Travis Prinzi: Harry Potter and Imagination

Mr. Prinzi, the webmaster and guru of The Hog’s Head, has written a book, Harry Potter and Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds, which I could not be more excited about. It’s available now through or through (if you want it autographed).

As I said in my blurb for the book, “There is no more insightful commenter on the Harry Potter novels than Travis Prinzi.” I begged him to publish after first hearing him speak at Prophecy 2007 in Toronto. Why? His approach, his insights, and his verve were that exciting to me personally because they were so different from what I was doing and thinking and from what I had seen anyone else attempt. I know other serious readers who have heard him talk at conventions and pubCasts or read his comments at Hog’s Head feel the same way. There is nothing retread, stale, or ho-hum in what he writes; you’re going to be stretched and delighted when you read Travis Prinzi — and, if you’re like me, that’s exactly what you’re looking for in literary criticism.

There is already a reader review up at Amazon and I urge you to take a look.

5.0 out of 5 stars Literary and Accessible, December 17, 2008 By “Dave Jones”

First, full disclosure: I write for Travis at his blog, The Hog’s Head. My first venture into discussion with Travis and his readers included a vehement disagreement over the nature of postmodernism as a literary and philosophical movement. Thus, though I write for The Hog’s Head, that does not mean its proprietor and I always agree on ways of understanding Harry Potter.

Yet, I’ve always held Travs Prinzi and his opinions in very high regards. John Granger has said time and time again that Prinzi’s insight and intelligence into Rowling’s literary machinations rival his own — no small praise from the most famous of Potter-philes/scholars. And any regular patron of The Hog’s Head will know that Prinzi’s knowledge and mastery of the HP universe is nearly encyclopedic — don’t read his posts to know this; read his responses to readers’ comments. Thus, Harry Potter and Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds makes at least two cases: one is that understanding the books as an expression of the kind of faerie story analyzed by J.R.R. Tolkien is a productive means of interpreting Rowling’s work; the second is that Travis Prinzi’s name should be synonymous with HP scholarship from this point forward.

Though Rowling has sought to distance herself from her fantasy antecedents (at least to a degree), that she is indebted to their literary frameworks is apparent to any of readers. Prinzi mines some literary parallels to draw together an understanding of fantasy and faerie articulated in both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Prinzi makes no effort to hide, from the Introduction onward, that he reads Rowling’s books through a Christian lens. Though some literary aesthetes might argue such a lens is too limiting a view through which to examine literature, Prinzi treats it as a point of departure from which to build an exegesis of the texts. His book is analytical, not proselytizing. He sees religious symbolism and iconography all over the books, casts that symbolism within the die of Rowling’s personal struggles with faith, and interprets Harry Potter as a chronicle of the struggle and need to believe through the framework of faerie.

Prinzi articulates several arguments that are sure to generate discussion and contribute to the broader scope of HP scholarship. Most notably, he synthesizes some of his analyses regarding Rowling’s treatment of social issues into a critique of political change, especially of change as a top-down hermeneutic engendered by those already in power.

As piece of technical research and writing, Prinzi has done his homework and sharpened his prose to clean edge. Though Tolkien’s original essays on faerie, along with Lewis’s work on faith and literature, are sometimes difficult to understand, especially to modern ears, Prinzi manages to encapsulate the thrust of their theories into easy-to-understand syntheses. His own theories, articulated upon the heels of his critical predecessors (including Granger’s work), bespeaks a capable intelligence with ample skill at expressing itself. Prinzi can speak to both the scholar and the average reader — a skill I suspect is honed through his work at his blog.

Buy the book! You’ll enjoy it, and you’ll learn something.

I couldn’t have said it better myself — and I would write a review there, too, believe me, except for my blurb is already in the book’s ‘product description.’ Travis’ exploration of Fabian socialism with Dumbledore’s politics alone (chapter 12), not to mention the brilliant discussion of Fairy Tales and Imagination, make this an excellent Christmas present for your favorite, literate Potter-phile friends. Please go to the Amazon page or to to purchase Harry Potter and Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds today. You won’t regret it!


  1. The Table of contents can be read here.

  2. Ohh, that looks like a great book. I think I’ll try to order it in the next month or so. 🙂

  3. 5.0 out of 5 stars For those who want to think deeply about Harry Potter, December 18, 2008 reviewed by Michael Boyd

    I got to the end of the Harry Potter series and knew that this wasn’t just a story about a boy wizard and his adventures. Something more was happening in these wonderfully written books. Travis Prinzi’s book ‘Harry Potter and Imagination’ helped me to understand some of the great themes Rowling addresses.

    It’s a clear and thoughtful exploration of Rowling’s views on evil, death, love, forgiveness, gender and race (among many other things) that make the books such a powerful contribution to our culture.

    I recommend this book if you want to think more about deeply about the ideas that gripped you and why they resonated with you. Prinzi’s book is a tribute to Rowling’s genius in that he has used her work to provide much to think about on many different issues in literature and culture.

    I learned a lot from reading it and recommend it highly.

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