious readers anytime soon.

A Math Teacher Looks at the Heart of Geometry

Evan Willis’ first contribution to HogwartsProfessor on Substack went up this morning. On the surface it has nothing to do with Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, or even The Christmas Pig, subjects about which Evan has broken significant ground in the past. He writes instead about the ‘Heart’ or ‘Intellect,’ the so-called “cardiac intelligence” as opposed to the discursive “cranial” kind, that Coleridge called the Primary Imagination, the human faculty continuous with the Logos fabric of reality. Traditionally, the study of Geometry was considered the Golden Road to fostering this noetic faculty and I have never read a better explanation of why than Evan’s in this piece. (I also have never regretted so much not having had a math teacher like Evan in my elementary and secondary school years.)

Next week, Elizabeth Baird-Hardy will be writing about the new Hunger Games movie and I will return to posting on Thursday with, well, that will be a surprise. See you on the Substack!


Substack HogwartsProfessor First Post: First Principles and First Menu

The last weblog post, #2900, announced our move after twenty years here to Substack, the long-form writing subscription platform. Beginning today and for the immediate future, the opening paragraphs of Substack HogwartsProfessor posts will be available here a few days after they are sent to subscribers so readers who may have missed Monday’s announcement learn about the change. To read the whole post, subscribe — it’s free! — or just click here.

Welcome to HogwartsProfessor at its new home on Substack! Thank you for subscribing, and, in advance, for letting me know what you think. All suggestions about how best to utilize this platform are welcome, believe me, as I begin to climb the upside-down learning curve of a new dashboard and posting system.

Today, I want to offer a frank statement, one I will try to keep brief, of my first principles and perspective as a reader who writes about the artistry and meaning of beloved prose, poetry, and plays and a short prospectus of the subjects I will be writing about in our first months on this new platform. I rush to add that these are my guiding ideas and post menu, not necessarily those of the other writers who contribute pieces here.

In a nutshell, I believe that human beings are a story-telling species more than ‘rational animals’ and that the best stories and art create a portal to an imaginative or noetic experience of archetypal reality. The keys to grasping the depths of the work created by writers who intentionally embrace the goal of crafting this kind of fiction are the symbols, allegory, and structure beneath the narrative surface that deliver this iconological means of ego-transcendence. The bumper-sticker version of that is: “the stories that matter are the ones that best reflect the soul’s journey to spiritual perfection and encourage us on our journeys.”

This set of first principles reflects the Perennialist understanding of sacred art, which includes “non-liturgical” or “not-obviously religious” stories. The Perennialist understanding of myth and epic, of Shakespeare, Coleridge and Blake, as well as contemporary writers informs everything I write that qualifies as literary criticism. It’s traditional, which is to say “theocentric” view is in direct opposition to postmodern understanding, which reads literature and understands all art in profane terms, most notably using aesthetic, political, and intertextual measures. 

I promised to be brief on this count, so I will not go into a prolonged explanation or apologia for these first principles. I am obliged to note, though, that my use of them is the reason that I have consistently been able to see and explain the depths and power of writers, most notably J. K. Rowling, when the host of Critique authorities and academic specialists have missed it. Literary alchemy, traditional symbolism, the debts of Rowling (Collins, Meyer, others) to the Greats, maternal love as cipher for Christ, and chiastic or ring writing and the utility of the above in anagogical depictions of the soul’s faculties in trial, so-called ‘psychomachia,’ were all blind spots in contemporary criticism, frankly, before my Perennialist reading of Rowling.

[If Perennialist ideas of non-liturgical sacred art and their relevance to understanding fiction are terra incognita to you, I explain them at much greater length in this post about Rowling’s The Christmas Pig.]

As I start out here on Substack, I have a few ideas about what I will be exploring and explaining. This is my first menu of post topics about which I hope you will share your preferences as subscribers and the subjects or questions you want me to address. [Read more…]