“Taking Stories More Seriously Than The Author”


  1. Addendum: Just as I posted this, I was sent a url of Ms. Rowling’s responses to questions in Toronto about Dumbledore. She seems to be asked why she didn’t reveal his sexual preference much earlier than she did, say, in the first story, because she is quoted as saying (and do you really believe everything you read in the papers?):

    Speaking at a news conference at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto, Rowling said she had decided on Dumbledore’s sexual orientation early on in her writing process but did not feel the need to reveal it explicitly in her books so she could focus on developing her characters.

    “The plot is what it is,” said Rowling, according to The Canadian Press news agency. Dumbledore “did have, as I say, this rather tragic infatuation, but that was a key part of the ending of the story so there it is. Why would I put the key part of my ending of my story in Book 1?”

    The “tragic infatuation” Rowling spoke of refers to Dumbledore’s friend-turned-rival Gellert Grindelwald, with whom the author said Dumbledore was once in love.

    Rowling made her revelation on Friday during at Carnegie Hall in New York when, according to the Associated Press, the author was asked by a fan if Dumbledore ever finds true love.

    “It has certainly never been news to me that a brave and brilliant man could love other men,” Rowling said in Toronto, reports Reuters, adding that, “He is my character. He is what he is, and I have the right to say what I say about him.”

    Make of that what you will. I don’t think it does anything but diminish the power of her story and obscure its meaning in the minds of readers for whom sexuality is the alpha and omega. As if being judged by the occult Wizengamot and Ivory Tower culture nazguls was not bad enough, the books now get to pass through the fire of every reader’s opinions about the issue of homosexuality and “gay rights.” I hope that we can get through the last two movies or just the remainder of the Open Book Tour without having to explore the abortion issue through the prism of the Harry Potter back story.

    It says a great deal about the power of her story telling that we care and know more about Ms. Rowling’s thoughts on homosexuality than we do about the positions of Presidential candidates on the war in Iraq, Social Security, and the nightmare of the sexual slave trade.

  2. Excellent essay referral. Thanks.

    Your comments and citations of Geo. MacDonald are spot on.

    JKR can certainly say whatever she wishes about any character to her hearts content, but canon is as canon was written and published beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. No recalling all those copies and rewriting them.

    She has done excellent work. She should now move on to her next project. Not that she can avoid all such discussions, but they need not only provide the Rita Skeeters of the world with fodder for their grist mills – which is what they deem ‘newsworthy’ according to their agenda.

  3. Dumbledore revelation ‘a positive thing,’ says J.K. Rowling

    Last Friday, Rowling shocked Potter fans and the literary community when she revealed the sexuality of Albus Dumbledore, the heroic headmaster of the wizard school in her series, before a packed reading at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

    The elderly Dumbledore, Rowling revealed, had as a young man been in love with a colleague who later became evil.

    “I know that it was a positive thing that I said it for at least one person because one man ‘came out’ at Carnegie Hall,” Rowling told reporters in Toronto Tuesday morning.

    JAB, I didn’t say she cannot have ideas about her characters that she doesn’t share and I haven’t told her to put a lid on it. Ms. Rowling — and calling her Lady Rowling is not complimentary when she hasn’t been knighted or married nobility or use the title herself — is a free woman. This forum, though, is about Harry Potter as literature and cultural phenomenon. How we read the text, consequently, is an important issue, which includes setting the limits of what constitutes the text. Is it the published Bloomsbury and Scholastic English books themselves? And interviews? And author’s web site notes? And movies? And translations into languages other than the Queen’s English and American equivalents? And author’s back-story, piece by piece or in published collection? And uncorrected manuscripts published after her death?

    Professor Reynolds draws his line as a teacher of Western Canon, not the lines drawn by Harry Potter Fandom (canon = texts plus interviews and author’s website). I think we’re seeing why Prof. Reynold’s standard is better than Fandom’s; as evident in Ms. Rowling’s comments in Toronto (if true), we’re being taken a looong way from text and its meaning. We’re not learning more; just the opposite is true. We know for a fact that no one fell in love with these stories and re-read them because of their homosexual content. But that is what we’re talking about, something that doesn’t exist in text or throw light on the story’s meaning (if you assert that it does, you are obliged to explain why it doesn’t occur in the books).

    Your argument is that she is not changing the meaning of the books by revealing back story. My point is only that by expanding canon she is, intentionally or not, modifying the meaning and focus she created by choosing what she would include in text and what she would leave out. That is not creating opposing meaning per se but it is significantly altering the composition and effect of the work which amounts to changing the meaning. A musical analogy? Adding a discarded movement or changed passage in a Symphony. It is no longer the work as presented and has a different and less powerful if arguably “more comprehensive” effect on the listener.

  4. Excellent post, John. Thanks for the link to Scriptorium Daily. As chrystyan posted on October 21 (heavily paraphrased by me), what JKR said on Friday is not found in the text anywhere, so saying it after the fact doesn’t change the canon of what she wrote. Once again, as seen today in Toronto, Rita and her crew are making much ado about nothing.

    I’ll say it again: the press … what a bunch of idiots.

  5. The Seven Clues Dumbledore Was Gay was a story published today in the LA Times. You’ll note they didn’t run (and won’t run) the story “Seven Drop Dead Clues Harry Potter was a Christian” and no reporter will ask Ms. Rowling if she believes “brave and brilliant men” can be disciples of Christ.

    The anti-metanarrative metanarrative is transparent in the culture war agenda of these reporters, if the intentio auctoris of each piece may be unconscious. After the years of controversy in the Christian community about the value or danger of the books, Ms. Rowling writes a book with “obvious” Gospel “parallels” and heavy “religious undertones” and then she says as much in an LA interview on a Monday. By Wednesday, only The Quibbler, I mean, MTV News picks up the story. The LA Times doesn’t cover it. Nothing in The Washington Post or The New York Times, either.

    But each paper ran features on the “Dumbledore was gay” revelation the day after a late night program at Carnegie Hall. Curious.

    Journalists are “a pack of idiots”? That’s “hate speech,” brother; be careful. Some of my best friends are journalists (or Journalism Profs). Take That, Christian Harry Potter Fans!

  6. Fantastic! Thank you for this post. I agree wholeheartedly.

    I think it ironic that Dumbledore’s alleged relationship was called “tragic infatuation.” Infatuation implies foolishness, but what was tragic? That the relationship was with Grindelwald or that it was SS. Tragic infatuation doesn’t seem to be a very good reason to cheer for the gay cause.

    The Toronto news post indicates to me that JKR says children can interpret the books as a friendship, while adults can follow the gay line. I’ll take the child’s line thank you very much.

    There’s not much relationship to imagine lasting only two months (over 100 years ago–remember how old Dumbledore really was) and Grindelwald fleeing after Ariana’s death, vanished and then taken down in the infamous duel. It wasn’t the relationship that consumed Dumbledore, but his grief over Ariana, the bad politics they (D & G) hatched together, and Dumbledore’s obsession with the Hallows. Remember it wasn’t the love affair with G that caused D pain by drinking the potion in the cave, but his love for Ariana and family. That’s the point of the lesson of Harry seeing his family in the mirror of Erised. And the point of “where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also.” Well, thank you so much, John, and Hog Pros for good insights and helps!! I’m not ready to take Dumbledore off the chocolate frog cards yet!

  7. JohnABaptist says

    Prof. John & Marine John,

    May the Baptist John quietly point out that all Lady Rowling has done is attend a series of public events and truthfully answer the questions that were asked of her? Sessions where the attending audiences were *actively encouraged* to ask questions about characters, events and motivations that lie without the textual canon of her work?

    In New York, a legally adult woman asked her, in a moment steeped in personal honesty and self-exposure, if Dumbledore had ever had a true love. Lady Rowling obviously felt she could not give less than an honest and mutually self-exposing reply. That is all that she did.

    In the answers given in Toronto she specifically states that she did *not* write Dumbledore’s sexuality into the canon of the story. By extension, she implies that it does not belong there. She merely reiterates that in order to create a character whose actions would be those of Dumbledore at that critical point in the derivation of the final plot–she was forced to think of him, privately, as an homosexual.

    Will you grant me (and by extension Lady Joanne) the supposition that no ethical author can write a major character into a story unless that character fully lives and breathes in the author’s mind? All Lady Rowling has said is that, in her mind, Dumbledore could not have done what he did without being gay. No other explanation would suffice in her mind to allow her to visualize this great, moral, ethical genius of a person doing what he does at that point in the story without becoming aware of what was happening before it was too late.

    But once the character was formed–once the dog had found his bark–Lady Rowling saw no need to interject this facet into the story itself. In fact, the story gains because she allows the reader to explore the Dumbledore living in the reader’s mind to see if they can find another motivation sufficiently likely to account for Dumbledore’s actions. A set of actions described in the very sparsely narrated, but highly critical episode occurring in Godric’s Hollow.

    Frankly, at the time I first read that passage, I said to my inner muse, “…by the way he is acting you would think Dumbledore was gay….” then I dismissed the thought and simply went on to evaluate all the other “unnatural relationships” that prevailed at that era (which I speculate on here: https://hogwartsprofessor.com/?p=198#comment-17359).

    Lady Rowling has never in any interview asked anyone to modify their vision of the story based on this non-canonic fact. It is we the public who seem to think these interviews make a great deal of difference, or have in some way altered the value or nature of the printed text.

    I concur with you Prof. John, the interviews don’t and shouldn’t affect that which has been written…but I must demure at your sub-text that seems to imply that the author is trying in some way to modify what has been published. So far as I can see she has not done so in any fashion.

    Perhaps it is we who should question what authority we have used as the basis for our reactions.

  8. Travis Prinzi says

    John, I intend to digest all this tomorrow and respond a bit, but I wanted to point out that Dave over at SoG has written an essay exploring the same discussion about the author and her text.

    Sister sites, indeed.

  9. mom_to_seven says

    Your essays are very helpful to me. Thank you.

    Too bad the mass media won’t pick this up and run with it:
    Question: How did you decide Molly would be the one to kill Bellatrix?
    Answer: Of course Neville had good reasons to want revenge on Bellatrix for his parents’ torture, but Rowling always knew it would be Molly who finally disposed of her. She said there were two reasons for this.
    1) She wanted to show that Molly was a very good witch in her own right who had, by necessity, been something of a “light under a bushel.” Her skills are considerable but always in the background – magical cooking, for example, is not easy – and Rowling wanted to communicate the fact that “because a woman dedicated her life to her family” doesn’t mean she lacks impressive abilities and powerful talents.
    2) She wanted to contrast two kinds of love: Molly’s maternal love for her children, which is the core of her life, and Bellatrix’s obsessive love for Voldemort. The showdown between these women is a meeting of, a battle between, these two kinds of love. In this case, Molly’s is the more powerful.

  10. In the abstract, I tend to agree with the original post and the tone of most comments in this thread. My personal frustration comes from having just read the first 4 books with my 7 year-old daughter, one of the warmest and best experiences we have shared together. JKR’s recent revelation does nothing to affect that experience one way or the other. But it does make me wonder how soon my daughter will hear the news from friends at school and return to me asking questions about topics which I would not have chosen for her to explore at this age, or in this context. Such is life and as a parent I know I’ll have to face many such issues and conversations. But I still wish JKR had kept this part of the backstory to herself. I wonder how many kids’ introduction to the topic of homosexuality will be forever connected in their minds with Albus Dumbledore. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe not. I’m still processing it. I’m not on a rampage like some conservative Christians, but I’m not able to shrug it off easily as “no big deal” quite yet, either.

  11. I think I’ll jump in here and give a slightly different perspective.

    I consider Jo Rowling’s extra canon information whether it be via her website, online chats, interviews with newspapers, or talks in front of readers to be similar to extras you find on a DVD. If there is a movie I particularly liked, I will listen to the director’s commentary while watching the entire movie again.

    I like hearing all kinds of trivia associated with movie making. I also love to watch deleted scenes – I watch them free of commentary and also with director’s commentaries. Why? Because it helps me to understand how other people’s creative minds work.

    Sometimes I totally agree with their decision to cut a scene and other times I wished that they had left it in for it explained things that got lost on the cutting room floor.

    There are a few questions I have for Jo that I don’t know that she will ever be asked, but I would like answered. I would like to know whatever happened to Barty Crouch, Jr.’s soul less body at the end of Goblet of Fire. Did he get put in some long term care wing at St. Mungo’s? I mean, what happens to you once your soul is removed from your body?

    The second thing is I want to know why she did not allow Harry to grieve properly for Sirius. I want to know why she did not have a memorial service for him. Something.

    Her entire series was about death and here was the death of a significant adult in Harry’s life and nothing was done to mark his passing.

    I still find that offensive. Especially in contrast to her having Hagrid weep over Aragog.

    Will that change anything in the text? No, but I want to know why it wasn’t included. If she says that it would have slowed down the ending of Order of the Phoenix I shall understand, but then she would have to explain why she didn’t put it in at the beginning of Half-Blood Prince.

    To me it was a glaring omission from her series because as a fan of Sirius I wanted that closure for his character.

    I want to know as a writer why she chose not to include it.

    Nothing will change the canon as it stands, but that is something I want to know.


  12. Well, this didn’t take long… Is it possible that much of reader disappointment with Ms. Rowling’s Tour and the current media buzz about Dumbledore’s sexuality is because Pottermania, at least at sites like this one and Sword of Gryffindor, has been a counter cultural phenomenon. Is the disappointment because the media circus now has a resonance with movies like Idiocracy?

  13. John:

    Thank you (all of you) for your illuminating posts. As I suspected, now that she has revealed it, Rowling is being pressed with additional queries about Dumbledore’s homosexuality. Each new statement she makes will either clarify or further confuse the issue.

    But on the literary issue of interpreting the text as it stands (the final form of the text) as opposed to the text’s “afterlife”: CHRYSTYAN has urged in a couple of posts that we reread the actual sections of HPDH that cover the Dumbledore/Grindelwald relationship to see what that material in fact says about that relationship. I must agree with CHRYSTYAN that the text itself yields nothing to support directly the idea that Dumbledore was sexually or romantically attracted to Grindelwald. Put briefly, in the story, the two characters, both young and precociously brilliant, are drawn to one another owing to a shared passion for magical learning. Dumbledore, who is lonely, discontented, and resentful because of the tragic circumstances that compelled him to give up his vocation to care for his sister, is seduced by Grindelwald’s revolutionary ideas and his own youthful hubris and lust for power. Nothing here suggests a love relationship.

    Particularly in the King’s Cross sequence, Rowling, who has Dumbledore say there shall no longer be any secrets between himself and Harry, had opportunity to reveal how Dumbledore’s romantic love (or as she recently declared, his “infatuation”) for Grindelwald was the real reason he deceived himself about Grindelwald’s motives in his youth and for his reluctance to confront him in battle in later life. But Rowling chose not to include this information or develop that aspect of Dumbledore’s character. In effect, then, in the story itself, that aspect does not exist, since Rowling never specifically surfaced it.

    Rowling claimed that she had “always” viewed Dumbledore as gay. In her recent comments, she clarifies this by saying that she decided this about the character “early on,” and says of Dumbledore’s “tragic infatuation” with Grindelwald, “Why would I put a key part of my ending in book 1?” Again, she here implies that Dumbledore’s homosexuality figured as a resource for developing the character and plotting her story as early as during her writing of the first book in the series. But is Dumbledore’s “infatuation” or love for Grindelwald really a “key part of her ending” when the work itself tells us nothing at all of how this “infatuation” motivated his actions?

    I find her comments very strange. Given the actual final form of the narrative, I fail to see how, in the story itself, Dumbledore’s actions were motivated by romantic love for Grindelwald. On the face of it, this new aspect of Dumbledore’s character, and how it figures into the story, almost seems to be an ex post facto revising or retconning of the actual story of Dumbledore and Grindelwald as told in book seven.

    But her public statement about Dumbledore’s sexual orientation is overwhelming the actual story as written. The text, in short, is being lost in the hubbub. That’s understandable. Her statement was so shocking, and deals with such a contentious social issue, that it is being manipulated by cultural forces for its political value. She might as well have said that Hermione spent her post-Hogwarts career as a pro-life advocate.

  14. John, now that the additional storyline has been revealed by JKR, I do believe we need to develop an apologetic. If we truly believe that the H-P books are Christian, and I believe they are, we need to do what is right and not what is easy.

    Coming out of the closet isn’t enough, but coming to Christ with all of our wrongs–sins of omission and commission, and sins against our brothers. The Word of God is the great mirror that we look into reflecting all of our faults.

    I have always wondered when in time Dumbledore had acquired Fawkes the phoenix. Dumbledore lived a long life, made a lot of mistakes, and because he was clever made even huger including admitted selfishness, seeking power and glory through wrong choices, the wrong sort, and pursuit of Hallows. He suffered severe consequences, heartache and loss of family. But I believe the phoenix took up residence with Dumbledore when he expressed remorse, received forgiveness and comfort for the guilt and shame of his past

    How do I know this? Because the Phoenix carries immensely heavy loads, his tears have healing powers, and when he is about to die bursts into flame and rises from the ashes. To me Fawkes represents a visible sign of the Holy Spirit assisting and comforting the believer. “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

    When we come to Christ we find forgiveness, strength and protection through his sacrificial death, burial and resurrection. We have to die daily to the old nature–the invisible horcrux, the scar we carry, as the Adversary brings temptation and doubts to our mind.

    JKR gave Dumbledore serious flaws, very serious perhaps, to show that he definitely changed and sought forgiveness–especially and significantly in the King’s Cross chapter with Harry. Sifting through the ashes of his Headmaster’s life, coupled with the gossip and lies of the media in Book 7 brought Harry disillusionment; but Hermione insisted—he changed, Harry, he changed!

    I know that’s true. We know Dumbledore by the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, meekness, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, self-control and ultimately peace. (Harry in heaven had never seen him so content!) Dumbledore gave people second chances, fought evil, advocated for the oppressed, exhibited humility, gained respect, and sacrificed his life. We know others saw the new man in Dumbledore and we saw it too and loved him for it–through the loyalty of the OOTP, Dumbledore’s Army, Neville’s Gran, phoenix song, and by Lily Potter’s letter: “I don’t see how Dumbledore ever could have been friends with Gellert Grindelwald.”

    Harry ultimately was Christ Victorious, but so was Dumbledore, and so am I. Maybe this is something that JKR would like to say.

    Certainly the media will continue their folly of choosing to believe and spin whatever they will about this recent admission; but we know the truth: the blood will never lose its power!

  15. I’m not sure whether to post this here or in the longer thread below. But since I linked to his review of DH previously, I thought some might be interested to see Alan Jacobs’ initial response to Rowling’s “Dumbledore is Gay” revelation. For those who don’t know, Dr. Jacobs is a literature professor at evangelical Wheaton College who has written several thoughtful and appreciative articles about the HP phenomenon.


  16. Travis Prinzi says

    RM: Absolutely spot on. Rowling’s comments in Toronto are utterly baffling. What does she means, Why would she reveals something in Book 1 that was so crucial to the end? At what point in the actual text of Book 7, apart from Ms. Rowling’s recent interpretive comments, did Dumbledore’s being gay factor heavily into the plot? Who the hell came away from Book 7 saying, “Oh, now we know what Dumbledore’s failure was…he had been in love with Grindewald!” ? This information was never crucial to the plot, from book 1 to book 7.

    She seems now to be defending herself from all sides by saying, “This was the plot, it’s written now, deal with it.” But it was never the plot at all. I just wrote this over at SoG, which is talking about the same thing at the moment under Dave’s essay:

    Sure, the canon is what it is…but very few made the Dumbledore-gay connection until you said anything about it, Ms. Rowling. Canon itself doesn’t describe a homosexual love-infatuation, you did that afterwards. In retrospect, sure, we can see it was on your mind by reading into certain statements and descriptions, but you didn’t make it a “canon” fact.

  17. A little bit nicer to see everything in context? CBC News recently put up the video of the entire Toronto conference.


  18. From Alan Jacob’s piece at The American Scene that Karl shared above:

    More significantly, I am dumbfounded that there are people who are shocked by Rowling’s announcement. Does anyone really expect that an educated British woman, shaped by mainstream European culture as much as the average member of her generation, would have any other attitude towards homosexuality than Rowling’s affirming tolerance? These days, in the West, moral disapproval of homosexuality is pretty much confined to conservative forms of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Since Rowling is quite obviously not a member of any of these religious groups, on what grounds would anyone be surprised by her views on Dumbledore’s sexuality?

    Considering that Prof. Jacobs teaches at Wheaton College, I am shocked and dumbfounded that he is dumbfounded that people have been shocked by Ms. Rowling’s announcement. At least half the jollies of culture war bickering is being shocked and dumbfounded by the Right’s crimes and the Left’s immorality, right? What would be shocking is no one renting their garments in the Public Square over the revealed sexual preferences of a fictional character…. As Wheaton exists to shape students to be leaders in this contest for hearts and minds as well as for their salvation, Prof. Jacobs’ comment has the effect of the Vichy officer in Casablanca played by Claude Reins who was “shocked, simply shocked” to discover there was gambling going on at Rick’s. Being shocked and dumbfounded is a culture war reflex that the MSM plays to.

  19. John, I’m not exactly sure what to take away from your post. You sound pretty exercised about Jacobs’ comment in particular, Wheaton College in some respect and the culture wars in general. But isn’t Jacobs largely agreeing with what you have written here on this site? Maybe you haven’t professed to be dumbfounded that people are shocked by JKR’s revelation. But you’ve gone to some lengths to make much the same point Jacobs does in the rest of the paragraph you quoted above, haven’t you?

  20. Morgan,

    Thank you for that link! Not many surprises or revelations from context, but I did enjoy seeing the environment of the Q&A (an award presentation for her insisting on Ancient Forest friendly paper) and the sequence and tenor of the exchanges with the reporters. She makes the one comment about “brave and brilliant men” and follows it with what seems to be a blushing mention of how she knew it was a positive thing. I wondered if she wasn’t blushing because, if she was joking, she seems to have realized mid-joke that she was going to be misunderstood.

    The most interesting bit was the end. The carefully organized event, which featured reporters (and were they reporters or fans?) being called by name to stand and ask questions, closed with rather a testy exchange between a woman that seemed annoyed and disappointed that Dumbledore hadn’t been outed earlier, in text, and Ms. Rowling, who looked as if she were talking to Rita Skeeter, live. Anyone who believes that Ms. Rowling is a publicity hound and Gilderoy Lockhart hasn’t seen this tape. She looks pained, uncomfortable, and as if she is doing all she can to smile and be polite. Her dismissal of one Dumbledore question as one she had already answered showed the crack and the walk off after saying, “if you were an author, you’d know you save the ending for the end” revealed what looked like impatience just a step short of disdain.

    Again, Morgan, thank you for the link.

  21. Arabella Figg says

    Just some thoughts here. Some of it may sound weird.

    First, I’m annoyed at Rowling for her revelation. It wasn’t necessary (other answers as previously stated could have done) and it only served to stir up a lot of people over basically a nonimportant plot point not even dealt with in the books. The gay factor is now the primary focus when so many other things are so much more important. Everyone is getting lathered up over a minor detail, because that’s what we do, and relishing embracing or decrying Rowling and the books according to belief or agenda. What a waste of time when it’s the books that hold so much richness to explore.

    Second, I find it interesting that Rowling “thought” DD was gay. This reminds me of interviews in which novelists discuss how their characters become so real to them and actually get rather bossy, i.e., “I can’t do a thing with her, she simply wants to do/be/say this.” So could it be Jo percieved DD was gay because it fit his behavior? I know this sounds like splitting hairs, but still…

    Third, Jo never said D/G had an actual consumated affair. She said D’s love was unrequited. This sounds like a one-sided infatuation, the kind experienced by a lot of teens who become infatuated with others, of either sex, due to admiration, desire to be like/with them, identified with them, catch some of their star power, etc.

    I’m not trying to rearrange Jo’s statements, but still…

    Jo percieved this aspect of a fully-realized character, just as she did others. It may help some, it may enrage some. But I agree that stories are about people and people come with all sorts of baggage. I’d prefer this long-ago baggage of Dumbledore’s which he turned to good to Snape’s baggage which hurt so many people, or Voldemort’s baggage which turned him into a malignant narcissistic psychopath.

    I’m also putting a new comment on the previous thread that fits better there.

    So, I’m annoyed that Jo went there because of the hoo-hah and young kids, but I don’t see how D’s pathetic infatuation and orientation affect the series. What an author “think’s” about her characters may not be “true.” I know, sounds weird.

    Kitties definitely are on good terms with weird…

  22. Karl,

    You are right that I have no argument with Prof. Jacob’s understanding of the Carnegie Hall Bombshell, which is much like Prof. Reynolds’ and the Hogwarts Professor’s. I tried to point out what I thought was his intentional irony in what I thought was an amusing way and managed only to come off bombastic. My apologies for the failed attempt at humor.

    For humor, take a look at this.


  23. I must say that I’m glad this discussion has moved in the direction of literary criticism, rather than accepting the premise that the Harry Potter books must now be viewed through the prism of the Culture Wars. It’s rather surprising to hear a postmodern author, such as J.K. Rowling, claim that a character is “hers” to define and explain after the fact. Perhaps she should reread a little piece by Roland Barthes, entitled “Death of the Author.” No doubt she studied this essay during her French Lit. days at Exeter. Barthes’ goal is to “do away with” the author, and “give birth” to the reader as the final arbiter of the meaning of the text. Literary meaning, for Barthes, exists in the unique relationship between each individual reader and the text. The political and cultural views of the author, as well as details about the author’s creative process, are not relevant; in fact, they do not exist unless they are perceived by the reader. I was never a big fan of Barthes when I was in college, but lately I seem to be growing in my appreciation of his theories. . .

  24. This from Josh Harvey, aka “Knuckles,” who has had a hard time registering at the site:

    First of all, I cannot believe that I have not seen a single reference to the fact that, as a classicist, Rowling would have been more than familiar with the Greek ideal of mentor-tutor (the lover and the beloved) relationship. This relationship was not always sexual, though it still carries the term “pederasty,” a word which only holds negative connotations for us today–though it was not always so clear cut.

    Harry and Dumbledore’s relationship have all the traits of a Platonic relationship: chaste, educational, protective, transformative. We forget that Socrates himself was a pederast (in the chaste sense of the word– remember his spurning of Alcibiades’ advances spoken of in “The Symposium”?). There is no one so like Socrates, to me, than Dumbledore. And Socrates, lest we forget, was “gay” (though we can’t really use that word, because, according to Foucault, the concept of homo- and hetero- sexualities were not birthed until much later–there was simply “sexuality”).

    To not have spotted this model, or to deny it in retrospect, is pretty unliterary.

    For a quick, though not necessarily authoritative portrait into the complexities of this issue, please see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty_in_ancient_Greece I would most particularly point out the section on “Religious aspects,” especially this quote: “Mythographic material suggests that the initiate experienced ecstatic states of spirit journey leading to mystic death and transfiguration, analogous to practices still reported today in shamanic work.” [e.g., alchemical work] But it is apparent that it is causing other controversies. I would also like to say that the revelation that Dumbledore is “gay” is totally revealing, not of the character in a book, but of the character of our Christianity.

    I was a bit hesitant, at first, when my school sponsored a free t-shirt giveaway for the “Gay? Fine by Me” campaign. I was afraid, not only being a Southern Baptist preacher’s son of some note in my small city, but as a now-regularly-practicing Catholic. I was also afraid of taking sides which may cause any of my students in the university to stumble in their faith beliefs. However, I went to the photo shoot and was amazed to see how many of the Christian leaders of our university, young and old, were there with their shirts on. I was ministered to by their courage to stick up for what they believed. Since then I have, on occasion, worn the shirt with the very large Benedictine crucifix that I received after some time in a monastery. So, here, the post-modern young Christian: “Gay? Fine by Me.” and the broken body of Our Lord. On these occasions I have received multiple comments on “how cool” it is to have such a witness–to be supportive of homosexuality and Christian, witnessing by not being bigoted. Imagine that. I think this is because the young people, in their struggle with sexual mores, but in great social concern, sense something profoundly different in the Christian message.

    Please see this article: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G1-161075807.html Specifically: “Bolduc said the young Catholic students he studied are steeped in a national culture that often regards the Catholic sexual prohibitions against premarital sex, artificial birth control, abortion, divorce, women priests and homosexual behavior as anachronistic. ‘They live their lives squarely in the midst of the tension between individualism and the common good, and sometimes feel the tensions between the two extremes. It’s difficult to get them to be critical of the individualism that seems as natural as the air they breathe,’ Bolduc said.”

    But here is a great summary of the positives and negatives: “Reported in the March 9, 2007 issue of the National Catholic Reporter, two longitudinal studies of U.S. Catholics ‘show differences among Catholics that are not merely reflective of age and stage in the life cycle but mirror changes in both the societal culture and the Church itself.’ The study, “The Bookend Generations,” was co-authored by William D’Antonio and Vincent Bolduc. They express concern that the younger generations do not give the church and sacraments a central place and fear that this is a trend that is likely to continue through their lives. They are, also, more likely than previous generations to find the moral good in living the church’s social teachings. According to Bolduc, ‘Without a major transformation in the relationship between laity and church leaders, there is little in these studies to lead grandparents to expect their grandchildren to be joining them at Mass every Sunday.'” from http://www.emergingmodels.org/newsarticle.cfm?id=22

    As to Harry Potter, having many gay friends and mentors, it seemed quite clear to me that Dumbledore’s infatuation with Grindelwald was not only apparent, but written very well, and that everyone is finding themselves caught in a huge blind spot, a blind spot that some people are examining, others are denying, and others are confused about. I myself suspected something very strongly in Book 7, but, again, one has to be aware of such things. The question really seems to be: How can I, as Christian, still look up to a beloved character who is not what we took him to be? And, subsequently, how do I, as Christian, treat other real life situations this way. I think the inability to deal with the former reveals a terrible inability to deal with the latter (and vice-versa).

    It seems to me that so many of the Christian apologists are trying to digest some sort of argument while the rest of us post-modern young folk are simply saying, “What’s the big deal?” As you always say, John, we should be asking why these stories effect us? Now should we not truly be examining the prejudices of the metanarrative that Christianity presents: that to be gay is not to be Christian, and that to be Christian is not to allow homosexuality? For a post-modern understanding, this problem presupposes 1,500 years of dualism–and as post-moderns are returning to a holistic understanding of the body as a piece of
    God’s immanence, the metanarrative of anti-homosexuality is one of the main targets, because many simply feel, in our intuitive bodily knowledge, that this is simply wrong. For many, the Bible’s language has been translated incorrectly, or is no longer valid (like the majority of Levitical law). For many others, raised in a more modern framework, the struggle simply is whether being homosexual is inherently right or wrong, a presupposition which then paints the rest of the “can Dumbledore be gay?” confusion.

    And it is a confusion–I sense it in many posts here and elsewhere. To me, as many, the phrase “Neither male nor female, Greek nor Jew” also means “gay or straight”. If you read the plethora posts on Mugglenet, one gets the sense that the hoo-hah is being propagated by those over the age of 30.

    Homosexuality is both a target for the poor state of our theology of the body (hetero- or homo-), and the gay community a Samaritan pariah created as a projection for our inability to deal with our own Puritanical upbringing. American Christianity as a whole has a terrible outlook on the body in general. No one ever asks the question, “Why is homosexuality wrong?” The Taoists, who I think have undertaken one of the most comprehensive studies of sexuality and sexual energies, have a great, alchemical answer, but without the moralization which leads to judgment, something which Our Lord warned about on countless occasions. But no one seems to look into that–they rely on Biblical literalism when convenient.

    Though I am not yet married, I do sympathize with those having to explain to their children what this is all about. There is an appropriate time for everything. But I think we should be reticent to confuse our own cultural embarrassment and shame about sexuality, and explaining it to our children, with homosexuality in the world. If my niece ever asks me, I will have to consult my sister. But I would ask simply to say: “God loves everyone, and if you understand that, you will not live your life presumptuously doing what you want, nor will you live in constant fear.” Thank goodness for Brennan Manning and others for pointing this out to us. Sexual issues are all part of a piece, but for some, one of those pieces is something terrible. I personally think it should be more awkward explaining why mommy and daddy have such a nice house, while little boys and girls around the world don’t have clothes to wear, or food to eat, or houses to live in. But I am inculcated into the post-modern world….and feel successful in navigating in it, which is obviously very difficult for very many people, otherwise there would not be major news stories about a fictional character. It is the collision of the Classical, Modern, and Post-Modern realities.

    So, to many, it’s pretty simple: they can still be Christian allegories with a gay character. Anyone that cannot be “sold” this is already stuck in a frame of mind and so we need to focus our energy away from an “apologetic” and stop wasting our time. In giving people like Fred Phelps a counter-argument, we are only giving him more power. I thought that Harry taught us to die from our agendas, especially ones that were so superficial, like Rita Skeeter; strangely, Jesus said the same thing, but I guess they killed him for it.

    For ourselves, simultaneously whining about the “gay character” agenda in the media is a far cry from being tortured and beaten like the early Christians–it presupposes, as all of this does, a freedom to take ourselves way to seriously and too much leisure time as a society: you know, there are people who still die from starvation everyday, and we are worrying about a FAKE person’s outing and how that effects our argument for a “Christian allegory”. To be caught in the political (in the full sense of the word) game is to give power to it. The rest of us should simply read the stories and be transformed by them, and allow them to transform others. And ministers like Jay Bakker are doing just that, and claiming that everyone is a participant in the transformation–not from queerdom, but in humandom and humandom alone. God loves our bodies, our sexualities. It is a love which transforms them. I thought Harry taught us to embrace trials and taunts and become the Philosopher’s Stone; oh, right, Jesus did too.

    As to the article about “Dumbledore is NOT gay”–this is preposterous. The author who creates the world reveals it. She can even change them in reprints of the books, as far as I am concerned. Tolkien did it with “The Hobbit” and no one complained about it–because we weren’t quite so selfish then, so needy for story that we cling to “our” version of it. Our “the story is MY story” revealed itself in Lucas’ decision to change “Star Wars” and now in Ms. Rowling’s revelations about her world. This “my right to read” which is far and beyond the Christian way of selfless behavior. And, since the story came from the infinite well-spring of eternal myth and infinite grace (or we wouldn’t be connecting to it so strongly; evil is never a connector) it belongs to that space in which we are a part. This “my story” attitude speaks more about how little spiritual reality we as a race currently have that we need to cling to our fictions so strongly–this sort of secular infiltration is much more egregious than loving gay people for who they, even in their sexual practices. It also speaks as to how thoroughly our religions are failing us — because, as Nietzsche pointed out, we hold to the veracity of myth without the ability to let them continue to change and develop to fit the times. This for him, and for me, is the symptom of the death of a religion. Arguing that there is a “canon” for Harry Potter is the same mindset as a fundamentalist reading of the Bible. We have failed to make the stories alive again–or have let our institutions squash them down to rubrics–and so we are all missing the connecting point; Rowling’s success around the world proves this: we need connection.

    And, so, as a post-modern, I use one of the world’s greatest atheists to defend what I consider to be the world’s greatest message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the myths that are written after His example, of which Harry Potter is the post-modern exemplar. I echo the aforementioned study: yes, Christianity is dying, but not because we don’t go to Mass every Sunday–the young are seeing a new and different way: how to love literally, and literarily, again, and to seek connection (there is a reason that Facebook and MySpace are thriving). The fact is is that Rowling speaks “our” language, and the adults need to learn to be receptive to it–or we wouldn’t be so blind-sided by this. And we really need to hear the message, and really, deep down, want to, or we wouldn’t be arguing about a story so veraciously, or love Harry Potter so much.

    For us, it is simply “sexuality”–which is powerful and transformative if undertaken with wisdom–but never shameful or dirty, and that is difficult for many, raised under a different meta-narrative, to understand. To not allow Dumbledore’s pederastic life is to be caught in the same literalism as Phelps, the same literalism that we would criticize and even fight against in claiming Harry to be our literary ALLEGORY (NOT CANON). To claim that is “now our story” is to be trapped in the same literalism which heralds the death toll of our faith instead of letting it have its own room to change and grow without secular selfishness–especially as the Author would deem it.

    People will cling to the shallow much more easily than to the transformative deep. May we always seek transformation–even for our friends, our enemies, and for our literary projections. To not do so is to resist being “born again”.

    We are all stuck in a vanishing closet, between being-in-the-world and being-of-the-world. Dumbledore came out of the closet for us and taught us to chose.


  25. John, no need to apologize. I can be a little dense when it comes to subtle humor. I can also be a little defensive when it comes to my alma mater and former professors. Sorry if I overreacted.

  26. Here’s an article that takes fundametally the same approach to “canon” as Dr. Reynolds:

  27. Anyone read this? I adore it. It’s just how I feel:

    I agree that Jo was asked questions and tried to answer them, but she did not have to answer them the way she did, where she did, when she did. She’s trying to micromanage how readers interpret her work, which is ridiculous. Should I be sorry that not everyone who read her books is not seeing things the way she saw them in her head? No! because that’s her fault. It’s the fault of the execution, not the interpretation.

    Incidentally, the “DD is gay” thing has now now only turned the Lexicon, a previously respectful site into a convoluted mess, it’s causing HarryPotterforGrownUps to start issuing warnings to fans about how they may or may not discuss this information too. They are saying:

    “Remember, members are not being asked to avoid the topic of
    homosexuality (or any topic). However, if a post makes no canon point,
    it MUST be taken to our sister list, Off-Topic Chatter”

    and since there isn’t that much canon to discuss, it is practically a forbidden topic. And not talking about this is not going to help any list get past it. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Thank you all here for having enough sense to see that. I’m immensely proud of you all! This is one of very few sites that hasn’t had to shut down at least once to issue a new edition of the rules to suit the situation.

  28. Sorry Helen and I posted at the same time.

  29. It still is so odd to me that people were–and still are (or the last book wouldn’t have been such a big deal to some)–clambering for “backstory” for the “Lord of the Rings” canon and universe and yet people are so resistant to J.K. Rowling’s….

    What is it that has changed or is different about HP?

  30. I was wondering about Tolkien and the appendices in the LotR. Were they there when the last book was published or did they show up in later publishings? What was Tolkien’s intent and how does it differ from Rowlings?

    Maybe what has changed is that people are not being allowed to decide on a work for themselves. We have agendas pushed at us from all sides. I’m not saying the JKR has an agenda (or not) but that as a society, some of us, have become very aware of being manipulated.

  31. I’m not a Tolkien expert by any means. I just have an earlier edition of LOTR than most–copyright 1965. I bought it when I was in college. Apparently, from the foreword that was written by Tolkien he talks about the time frame of writing the books, and says they first appeared in print 10 years before–so 1955? He talks about any inner meaning or message, and says that he didn’t intend any. He wasn’t writing allegory.

    He revised the book, apparently for the publishing that I have and the books have a box on the back that states they are official, with his signature printed there.

    People were evidently writing to him to ask for more information and clarification about characters and story line, some of which he could answer, some not–didn’t keep all his notes.

    Tolkien says about the appendices:

    “. . . but many enquiries could only be answered by additional appendicies, or indeed by the production of an accessory volume containing much of the material that I did not include in the original edition, in particular more detailed linguistic information. In the meantime this edition offers this Foreword, an addition to the Prologue, some notes, and an index of the names of persons and places.”

    He makes one comment about the issuance of his book, edited without his approval, which is the reason for the approval of this volume being included.

    One other interesting comment, about his relationship to his work, that does seem to relate to how we now view Rowling and HP (the difference being, of course, that Tolkien did not change details about the characters, but added to the infomation about Middle Earth and the way things worked there):

    “I hope that those who have read “The Lord of the Rings” with pleasure will not think me ungrateful: to please readers was my main object, and to be assured of this has been a great reward. Nonetheless, for all its defects of omission and inclusion, it was the product of long labour, and like a simple-minded hobbit I feel that it is, while I am still alive, my property in justice unaffected by copyright laws.”

    That last bit gets close to the heart of what we are discussing. The difference is that he didn’t have the inundation from the internet or the media events that Rowling has had to handle. Perhaps if he had he would have succumbed to the same temptation which she has–that of actually answering all those questions that readers say they want answered. Getting a question face to face is different than getting the same question in a letter.


  32. Thanks for the humorous link, John. It truly made my day!

    Nice link, Helen and Jayne1955, to the Dallas News article. Pretty much my sentiments, too.

    Does anyone think the JKR regrets her “revelation”? Just wondering…..

  33. No idea… I think folks sometimes try to figure out what Rowling is about too much…. the story is what it is. I don’t like anyone ‘claiming her’ especially based on a few sound bytes.

    I do think the person who wrote Rita Skeeter, though, ought to think twice before speaking to her.

    I’d let the books stand as they are…. and be what they are. I hope she will do this, even though it’s her world and her characters. Cuz what came out there in those final pages was wonderful… and enough.

  34. It is rare that I post online but I have been following the commentary on the subject of Dumbledore’s coming out and I would like to add my take on the whole thing. Please be kind as this is not something I do and will likely err in procedure but hope the gist of my thinking prevails. I appreciate this site and the work that Mr. Granger has done very much.

    What I learned from reading Mr. Granger’s book Looking for God in Harry Potter and other books on literature analysis is that good literature written primarily for children is rarely exclusively “children’s” literature. However, there are books that many would consider exclusively adult because of there content. The Harry Potter Books are primarily “children’s” books, which are written well enough and are rich enough with the familiar hero’s journey to fascinate and entertain adults as well. They do not contain content that most parents would consider inappropriate for their young children (this might not be said of the film versions). They are children’s books but not exclusively children’s books. This is obvious from their popularity amongst all ages. So the question of why didn’t the author include certain details about the sexual orientation she envisioned for a particular character in a book she meant to be read by children seems obvious. As this was to be a children’s book the subject of sexuality, hetero- or homo- really had no place and would have certainly been a big issue with responsible parents.

    I was troubled when I heard from a coworker (who was very amused by the story) that J.K. Rowling declared that Dumbledore was gay. I value the books firstly as children’s books. So now they have brought sex into the books. A real let down! I do not think however that Ms. Rowling intended to reveal this news or any other specific detail unless she was asked about that detail. To her the idea of a person with a same sex attraction to another person was not such a big deal so envisioning a character she created with that particular characteristic was natural and to be expected. It is simply how she saw the character to get him where he needed to be at the end of the story. Although she considered him so she did not present Dumbledore as obviously gay throughout the book because his sexual orientation was not important throughout the book nor was it appropriate in a book she meant to be read by children. There were other characters in the series that became attracted to each other and love and falling in love was important to the message presented but sex and sexuality was not.

    My impression of her statements concerning the development of the character and plot ending is that in order for Dumbledore, a brilliant young wizard, to be caught up in an obviously questionable friendship\relationship with Grindelwald, he would need to be blinded to his dark side. To be that oblivious to the dark path he was traveling Rowling felt that Dumbledore would need to be in love (Eros) with Grindelwald.

    In his book, The Four Loves, Lewis writes: “Now Eros makes a man really want, not a woman, but one particular woman. In some mysterious but quite indisputable fashion the lover desires the Beloved herself, not the pleasure she can give.” Also, Pulled from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Four_Loves
    It must be noted, states Lewis, that just as Lucifer—a former archangel—perverted himself by pride and fell into depravity, so too can love—commonly held to be the arch-emotion—become corrupt by presuming itself to be what it is not (“love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god”).

    Eros is not about the desire for sexual pleasure but the desire for one particular individual. If we can allow for Lewis’ description of Eros to be non-gender specific I can see a situation where two potentially great and extreamly intellegent young men (Dumbledore and Grindelwald) seeing themselves as intellecual equals become friends. Dumbledore, capable of great love and devotion as we know, is thrilled at finding an intellectual equal and someone to share ideas becomes infactuated with Grindelwald. This infactuation leads to a true desire for the individual (Eros) and ultimatly leading to his blind devotion of Grindelwald. This blind devotion is the elevation of the love to a god status and ultamately the demon that ends the relationship. The tragedy is the dark road traveled, loosing focus of the really important things (Dumbledore’s brother and sister) and ultamately the death of Ariana.

    I think Rowling needed this situation. If Grindelwald had been written as a witch instead of a wizzard would anything else have been different? I don’t think so.

  35. Robert Trexler says

    Dave G. – –

    Good post, thanks. I heard one of your Lewis quotes recently, but the speaker said it differently and I wondered if you have the book and page reference handy to see which is correct. You said, “love begins to be a demon the moment he begins to be a god”.

    The speaker I heard quoted Lewis as saying: “eros ceases to be a demon when it ceases to be a god.”

    It may seem to be nearly the same thing, but to me the emphasis is slightly different between the two quotations. In the second quote, the point is made against prudes who object to sex as being less than legitimate. If he were addressing a point against hedonists he might use the version you gave.

    I wonder which is the most accurate quotation.

    Bob T

  36. Dumbledore is Socrates. That’s why he’s gay. It’s a clue, not a retcon.

  37. as far as Lord of the Rings, I think the appendices included in Return of the King were there at the start to tie up loose ends– there were so many parts of the story that simply couldn’t make it into the volume that really belonged there. Rowling managed to fill in the information better throughout the series, so she didn’t need an appendices. The Silmarillion is the result of folks wanting to know more of the Middle Earth backstory, and it’s really… I had to translate Cicero’s Pro Caelio in 11th grade, and even with that experience I put Silmarillion down on page 2. In short, the results of pressure for more info were not pretty. Even the mult-volume History of Middle Earth was never intended to be published– it was JRRT’s personal notes on backstory and the whole history of that world, and it’s only that his son is editing it into something readable that it’s being published, but it’s hardly something of joy to read like LotR.

    I have to say, I think it’s a bit silly to try to separate author and work. Without an author, there is no work, and without the work, that person is not an author. We can and should engage the work critically (JKR supports this– the theme is all over the series), and we can agree with some things and not with others. Looking back, my shock was that she announced it, more than that it was true (Josh is right– the evidence is rather clear, though thankfully understated). I don’t have to agree with her on everything to love the books still. One of my favorite plays is Our Town by Thornton Wilder. He was a homosexual, and he wrote a truly beautiful, meaningful play. Does the fact that he’s gay make it any less beautiful or meaningful? Of course not. Just as the fact that Jo Rowling and I don’t agree on everything (likely many things- human beings differ from each other) doesn’t change that she has something worth saying.

    Josh and I chatted a bit yesterday about the whole thing, and I’d really like to raise up again something he mentioned in a beautiful post about story in the other topic. We’ve read these books and taken these stories into us– I don’t know if anyone else feels like this, but I feel like everything I’ve read has become part of who I am. I catch a few moments of a sitcom where someone’s trying to cover something up, and I don’t laugh that much because, well, shouldn’t they have known better? I learned all those little sticky issues people try to cover up are better handled honestly from literature– what if Desdemona had simply said, “Yes, I did lose the hankerchief. I haven’t seen it since I tried to bind your forehead,” or Othello, “Iago says you have been unfaithful to me. Is this true?” Othello was only a tragedy because they didn’t say those things.

    Literature can teach us if we let it. Dumbledore being gay has ultimately nothing to do with Rowling’s powerful message about good and evil, moral courage, and truth. Ultimately, her personal opinions, whether I agree with them or not, can’t really add or detract from the books. I love the books and their message. A difference of opinion? I’m okay with that.


  38. I’d just like to comment on Josh’s (Knuckles) youthful, post-modern, Nietzscheism thread since no one has so far. As someone who is 45, I guess you can lump me in with the over 30 crowd you mentioned, but I don’t think most of us who have commented have too big a problem with Dumbledore being gay. Our concerns lie with media spinning this revelation into far more than it really is.

    But first Josh, you had stated that no one asks why homosexuality is wrong. If you look to the faith you have adopted, you will find that your church has both asked and answered this question. Pope Jean Paul II has explained beautifully in his talks on the theology of the body why homosexual acts, contraception, masturbation, and pre and extramarital sex, among other behaviors are contrary to God’s plan regarding our relationships with each other and with God. Despite the condemnation of homosexual acts however, the church does not condemn those with homosexual orientation. As I mentioned previously, we are all members of the body of Christ but are called to be chaste according to our station in life (e.g. single persons, married, ordained, etc.). Even within marriage, expressions of physical sexuality can be sinfull if rooted primarily in lust rather than the unifying and procreative functions of marriage.

    That young people should consider that the church has lost relevance for them because of these ideals says more about the problem with the ideas of young people than it does about problems with the church. What relevance could any church possibly have if it simply drifted with society’s mores? Upside-down is the notion that the church should be a reflection of society. Our job as Christians is to make society a reflection of the church! I’ll paraphrase some of Chesterton’s criticism of Nietzsche’s idea that the church should adapt its ideals to fit the times. He said “that progress should be evidence that we are nearing the New Jerusalem. What we find in our modern world though is that the New Jerusalem is continually walking away from us! We are not making progress toward our ideals, we’re simply changing our ideals. Its easier!” What did Dumbledore say about choosing between what is right and what is easy?

    I don’t think why many of us here have expressed disappointment with Rowling’s revelation about Dumbledore’s sexuality is because we have a problem with homosexuality. The books as written are just as edifying now as they were before this revelation. The disappointment lies in the fact that in a secular world of drifting ideals, a remarkably written story that dares to realign with some fundamental unshifting Christian ideals is dragged back into misalignment by the media hijacking of character backstory that has little relevance to the story itself. We’re upset because a story we love is tainted by the use of “facts” that are not even in the story to drive an agenda. Whether the author has an agenda or not is not at the moment as relevant as how an agenda has been created by the media. If we saw analyses like Dave G.’s above in the the papers and on TV there would be little to be upset over. But alas, that is far from what it is we do see in the papers and on TV.

  39. Arabella Figg says

    You make an important point, Nzie, with “I feel like everything I’ve read has become part of who I am.I catch a few moments of a sitcom where someone’s trying to cover something up, and I don’t laugh that much because, well, shouldn’t they have known better? I learned all those little sticky issues people try to cover up are better handled honestly from literature …Literature can teach us if we let it.”

    Literature forms our views of life and the world, takes us intimately to other places and times in a way film cannot. Children who learn to negotiate the world through TV and movies are more likely to be handicapped when it comes to ploughing through deep issues. TV/films take shortcuts, excising the introspection of characters that help them learn, make decisions, develop interpersonal skills and work through consequences and thorny issues. TV mostly jumps from from A-M-T-Z. In books we find the whole alphabet.

    It’s true that some TV/films do take on difficult issues without shortcuts, but those are few and far between. A lifetime of reading has far better served me to deal in a nuanced way with life than any TV/film I’ve seen.

    Kitties could care less about nuance, they happily jump from A to Z…

  40. James P. – Thanks for your clarification of these issues. I just want to add that in my experience, the younger generation of Catholics, as well as the majority of young priests newly emerging from the seminaries, are far more likely to embrace the full range of Catholic moral teachings than their aging Baby Boomer counterparts. God bless you, Josh, in your journey of faith.

  41. SortOfSerious says

    I am a new visitor to the site, and this post is very late compared to the others. However, ideas and thoughts do not age as quickly as people, so. . .

    “But a man may then imagine in your work what he pleases, what you never meant!

    Not what he pleases, but what he can. . . . If he be a true man, he will imagine true things; what matter whether I meant the or not? They are there none the less that I cannot claim putting them there.”
    –Professor John Mark Reynolds, from “Taking Stories More Seriously Than the Author”; (The quote is from author George MacDonald)

    I loved reading this paragraph from Professor Reynolds’ interview, and the fact that he chose this particular quote of Macdonald’s. It’s reassuring to know that there are members of the Educational Establishment who recognize the right and responsibility of any reader to interact with the writer, according to his/her personal milieu (as opposed to uncritically accepting a professor’s or other “expert’s” opinion).

    The idea cross-references very neatly to the art world as well, and I always enjoy recognizing ties between areas of learning. Finding out “not what he pleases, but what he can” is an idea that pops up again and again during my tours with schoolchildren at the Orlando Museum of Art, particularly with regard to contemporary art. “But what did the artist MEAN?” (or as the middle and high schoolers moan, “Does every piece of art have to MEAN something?”)

    And my reply is along the lines of “What does it mean to you?” or “It may mean something to the artist, but it can mean something entirely different to you. Why do you think that might be?” And that, of course, opens the door to a lot of discussion about the “world of experience” each child brings to the museum with her/him, that a work of art will trigger a response from each of them, and that each response will be DIFFERENT. Best of all, each response is valid, whether the artist “meant” it or not. This individual validity of personal response is the wonder of both great art and great writing.


    Sue Boulais
    Sort of Serious

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