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On Critical Reception of Harry Potter and Twilight: “It’s Deja Vu All Over Again” (Part 3: Artifact)

For Part 1 of this post, click here. for Part 2, click here, or just scroll down on the home page.

I went to the library tonight to pick up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on CD (I am driving to Connecticut tomorrow for a Zossima Press lunch and to sit in on a class at Yale; they’re reading Goblet and discussing Christology so I thought I’d listen to Jim Dale telling the TriWizard Tournament story on the long drive up 287N). Our local library has a wonderful woman at the helm and she teased me because it took me so long to find the Potter CDs. “Your children would have been able to find them right away.” Because she knows what I write and talk about, she asked me why I needed the audio versions of Goblet and what I was thinking about these days.

I took a deep breath and said I was reading Twilight. After reading this afternoon one self-anointed Potter maven’s disdain for my suggestions here that there is something more than Harlequin Romance in Stephenie Meyer’s books, I half expected her to laugh or do the eyeball-rolling headshake dance. Instead she asked what I thought of them, obviously very interested, and, when I expressed my doubts that teenage girls were the niche audience propelling these books to sales approaching 20 million, she laughed. She admitted that her experience was only anecdotal, but that what she had noticed was readers of every age, male and female, asking for, borrowing, and reading the library’s copies or their own in the library. Other than Harry Potter, she’s never seen anything like that.

I share this conversation for you to make of it what you will. It doesn’t demonstrate anything conclusive, of course, but it makes me think I’m not silly for thinking I’ve seen this situation before (“deja vu all over again”). The desire to bottle and stopper the Twilight Saga phenomenon as a tweenie fad is similar to the insistence in media and reviews for several years that Ms. Rowling’s novels were “just for children” and their success was due to kids loving Goosebump like stories, their susceptibility to clever marketing, and the madness of crowds. Potter mania couldn’t be about the stories being masterfully written and having transcendent meaning. [Read more…]

Guest Post: Anamnesis elements in Harry Potter

A guest post sent to me by Dr. Patrick Fodor of John Woods Community College in Quincy, Illinois, whom I met at my talk there last month. It’s not for the faint of heart or for anyone not familiar with sacramental Christianity but it rewards attentive reading. Thank you, Dr. Fodor! [Read more…]

A Rowling Thank You: “Entering Literary Worlds”

I received a letter this morning from the 17 year old webmaster of a Potter fan web site in Argentina ( He attached a letter from Ms. Rowling in response to one of his own, a letter which apologized for taking so long to respond and which closed this way:

“We do not enter literary worlds; they enter us, so I hope very much that Harry’s world will be with you forever, as it will be with me. I shall always treasure the readers who were generous enough to share their feelings with me in the way that you have, and I thank you, again, for taking the trouble to write.”

No doubt a sincere sentiment. What I found worthy of note, of course, was her almost throw-away observation about “literary worlds.” She reverses the conventional understanding of reader-entering-text to assert that world-enters-reader. I think this is worthy of attention for understanding her books rather than just “understanding what Ms. Rowling thinks” (the ever swelling celebrity focus within Potter studies, alas) for three reasons: [Read more…]

Chicago Maroon Interview Questions

Marcella Delaurentiis, a student reporter for the University of Chicago’s newspaper, The Maroon, sent me a list of questions last night for an article she is writing about my talk there on Halloween. I attach my answers here with the letter in which they are imbedded. Your comments and corrections, of course, are coveted. [Read more…]

From the Hogwarts Professor ‘Lost Posts’ Vault: “C. S. Lewis as a Goth with Cleavage? C’mon… The Half-Blood Prince JKR Interviews” (2005)

I am buried in final preparations for my mini-tour of the Midwest this week and writing Harry Meets Hamlet and Scrooge, a book I say I am writing in this old post, so I won’t be writing any giant pieces on Epigraphs or Elizabeth Goudge until I get back. I found this post in my WordPress dashboard, however, that you might find amusing. It is the post I wrote on the original Hogwarts Professor web site (not a web log) after the Grossman and Spartz-Anelli interviews had been published in the summer we first read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. It doesn’t have imbedded links but if you want to look back and have a good laugh at predictions made with confidence that didn’t turn out, this should make your day. Have fun!

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CS Lewis as a Goth with Cleavage? C’mon

The Remarkable Joanne Rowling Interviews after Half Blood Prince‘s release

The fanfare surrounding the release of the penultimate Harry Potter adventure, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (HP6), on 16 July may have drowned out the explosive news released in the days following Midnight Madness Parties around the globe. The five interviews given by Joanne Rowling, however, one each to Time magazine and the NBC television morning show, The Today Show, and three others to children fans of the books, have much of fandom reeling and Harry Haters crowing. This isn’t the Joanne Rowling anyone thought they knew except perhaps for those who always knew she wasn’t a “goodie-goodie.” [Read more…]