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Merlin guest posts on HogPro
Merlin Comment on Hog Pro Thread
Merlin finds Merlin: a Book Review/Plug
This blog has moved
Grindelwald the Elitist
Ghost-Town Gazette headline: Merlin Posts a commen...
You can't always get what you want, but sometimes ...
Hargid as the Rubedo
Griffyndor vs Slytherin: Bookends in books 1 and 7...
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Movie

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Hogwarts, Hogwarts,
Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,
Teach us something please,
Whether we be old and bald,
Or young with scabby knees,
Our heads could do with filling,
With some interesting stuff,
For now they're bare
And full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff.
So teach us stuff worth knowing,
Bring back what we forgot,
Just do your best
We'll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot!

1: The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2: Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3: There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4: Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
5: Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
6: His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
7: The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8: The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9: The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10: More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11: Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
12: Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
13: Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
14: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merlin guest posts on HogPro

This is a notification to let our readers know that I have written a post that is now up on John Granger's Hogwarts Professor site (link below for cut-and-paste into browser addy bar). The post is my fuller exposition (3500 words, so basically the equivalent of a 12 page double-spaced paper) of thoughts that I have posted here on Muggle Matters concerning my definition of narrative as an intersection of "chronos" and "kairos" conceptions of time, and the presence of this in the symbol of Harry's wristwatches.

I will probably be doing posts on HogPro occasionally (but will always put a notification and link here). Pursuant to meeting with John when he spoke in NYC in October and several emails back and forth after that, in which I mentioned the work on time and narrative, he has installed me at the staff table in his great hall.

I will also hopefully be able to keep doing smaller posts here (I have several that have been in the drafts section of my blogger profile for a bit, and I hope to get around to finishing them here over my Christmas break, although I am getting into desperate need of turning in work on my dissertation proposal, so I will only spend a week - Christmas to New Year's - in my home town and be back out here several weeks before classes to re-tool my syllabus for spring courses and work on the diss prop, but also hopefully have some time to finish posts and put them up here).

To any and all who check out the post at HogPro, I hope you enjoy it.

And I hope you and all of your families and loved ones have a blessed Christmas,

posted by Merlin at 11:12 AM

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Merlin Comment on Hog Pro Thread

For any who still check our site and are interested, I recently responded on a Hogwarts Professor "mail-bag" post concerning whether the Judah and Tamar story of Genesis 38 contains a source for the hallows in Deathly Hallows.

I also posted a response to a question by another commenter in that same thread concerning name taboo and rhetoric (a question concerning possible name rhetoric in the Pharaoh material/s in the Pentateuch, as relating to the name taboo trope in Harry Potter ... basically I answered that I cannot substantiate at all the claims for the Pentateuch material, but I was able to throw in some stuff about name taboo and rhetoric in Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows that I find really fun).

Finally, I posted a further response thought on that thread concerning how I DO think Gen 38 could have a relation, or at least a significance for JKR, although not as a direct source for the hallows.

So, for any who check this blog and are interested, click on the title link for this post ... and if that doesn't work, copy and paste this link into your browser's address bar:
posted by Merlin at 1:58 PM

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Merlin finds Merlin: a Book Review/Plug

I, Merlinus AmBrettus, have just returned from the library here at Fordham with a new little treasure of 430 pages. I was grateful to find our library had it in the stacks. I looked on Barnes and Noble and it runs 108.00 dollars, but at some point I my just go ahead and buy it ... it looks that promising.

The title is Merlin: a Casebook, and it is a collection of essays edited by Peter H. Goodrich and Raymond H. Thompson.

I went to the library after my summer job (having emailed myself the call # from work), which is an editorial assistantship for an academic journal in Medieval Studies called Traditio (a very respected journal in the field, meaning the assistantship is a very good line on my CV). The article I am currently pre-formatting (a bugger with 250 end-notes) is on the Merlin prophecies in some medieval Italian texts (basically prophecies attributed to Merlin concerning the rise of an anti-emperor who will then be thrown down eventually by the coming of a true emperor, but the material was quickly picked up religiously and applied to the Papacy, particularly in regard to Pope Celestine V, formerly a Franciscan hermit, who reigns briefly and is then replaced, and subsequently persecuted, by the "wicked Pope" Boniface VIII [who is, if I remember correctly, heavily criticized in Dante's Inferno] - with those who promulgated the literature under the heading of the papacy putting forth the idea that this new "anti-pope" will soon be replaced by a righteous Pope who will be crowned by angels [thus also known as the "angelic pope"]) ... thus it falls under religio-political thought in Medieval studies.

So that is how I stumbled across the book (in the bibliography for this article ... and sat up and thought "what in the name of Merlin's most baggy Y fronts is this?" - and 50 points to the house of anyone who can identify that reference without looking in the books)


I'm guessing this will be a very good read, as it has an essay on Merlin in Modern Fiction that begins by discussing the Merlinus Ambrosius character in CS Lewis' That Hideous Strength. More than that, it seems to be an extremely thorough exposition of the entire "canon" of Merlin literature. It is broken down into 2 sections: Evolution of the Legend and Major Motifs and Works. The Former consists of essays on: the Merlin legend in Welsh tradition of prophecy; Prophet and Magician; Merlin and the Ladies of the Lake; Italian Literature; Spanish Lit; German Lit; "New World Wizard"; and Modern Fiction. The latter has: as wise old man; in the Grail Legend; Robert de Boron's Merlin; as Romancier (Paternity, Prophecy and Poetics); Malory's Tragic Merlin; Spenser's Merlin; Druids, bards and Tennyson's Merlin; as Image of the Artist in Tennyson, Dore, Burne-Jones and Beardsley; as Master and Mediator of the natural world.

One of the reasons I am so interested/excited is the whole issue of prophecy (a sort of side interest corresponding to my plan to work on Jeremiah the prophet for my Ph.D. dissertation). I already use Merlin in passing in my Intro to OT course for sophmores. When we get to the books of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings and the critique by prophets such as Hosea (in all of which the tension between prophet and king is central), I use Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Tolkien has a great essay on the anonymous Gawain piece, attached to his own translation of Gawain in a small little paperback - well worth buying and reading) - basically the author of Gawain makes a criticism of the "court" of Arthur, on the light side taking itself and its values way too seriously (a bit like the line "on second thought, let's not go to Camelot ... it is a silly place" in Monty Python's holy Grail - a line which I also use in the classroom), and on the darker side those values tempting Gawain to act directly against real virtue. Hosea specifically says that the "mirth" of the Northern Kingdom will be ended.

In this I also draw on Charles Williams' (friend and colleague of Lewis and Tolkien) exposition of Arthur as the tension between the Pendragon/Logres and King/Britain concepts of kingship (for more on this read Williams' essay on the figure of Arthur in his volume generally referred to as "The Arthurian Torso," if you can find a copy used [last I knew it had not re-entered print in a long time], which contains his 2 volumes of Arthurian poetry, his essay, and an essay by Lewis on Williams' poetry - Williams' also has a novel called "War in Heaven" which centers around the Grail ... but you can also glean alot about the concepts of kingship from Lewis' That Hideous Strength) ... because the idea and role of kingship is central and the Arthur material provides an illustrative comparison from other lit that helps the kids get the ideas

Up until now I have simply thrown in in passing that in the comparison Merlin would obviously be the prophet character (the "king maker and king breaker"), but I have thus far only been able to do this in passing as sort of my own passing extrapolation from the comparison ... now (from this article and this book) I have texts to point to for it.


The thing that interests me most is how a mage character is thought of as also a prophet character (although it should be noted that in the Gospel accounts, the magi from the East are seen as possessing prophetic lore concerning the coming of a king). In Harry Potter there is the whole issue of divination - and Dumbledore's and McGonnegal's commentary on it. I use that part of HP especially to develop the distinction (most clearly developed by the American Jewish Rabbi Avram Heschel) between prophecy as foretelling (mere prediction) and as forth-telling (socio-religious criticism of present conditions): Harry wonders what the pensieve can have to do with the prophecy - but for Dumbledore examining Voldemort's past so as to understand him better has everything to do with the prophecy.

Anyway, a scholar like John Granger, whose main area is this realm (medieval lit), may have come across this book when it first came out back in 2003, but, being primarily in Biblical Studies, I have just come across it, but am very excited to delve further into such a central character in the magical world that informs the HP novels, and maybe from a distinctive angle of the concerns in studying prophecy in the Hebrew Bible.

I asked yesterday and found out that we editorial assistants receive a complimentary copy of the 2 volumes of the Traditio journal on which we work - which is very exciting to me because last week I just finished pre-formatting an article on "occultic properties" in the "nature" thought of Aristotle (and how it was received by medieval philosophers such as Aquinas and the Muslim Aristotelean philosophers Avicenna and Averroes) - back in the day when thoughts on "magic" and "nature" were closer together and "magic" was thought to draw on "hidden" (the original meaning of the word "occult") properties that were, none-the-less, part of the concrete nature of a thing ... should be interesting stuff.
posted by Merlin at 4:30 PM

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

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posted by Pauli at 11:11 PM

Friday, April 02, 2010

Grindelwald the Elitist

This is just a random post that arose in reading a book on historiography (for one of my upcoming PhD comp questions).

Grindelwald's first name, Gellert, is probably from a German root (fitting for his last name being, according to the HP lexicon, taken from a town in Switzerland, and the resemblance of his reign, and even some of his buildings, to Germany and particularly Nazi Germany). According to Langenscheit the meaning of the German word "gelehrte" (I'm grateful here, I think, for Jim Dale's reading, who, probably counseled by JKR I'm sure, pronounces Gellert in the correct way for German, which would be almost, if not totally, identical to the pronunciation of gelherte) is a learned person, a scientist ... reminiscent of legends of Nazi experimentation (the Nazi connections have all been noted long before me so I can claim no interpretational originality).

But I ran into the word in a passage on the development of literary forms in the Ancient Near East, where an author was positing that history writing arose as a "gelehrte Gattung" - a "learned form" - once nations hit a certain "height of culture." So, I think the word means not only our sense of knowing a lot, but indicates a certain social standing ... the type of learning that in some cultures only the rich or upper crust can afford. So, Grindelwald's first name is a sort of veiled code for his elitist character.
posted by Merlin at 6:16 PM

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Ghost-Town Gazette headline: Merlin Posts a comment on a Hog-Prof thread

For anybody who visit these haunted grounds, Pauli sent CCd me on an email to John Granger about a comments thread going on on a Hogwart's Professor post, which had touched on the issue of eschatology in Harry Potter.

So for any who stumble back on this and would like to read (a long comment, but hopefully with some useful info or considerations), the link is:
posted by Merlin at 12:12 AM

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You can't always get what you want, but sometimes ... you get what you need: Mirror bookends in Harry Potter

This is just a short one.

I was just digging around in my travel bag in terrible need of some dental floss and noticing how much my travel bag (full of bandaids, old shaving, razors, a salve or two) amazingly resembles the state of Harry's trunk at the beginning of Deathly Hallows. I haven't yet found the floss and so am running to the corner drugstore, but I did notice I have a shaving mirror in there, and that reminded me of the two way mirror in DH ... and that started a thought rolling.

In book 1 we have the mirror of Erised, which is of course "desire" spelled backwards, and shows the viewer the deepest, most secret and most desparate desires of their heart. In Book 7 we have the broken fragment of the mirror Sirius gave Harry. I would say that this latter could be seen as paired off against the Mirror of Erised as, rather, that which gives you what you need ... in particular in book 7 it is the path by which Harry reaches Aberforth and Aberforth sends rescue.

I would even say that the broken mirror is sort of bookended itself in book 7. When Harry first sees the flash of blue in the beginning he thinks about what he desires ... to see and talk to Dumbledore again. and in the end of the book, with the second flash, when he is making no assumptions based in his longings, but simply crying out into the unknown (perhaps a symbol of the transcendant), then something happens. Of course there is also a possible death theme here - Harry is pining for DD, who has died and cannot be brought back, just as he pined for his family in the Erised mirror in book 1 ... and when the second mirror sends Dobby and Dobby saves them, he also dies.

I would note two other things about the pairing (and here I am just tossing out associations that I don't necessarily have tied out ... but do seem rather promising to me).

1. The useful mirror is the one that is broken; the one which could trap you into wasting your life pining is the one that is "whole"

2. Communication:
The mirror in book 7 is designed for communication whereas the mirror of Erised is not (in fact it implicitly, as told in the story, has anti-communicative qualities - namely that neither Ron nor Harry can see what each other see in the mirror). Here also there is a possible death theme in that in Book 5 Harry looks at the mirror, knowing he will not Sirius in it but still sort of hoping, the same as he does with the blue eye of (a) Dumbledore in book 7. In the end however, it is the blue eye that saves ... maybe there is a theme here of not trying to pin the dead down so that, who knows, they may be something involved when you cry out into unknown/transcendant for help (the shades from Voldy's wand in book 4 would seem to support this type of thinking - and if JKR has in fact done time in the chair and/or on the couch, as it seems from the language and imagery in many of the books, and supported by some information from public record on her life ... getting closure from the dearly departed is a very important theme there ... it is what frees one to really remember departed loved ones, as opposed to just being haunted by them [or rather our conceptions of them, how we perhaps tried to pin "them" down while they lived], and that is important for being able to grieve properly) ... but I think this would all be pretty latent stuf, a lot more of a psycho-analytic subconsicous reading of it.

The mirror of Erised shares some qualities with the compass of Jack Sparrow as it gets developed in the second PotC movie - it shows you what you desire most in this world (in the first movie it is implied only that it shows the bearings to Ille de Meurta, but the screen writers said they felt they, fortunately, left enough ambiguity in the phrasing to make the transition possible). The settings are different, however. In Dead Man's Chest the problem is a person not knowing what they want ... which is a more "psycho-analytic" problem of things like the ego (in the Freudian system of Id, Ego, Super-ego) sublimated to an unhealthy level (among other things) etc
posted by Merlin at 2:59 PM

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hargid as the Rubedo

Here is yet another new random Merlin Post, this time brought to you by the society of "Merlin needs something constructive to do while his scanner takes interminably long to scan selected pages from a Jon Levenson book to put up in PDF format on electronic reserves for the course he is teaching this fall"

This post sprung into my mind from something I was saying in the last one, on Gryffindor and Slytherin, and has to do with another John - not Levenson, but Granger - and alchemy in the Harry Potter series. Here particularly I am talking about Granger's notes on the last 3 books as conforming to the 3-stage description of the alchemy process: Black, White, Red. In Book 5 Black dies and in Book 6 Albus (white) dies. He wrote this before book 7 hit the stands and I was terribly afraid Hagrid was going to bite it in the final installment.

Fortunately the big guy did not exit stage left in book 7, because I really like him. But then the question comes up: When the first 2 of the 3-stage series had characters with specific names tied to the respective stage and had something decisive happen to them (dying - to be more precise), and there is a character with a taylor-made name for the 3rd alchemy stage (Rubeus Hagrid = Rubedo/Red stage) ... but he does not have as decisive of an event - to the extent that you could say he does not even have an "event" in the same way as the other two - what does that mean for the use of that structure for the last 3 books?

Well, I don't think the imbalance among the stages can be totally resolved (although, admittedly, I have not read what John Granger has on the 7th book as the Rubedo stage, and he is usually pretty insightful, so maybe he has), but I think things like that just sort of happen when a series is being composed over that long a span of time. BUT, in writing that last post some things sort of stuck out to me about Hagrid that may make him very siginificant as a characterization and as a symbol in the 7th book and the series.

As I sort of connected (more free association than really planned), Hagrid is the one who brings Harry to Hogwarts for the first time in book 1, leading the boats, and Hagrid is the one who brings his body (as he believes it to be only his body) back to the castle in book 7. But the actual physical entrance to the castle is not the only "first time" Hargid represents for Harry. In a sense Hagrid is Harry's whole entrance into the magical world. It all begins with Hagrid knocking the door in at the hut on the rock in the sea (and notice, this is specifically mentioned in book 7 when Harry is talking to the Dursleys to convince them to take the Order's protection: he says something about "and if you remember what happened the last time you tried to outrun wizards, I think you'll agree you need help" - and then JKR specifically notes a silence in which you could almost hear faint echoes of Hagrid pounding on the door). Hagrid is also with Harry the first time he visits Diagon Alley. In fact, Hagrid is the one who gives Hedwig to Harry ... and Hagrid who is there when Hedwig dies in book 7.

I believe it is John Granger who noted (in his first book) that St Hedwig is the patron of orphans. There is a sort of "openings and closings" thing with Hagrid in these scenes - an opening and closing of his life at Hogwarts; the orphan years gaurded over by Hedwig; the era of being one of "the abandonded boys" for whom Hogwarts WAS home (cf Deathly Hallows, Harry's thoughts as he leaves the castle for the woods the final time - that he wished he could go home, but this was the first and best home he ever had, him and Voldemort and Snape, the abandoned boys). After this Harry will build a new home with Ginny. But here Hagrid is with Harry at the ending of this stage, carrying his body to the castle, pairing with his stament in the Leaky Cauldron in Book 1: "Everyone starts at the beginning at Hogwarts."
posted by Merlin at 2:59 PM

Monday, August 17, 2009

Griffyndor vs Slytherin: Bookends in books 1 and 7

The following is brought to you (whoever is around who still stops by the Muggle Matters ghost-town blog) by the "Merlin needs (or at least wants) to take a break from studying for comps and prepping his syllabus for the fall" foundation.

In prepping my syllabus for teaching an intro to Old Testament class this fall, I have decided to use the Harry Potter series in the introduction of the course to help explain some approaches in studying texts by applying them to a text college sophmores will have read (the course is one of several possible for fulfilling a core requirement text course - so I have to cover some of the "basics" of how texts in general are approached).

Anyway, this has given rise to many "sideline" considerations of the material as a whole.

This one is about the whole Gryffindor vs Slytherin tension, and in particular how it functions in books 1 an 7 as sort of "bookends"

Pauli made a really brilliant observation once, to which I have been repeatedly indebted in how I think of some of the structural themes/aspects of the books (this one, dealing with the houses, which, as JKR said in interview is a straight lift from the medieval 4 elements cosmology, as John Granger reports in his books, is by nature a structuring mechanism). His observation was that Gryffindor house contains in it, precisely in Harry's year, all 4 houses, and so is a sort of melting pot. Harry (as John Granger and others, among them the sorting hat, have noted) has slytherin qualities. Ron is your straight-ahead hot-headed and fiery red Gryffindor. Hermione is the cool reason of Ravenclaw and Neville, with his knack for (and eventual teaching of) herbology, is a Hufflepuff nature.

The fact that these will be "melting potted" together is evident from book 1, where, in the boats crossing the lake (contra the movie representation), these 4, and just these 4, wind up in the same boat together. That's the book 1 opening bookend.

In book 7, after Voldy has Hargid (who also led, sort of carried, the troops across the lake in book 1) carry Harry in front of the Castle, Neville breaks through the silence spell and pushes through to shout something about Dumbledore's army forever. Voldy puts him on his knees and asks him if he wants to join the death eaters. Neville tells him where he can shove that idea and Voldy does the flaming sorting hat trick on Neville's head, which then gets transformed into the sword-in-hat trick (a thank you to John Granger here for noticing that great pun and for his pointing us to the Arthurian connections of it in book 2). The book 7 bookend here is the particular thing that Voldy says in this interchange: that there will be no m ore sortings; the house of his noble ancestor Salazar Slytherin, will suffice for all.

So, in book 1 we have Gryffindor house "sufficing" for all in the manner of a sort of an umbrella house. In book 7 we have Voldy's alternative conception of what it means for one house to "suffice for all" - which is what we here in academic jargon land call hegemony (forced submission to a cultural etc identity). In other words, Voldy's is a plan of forced homogenization (everybody becoming exactly the same). The Gryffindor model, on the other hand, provides more room for people to maintain the traits that make them unique and interesting (Luna will always be SUCH a Ravenclaw), while still upholding certain universal ideals such as bravery and loyalty.

PS: Granger had some nice stuff on Snape as the Slytherin/Gryffindor Androgyne (containing qualities of both, where we get "androgynous" from, which is the original use of the word, a character who has both male [andros] and female [gyne] characteristics) ... an interesting question would be whether or not Dumbledor would be right in sometimes "thinking we sort to soon" - Snape needs to remain a Slytherin for it to work.

PPS: on a slightly related note to the last PS, I saw on Travis Prinzi's FaceBook feed that he has something at the Hog’sHead about Snape’s love for Lily: "Devoted, Sacrificial Love or Creepy infatuation)." I don't think they're the only two options. I'm sure different people, including Travis, will be weighing in at the HH with a more nuanced position, but I hope it goes beyond some mere 'middle-point' or 'mixture' theory because I don’t think those are even the only two possible poles in the matter. I think there is a lot more in there than meets the eye. I started thinking this when reading book 3 again recently – particularly in the part where Snape fills in for Lupin and Hermione is trying to answer the questions and Snape keeps docking house points on her for 'speaking out of turn.' And in the shrieking shack he is down-right abusive to Hermione, calling her a stupid girl (yelling it at her – all caps in American text). I think Hermione reminds him a bit of Lily (she certainly connects with Lily, via Slughorn and Harry, in book 6), and that this is like an open burning and festering wound to him. What she reminds him of is that he ruined a friendship. That friendship may have had possibilities of romance and marriage, and Snape may have even had specific conscious desires for that … but Lily was more than just a 'potential lover/spouse' to him … she represented friendship to him, a connection with somebody else, somebody to talk about hopes and dreams and fears and frustrations with (as little as young Snape wants to talk about it, I think it is important to him that Lily asks if his parents are still fighting). So I would add the possibility of not just deep, but, more-over, bitter remorse and regret (at points acerbically bitter, evidenced in his treatment of Hermione as the emblem of a still-open and festering wound). I never could buy the 'completely white hat' (or black hat even before book 7 came out) view of Snape … he's not an angel or a devil, he's a human – and there is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to humans.

Anyway, that is enough of a break from studying and syllabus prep for now

posted by Merlin at 2:08 PM

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince Movie

Wow ... has it really been more than a year since I posted anything on here? Life gets busy

but I have not in any way "moved on" from the Potterdom.

I just got back from movie 6 ... way too much to process. I have actually given up on trying to compare the movies with the books but I did have a few thoughts about this movie, one in particular in relation to theories I have mentioned on this site.

(well, first, the scene at the beginning with Harry and the muggle girl in the diner in the London underground station was completely gratuitous. Not gratuitous in the sense that it gets used of certain very specific types of movie scenes ... the movie maintains its PG Rating ... but it just made me go "what was THAT about or what did it have to do with ANYTHING?").

The theory I have talked about before here involves the unbreakable vow IN RELATION to marriage Imagery and THEMES (NOT that the UBV directly symbolizes marriage in a one-to-one structure). In this movie when Ron explains the UBV to Harry it is on the train going back to the Burrow for Christmas holiday (I know ... there is nothing in the book about the Hogwats express EVER being running outside of the beginning and end, but, hey, it's the movie). The convo begins and then is interrupted slightly when Lavender breathes on the glass of the compartment door and traces a heart and "R + L" .. then Ron goes on to explain that you die if you break a UBV and as he does this the message on the door is in the foreground prominently.

In movie language, as I understand that language at least, this pretty strongly connects the idea of romantic love and the UBV, or at least hints strongly at some intersection of themes.

(I realize some could say "well, that is just what the movie makers got out of it and they are botching stuff all over the place anyway, but, hey, I think it's in the book and the recent movie image provides a nice point of entry to bring in one of my pet theories about how the literary "meaning" is working ... I'm not necessarily trying to use the movie image as an "argument" for this reading of the book)

In terms of what goes on in the book, I would translate the intersection as "what is it about romantic love, and even the desire for it (like, say, Merope's desire for love and marriage, and in the end even desire for TRUE love, causing her to cease the love potion) that brings people to enter into a desire for conjugal love and using the words 'till death do us part'? and what impact does dysfuntion have on that (dysfunction like, say, Merope's state of extreme psychological duress from living her whole life under the thumb and mentality of Marvolo and Morphin Gaunt) ... AND, how does that whole question impact Tom Riddle becoming Voldemort"

If I were to put it terms of philosophical argumentation, particularly from a Catholic theological standpoint, for this set of themes being a possible question and fitting into this book (and here I am making more of an official argument"... for the possibility and fittingness), I would appeal to three things:

1. Decina and Vanhooser's talk at Lumos in 2006 where they did a very good job of tying out Voldy's character traits to anti-social personality disorder

2. the Roman Curia's instruction to annulment tribunals entitled Diginitatis Conubii (sp?), in which, while cautiously, the Curia instructs tribunals to pay heed to findings in the field of psychology and their relationship to the shape of full consent in entering marriage (particularly at issue here is the impact of personality disorders on the ability to "choose").

3 The fact related by Decina and Vanhooser that JKR has, according to public note, gone through clinical depression episode twice - one of the times being with the divorce from her first husband.

In the end, in HBP, I think these are questions the book poses, rather than "answers" it "offers." But there is something important in the asking.

A final question would be: Why Snape and Narcissa? (there is NEVER any hint of romantic inclinations there AT ALL ... not to mention the fact that she is a married woman).

I have just re-read book # 4 and there is a STRONG theme there of fathers and sons (in many different avenues, for instance: inthe pensieve Barty Crouch Sr says to JR "I have no son" and moments later DD relates to Harry that the Longbottoms do not recoginize their son. Ovviously the latter denotes what we usually call recognition, but in close conjuction with the other I think it echoes Crouch not recognizing his son in the sense of acceptance ... It all points to one thing: one of Voldy's legacies is many instances of estrangement within families .. which Harry pretty much says not too long after laying in bed thinking about Neville, that it all comes down to Voldy, he's the one who has torn all these families apart).

In HBP I think it is a tale of mothers and sons, particularly mothers in extreme psychological/emotinoal duress.

The two themes (romantic love with UBV, and mother love with UBV) may seem a bit unrelated, and I have not tied them together as tightly here as I would like (but do not have time to) ... but my final line, appealing to artisitic ways of thinking beyond strict "logic,'" would be a line from John Mayer's song "Fathers"

"Girls become lovers who turn into mothers"

(we are, after all, talking about a story written by a girl who became a mother, and a lover along the way ... not by an academic publishing for a trade journal - or more importanly I think she wrote it as more of the former, rather than trying to put out something that would tie together so nice and "logically")

A son (Tom Marvolo Riddle) was born from the union of a psychologically very duressed woman who coerced the man she "loved" into marriage and then maybe really fell in love with him and set him free and was dashed by the fact that he had no inclination to love her, so dashed she gave up living ... not even the sake of her baby could convince her to keep living.

Another mother is so desparate for the safety of her son's survival (against threats brought on by the "failure of service" of her husband - however, within a system of bigotry and violence to which she herself has willingly committed) that she willingly binds another to penalty of death to protect him.

Another mother cast down her life to save her son, but in doing so also left him without her in a cruel world.

Another mother recently cried on television upon revisiting the flat in which she lived as a single parent with her daughter after a divorce, while she took a chance on writing a book she at the time had no assurance would become even profitable, let alone one of the best selling series of recent publishing.

In the end I think the question in all of this is: where does the pain, and sometimes malady, come from and how does it affect the magic that is life (especially at its source: marriage and family)?

These things are beneath the surface, to be sure (I would be highly surprised if JKR had even heard of Diginitatis Conubii, let alone read it ... an in-house communication of guidance between juridical entities within the Catholic Church just doesn't seem like the type of thing a lay-person in the Church of Scottland is likely to have on their shelf), but I think they are there none-the-less.

Most of all just thought it was interesting that the movie makers' subconscious seems to be running in the same direction, at least in so far as making some connection between the UBV and romantic love (although, like I said, I realize that in the minds of some this may be a strike against my theory ... but, oh well, it's all good fun in the end)
posted by Merlin at 5:51 PM

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Travis Prinzi's New Book: Harry Potter & Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds

So, what does someone do if he/she likes Muggle Matters but are a little bit sad that the frequency of writing seems to be about once every six months at best?

I suggest buying Travis Prinzi's new book, Harry Potter & Imagination: The Way Between Two Worlds. You can pre-order it here, and I just did. Travis is as smart as he is a dedicated Harry Potter fan and blogger, so I am sure the book is going to ROCK.

Another thing: I notice that the colors of the book cover go very well with the color scheme here at Muggle Matters. But I'm sure that is 100% coincidental....

Or is it??

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posted by Pauli at 1:12 PM

Hogwarts's Ghosts

This summer while our family was on vacation in Maine, I received this email from a wise Catholic friend concerned about some of the themes in Harry Potter.

I have a question. We read Sorcerer's Stone as a family we are half way through Chamber of Secrets as a family. I see that there is good, but it is hard to get around some of the dark stuff. Like last night we attended a Deathday Party. It seemed a bit creepy for creepy's sake. I am still pro-Potter but how do I get a Christian message out of it?

That's a really good question. The following was my initial response:

Note that the ghosts are Wizards who refused to move on from this earth. Later in the series they are described as "imprints". Their entire existence as it remains is suffused with vanity in all senses of the word: note Nick's desire to be a real "decapitee" and the vain attempt to derive pleasure from rotten food without a physical body. The headless hunt is nothing more than a moribund fraternity of wannabes and braggarts at having their heads lopped off. Some achievement.

Also there is undue attachment to the things of this earth, e.g., the Fat Friar is a good enough fellow, but he's fat, symbolizing an attachment to food. The ghosts play a bigger role later in the books. Ron is always shown as being "impolite" whenever he mentions the fact that Nick is dead. But he's correct in this bluntness and candor! Nick is the one who is rudely invading the world of the living.

Harry condescends to Nick's level out of respect for him and attends the party, but doesn't really enjoy it beyond an amused bewilderment. In book 5, Nick tells Harry, "I am neither here nor there," admitting that he probably made a mistake in his vain attachment.

I agree with you that it is creepy, but the question is why so. The creepiness is due to the moribund vanity of en-souled creatures who refuse to move on to the next life. I believe this can be one way of seeing the ghosts at Hogwarts.

I had meant to post on this earlier; I just thought of the email again today in reference to an idea Merlin mentioned to me once. He stated that the Potter series has an existential dimension, i.e., how the good characters become good as a result of their actions, and likewise for evil characters and those somewhere in between, that is not found so much in other mythopoeic literature (e.g., Lord of the Rings, etc.). The ghosts seem to be living out the essence of their decision to remain on this plane of existence although it is no longer their proper mode of existence.

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posted by Pauli at 12:29 PM

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