PDay Minus Eight: Friday 13 July, Enlightening 2007

Potter Week, the Eight Days before the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at midnight 21 July 2007 (“PDay”), will be celebrated at Hogwarts Professor with a daily dose of final thoughts from the HogPro All-Pros and my Seven Predictions from the Five Keys explained in Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader.

Let me start, though, with my notes from last Friday, PDay minus Eight, and the first Harry Potter Camp for Families, Enlightening 2007. If you couldn’t care less about my adventures there, hold your horses; in a few hours, I’ll have finished my Saturday predictions for posting! [Read more…]

French Literature Source for Severus Character? Polyeucte!

Another great letter! This one for Mary Norman, a French Literature major in school, who suggests that Ms. Rowling almost certainly has read a play, Polyeucte, in her French studies, in which play one hero’s name is Severus. This may be the source and it’s one, of course, that your favorite classicist could never have found. Thank you, Mary Norman!

Folks, keep those cards and letters coming!

Dear John,

I’m a Catholic homeschooling mother of five who absolutely loves Harry Potter, and thoroughly enjoyed your book, “Unlocking Harry Potter.” As a former graduate student in French Literature, I’m painfully familiar with Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault, but you actually managed to make these guys interesting! (Not that I agree with their philosophical conclusions — I told a professor once that if I actually believed what these men espoused, i.e., that there is no transcendent meaning to literature or life, I would go throw myself off the nearest bridge.) Thanks for producing a work of serious, yet entertaining literary criticism of Harry Potter. I’ll be anxious to hear what you have to say after Book 7 comes out.

I was dismayed when I read the article on Machiavelli’s Half-Blood Prince, because the arguments there were very compelling, and I really want Snape to be a good guy in the end, even if he doesn’t make his final decision for good until the end of Book 7. Just thinking back to my French Lit. days, I came up with another Severus connection that would kind of fit in with the Snape-loved-Lily theory, and the “bad-or-indifferent-Snape turns good” angle. There’s a seventeenth century play by Corneille called “Polyeucte” (in English, Polyeuctus.) The play is about a Christian martyr, Polyeuctus, who died during the reign of the Roman Emperor Decius.

There is an important character in the play named Severus (Severe, in French.) Severus, a Roman soldier, pagan, and favorite of the Emperor, is hopelessly in love with a married woman, Pauline, the wife of Polyeuctus. Severus is offered the opportunity to marry Pauline upon the death of Polyeuctus. In an act of unselfish heroism, Severus instead tries (unsuccessfully) to save Polyeuctus for the sake of Pauline. If memory serves me correctly, I think Pauline winds up being martyred also, and Severus comes over to the good side, accepting the truth of Christianity and vowing to defend Christians from the Emperor. Incidentally, there is a character named Albin in this play; he is the wise, but unheeded confidante of the weak and fearful Governor Felix.

The story of “Polyeucte,” of course, would be obscure to anyone but a French Lit. major, such as JKR! But there are so many possible sources for a name like Severus, and JKR undoubtedly had multiple reasons for choosing that name. I’ll just try not to be too upset if our Potions Master does in fact come down on the dark side. . .

Thanks for all your wonderful insights!

Mary Norman

War Against Voldemort = War on Islamofascism?

A retired US Army Special Forces Lt. Colonel sent me this editorial from a London writer printed in the Christian Science Monitor today. The article struck me as an important point of reflection during the release of Warner Brothers version of Order of the Phoenix.

The way Andrew Roberts describes the war — as a piece in the century-tested pattern of English-speaking nations combating fascist nations successfully as allies — gives it a resonance with the war against Voldemort as we see it in The Order of the Phoenix. The media, the government in denial of the threat, and the man-in-the-street don’t want to fight the war with the Dark Lord and resent very much those who insist on fighting it.

The problem with the analogy? The Wizarding World is turning on heroic, brilliant Albus Dumbledore and Harry Potter. The English speaking world has turned on George Bush and Tony Blair, easily lampoonable figures. (Is a George Bush that much different than an FDR? As different as the press of 1942 is from the media of 2007?) We find it impossible to see ourselves as anyone other than members of Dumbledore’s Army or as Christ’s faithful apostle. I’m afraid, the world being what it is, we are much more likely to be screaming for the easy way out of armed conflict against Voldemort or yelling “Crucify him!” One of the dangers of Potter-philia it seems is that we readers just yell, “Hurrah for Harry and our side, the repressed and marginalized!” The texts and culture don’t invite much self-reflection about how much we resemble the bad guys.

Ms. Rowling gives me the impression of being well-left of center politically but her stories are about moral courage in resistance to what is “easy” but “wrong.” If the regime — political and cultural — is left-leaning, then, do her stories foster a hawkish view of the struggle against terrorists like bin Laden? Is that the morally courageous position when the media mavens and most politicians are against this war?

Now, if that is the case, what percentage of Harry Potter Fandom could understand the conflict in these terms, with themselves as real-world players equivalent to the the silent magical majority condemning Dumbledore and Harry as self-important trouble-makers?

Just a thought.

At Stake in the Iraq war: Survival of a Way of Life
Unless the English-speaking peoples step up, they’ll lose the great struggle against radical, totalitarian Islam.

By Andrew Roberts

The English-speaking peoples of the world need to unite around their common heritage of values. And they need to sacrifice their naiveté about the true nature of war – and the losses that inevitably go with it. Otherwise, they will lose a titanic struggle with radical, totalitarian Islam. [Read more…]

Guest Essay4: “St. Norbert and the Canons Regular of Premontre — Reflections on a Bishop, a Headmaster, and the Twelve Uses of Dragon’s Blood”

A Bishop, a Headmaster, and the Twelve Uses of Dragon’s Blood

by Sally Palmer, 11 June 2007

Just before sitting down to type this essay (on 11 June 2007), I decided to peruse a few of my favorite HP fan websites. I noticed on one that the cover art for the “Deluxe Edition” of Deathly Hallows was released at the end of last week, when I was away for a nice long weekend with my family. So, I decided to check it out. I was shocked to actually see Harry, Ron, & Hermione riding across the sky on the back of a dragon! Shocked because the premise of my essay, as it rattled in my head over the weekend, was that Norbert (or at least his blood) was going to play a prominent role in the resolution of the story. And there he is, sailing across the sky with the trio in tow! As the clues I’ve recently uncovered suggest, it simply must be Norbert coming to their aid and not just your average, run-of-the-mill Welsh Green.

I’ve recently made an attempt to stay better connected to the Episcopal church’s calendar, holy days, and lectionary. To that end, I’ve got a copy of the Episcopal Ordo Kalendar at my home office desk. Works great when I’m at my home office, which I was last Wednesday, 06 June 2007. In the early morning, I looked at the calendar and noticed that it was St. Norbert’s Day. I thought, “Hmmm.. that’s interesting…sounds like Norbert the dragon.” Then I looked more closely at the date and noticed that St. Norbert was the founder of a Catholic Order known as the “Premonstratensians.” Norbert…pre-MONSTRA-tensians…sounds like Norbert the (monster) Dragon to me.

From perusing websites and reading her interviews, I’d learned that Ms. Rowling likes to collect names and use them for characters. A few other folks in the e-universe made the potential connection between St. Norbert and Norbert the Dragon long before me. Still others have pointed to the significance of dragon’s blood and the return of Norbert in Deathly Hallows (see blog postings under the “Literary Alchemy” section of www.hogwartsprofessor.com under “Dragon’s Blood & Elixir from the Philosopher’s Stone, in particular). But I was still curious to learn more about St. Norbert and the Premonstratensians. What I think I’ve found is way more interesting than just the name for a dragon. [Read more…]

Guest Essay3: Pat Robertson?

The Christian Broadcasting Network website offers a collection of Pro and Con Essays about the Suitability of Harry Potter for Child Readers.

Hat tip to Sandra Miesel, who observed: “Amazing how many positive articles they missed, isn’t it?”