Sword of Gryffindor: On Entertainment, Shared Texts, and Postmodern Literature

I love reading the interpretations of Ms. Rowling’s books and Potter mania as a cultural phenomenon that are posted at Travis Prinzi’s Sword of Gryffindor website. I always learn something new about postmodernism, for example, and thinking about thinking, even when I disagree with Travis or one of his stable of writers. Their latest essay, Sharing Our Entertainer: Rowling, Shared Books, and Pop Culture,’ is another winner. Dave, the author, closes with a Dante-esque suggestion that we need a guide to get us through the dark forest Ms. Rowling has chosen to leave us in about the specific meanings of her books. I nominate Travis Prinzi’s troop as the guides I’d follow, if only for sentences like this:

Thus, even as a truly shared text, what might be the concrete lesson to be learned? And Rowling herself has made numerous references to the idea that the texts are more about her struggles with these dilemmas than any answers she has to them — maybe the ultimate postmodern trope: a book with a lesson to teach about the dilemmas inherent in clearly defined lessons.

Check out the post — and enjoy the extra feature of a beautiful painting of Ms. Rowling that I think is pointedly Florentine or at least Medieval/Renaissance in intention and styling.


  1. Arabella Figg says

    I got my EW last night and read the Entertainer of the Year article, the best article on Rowling the mag (and many others) has produced. I recommend it.

    John has been my guide through HP and I’m so grateful for my dear professor. I enjoy Travis’ insights, too.

    Travis’ essyis excellent (would that I weren’t struggling with so much fibromyalgic foggy fatigue). I feel he has an excellent point. Our shared communications have become so vast, fluid and uncontrollable that any idiot can spout his/her dogma, then read by the ignorant and mutated through personal filters to be spread abroad in various forms as “truth.”

    I think Rowling has bestowed upon us a shared text of ultimate humanly shared questions, certainly a method of getting conversations started. If people gather around to discuss Harry, they may walk away with more questions than they brought to the table, provoking further searching. Instead of writing dogma, Rowling invites us to truly think yet offers clear clues to guide us. In our present culture, that’s certainly better food than that offered by 26 levels of a popular videogame or an agendized entertainment funneling one to pre-digested answers. This is why people will still be talking about Harry for ages.

    Hoping I’m making sense here, off to fix the kitties’ din-din…

  2. I believe it was Dave (the Longwinded) who wrote that essay.

  3. Travis Prinzi says

    I wish I had written that essay. It’s a great one! It came, rather, from the master mind of SoG Blogengamot member Dave.

  4. Travis Prinzi says

    Although I would encourage you to stay tuned for my next pubcast, which will tackle some of these issues as well…

  5. Sorry, Dave! Post amended.

  6. Dave the Longwinded says

    John and Travis, thank you for the props. I do want to clarify something I had to clarify in a comment at SoG. I don’t mean to suggest that we need someone to guide us through the books. But, I’m thinking that for a shared text to really function the way I understand it to, it needs a guide. And I’m not sure our culture allows for that — at least not very easily.

  7. JohnABaptist says

    It is fascinating that although Plato, horrified at the fate of Socrates, took Philosophy out of the bullring of the Agora and placed it safely in the Academy 2,500 years ago. Although the Agora itself, as a meeting place for the exchange of ideas, had at one point shrunken to a corner of Hyde Park on designated Sundays. Although the very subject of Philosophy itself had become one of leisurely exchange in the peer-reviewed, printed media where an “earnest dog-fight” might require a decade just to clarify who was actually fighting whom. Strangely enough, the Agora wouldn’t die.

    In the last decade, it has sprung back as strong and vital as ever in the blogosphere of the the Internet where exchanges take place at near conversational speed, ideas clash without any prior chance of examining their owner’s pedigrees or credentials. Opinions lock in a pure dog fight with nothing but the observers knowledge of technique and tactics to determine who might win or who may lose.

    Plato I think would be offended, if not downright terrified by the spectacle, remembering how just such freedom was the death of Socrates.

    Socrates, however, would have loved it. He would have taught himself to type one-handed with either hand so he could blog in two places at the same time! Safety and security out the window! Let dialog prevail!

    Alas! Socrates would find his work cut out for him as too much of the current blogosphere is not dialog but intermingled monolog–people holding deep conversations with themselves, but rarely interacting progressively from point to point with each other.

    I fear in most cases, blogs do not need moderators, they need Socrators. People who steer the boat by setting fairly minimal rules, then asking a lot of highly selective questions.

    I think the way through the fray is to pick your own “Socrates” and stand in their retinue. I picked John Granger, but I do like it when he wanders across the square so we can hear what Travis is saying in his group and what they reply.

    To both may I say, “Well done, team! Keep Soc[rates]king it to ’em!”

  8. JohnABaptist,

    I totally love the image of Socrates typing away one-handed on two keyboards at a time. And as they led him away to drink the hemlock because he’d asked one question too many, he’d still be tap-tapping away on his Blackberry, carrying on a philosophical discussion with Pullman on the notion of the Authority.

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