End of the Story. Friday, May 6 2011 

After a great semester and a highly interesting class, this is the end of the line. May you and everyone from class have a great summer. My paper can be found at https://lbravenclaw.wordpress.com/remus-lupin-and-the-monstrous-title/

Viewing the Uncanny Tuesday, Feb 22 2011 

In Judith Robertson’s “What Happens to our Wishes: Magical Thinking in Harry Potter”, there were several theories that is mentioned. One that caught my eye was the theory of the Uncanny. The idea was coined by Ernst Jentsch and then picked up by Sigmund Freud. Jentsch looked at how the unfamiliar brings about anxiety compared to the familiar, thus making the unfamiliar uncanny. Freud took it in a similar fashion while pointing to the familiar that was made unfamiliar by some change in the ordinary, making it extraordinary. This is, of course, removing the sexual aspect that we all know Freud threw in.

Robertson looks at this theory with the Potter books. She brought up the unconscious with the symbols that we have all heard of; such as witches, werewolves, ghosts, a Cerberus style dog and many of the traditional mythical creatures which could cause “uncertainty” while the mind is drawn to the imaginary images. I can see her point as all of these fantasy figures are ones that most people have heard of and seen in some kind of entertainment. Rowling takes them and tweeks her thing so that it stands out from the original. For example, a lot of people know of Cerberus. They have either heard of him from mythology, seen paintings or even saw the Disney representation of the guard dog of Hades. Lo and behold, place old Cerb on the third floor of a magical school, now renamed the ferocious Fluffy, and you have the sense of the uncanny. Although I have no problem with this point, I can see a problem that others may have with this assessment. After all, mythological and fairy tale creatures would already be considered uncanny. 

There are also the more mundane aspects of life that are made odd within the book. I have drawn names out of a cup before, sometimes from a bowl or small container. But I have never placed a paper with my name on it into a flaming goblet so that if I am chosen, it would be spit into the air like the Goblet of Fire does in the forth book. While I do not think that these small changes to reality cause the anxiety that Freud and Jentch mentioned, this small change in familiar routines and information does draw the attention of an audience. I also don’t know if dodging dragons and eating chocolate frogs is a way to fill a hidden desire, but it does catch your interest.

Harry Potter to the Children Saturday, Feb 19 2011 

It has been so many years since Harry Potter first came out that it is easy to forget what it was like to read the books as a child. That is why the kids and the article was so interesting. My generation grew up with these books, aging and evolving along with Harry and his friends. The kids and Roni Natov offer a view into those days long gone, both from the perspective of an older reader as well as children who are newly acquainted to the stories.

Listening to Sam, India and Ella was a “blast from the past” for me. Although I was older then these three when I started reading the series, not that I was older then my peers who were reading the books but because I had put off reading the series until Prisoner of Azkaban, I still remembered a lot of the same wonder that the kids showed. I fell in love with the monsters as Sam did, and I was pulled into the intrigue of Professor Snape just as India enthusiastically mentioned when she named him her favorite character. I had shared the same ideas as I read the books, but it was also slightly different. I think it was Ella who said that she read the whole series within two years. The time gap between releases insured that I and the other adolescent readers would age along with the characters. I could understand the underlining tones of the book, such as the hormones kicking in toward the middle and later books because I was living it too. Those kids will not get the same things that readers of my age did, or at least not until they reread the novels later.

Natov looks at what the series means for children through the eyes of an adult. She focuses first alienation and uncertainty of a child who does not fit into their family. And while not everyone has such an extreme contrast as Harry does with the Dursleys’ , Natov points out that it is a normal feeling. I know I felt it. The same goes for the uncertainty of growing up, and finding your purpose in life. While Natov does draw on these old experiences, her article is also marked as coming from an adult looking into the world of children. She looks at the wonder of the world that Rowling made, while looking deeper into the political aspects of a child hero and the underlining messages that come from things like the Mirror of Erised. But, like other articles we have read, Natov felt the need to justify the Potter series with other well known, loved and respected works of fiction. The deeper ideas are also a way for an adult to justify why people love the books. It is as though Navok cannot accept the wonder of the books without rationalizing it.

Laying out the Fan Fic’s Monday, Feb 14 2011 

I was pleasantly surprised when Erica’s paper came up in our class reading. I had read a first draft of this paper during Advanced Comp, and had wondered how it had turned out. I must confess that I too was drawn into the shady world of fan fiction at an early age. I was interesting to hear another person’s perspective on the issue.  The fact that she focused on the connection of the online fandoms was an interesting part. People can come together and find something they all like. Even when no one in their regular lives finds the writing or even the show or book, there is someone online who will willingly read the story and express their interest.

I also liked that Erica mentioned that her writing got better over time. It was mentioned in the class discussion as well as with our previous guest speaker that practice makes one’s writing better. While the topic is not original, it does not change the fact that when you are writing a fic you are still writing. Someone mentioned during class that it becomes easier to write original works as well as academic work when you have been putting hours into practice. One point that I would have liked to hear more about would have been Erica’s process. Such as how often she worked on fiction, if she is one who has a plot set or if she still allows her work to evolve like it did with her first story.

This guest speaker did not change my view of fan fiction. I enjoyed the well written work before this, and I still like them now. But some of the ideas that were brought up during this section of the class have made me rethink the connection between fan fiction and the texts. I had always thought of them as fun, but not serious. I had never gave serious consideration to slash fics or why writers focused on making characters like Snape, who rarely shows interest in relationships, into sexual idols. Looking at the articles, I can see why they would write these stories, even if I still have no interest in mature fiction or same sex relationships that have no grounds in the cannon. Even the dreaded Mary Sue can serve a purpose.

Adaptation Wednesday, Feb 9 2011 

In my opinion, it is impossible for a movie to be completely loyal to a book or other source that it came from. There are just things that authors do that can not translate to the big screen. So effects are changed around and plot lines shifted as the audience watches their favorite stories on the screen. Carrie is an example of this. There are several differences with characters and actions, but the biggest difference is the ending. The basic idea stays the same but the way that Carrie attacks the class, her mother and her own death are strikingly different. This difference allows me to view the two as different entities, both equally good in their own ways.

The same view on adaptation also works with the Potter films. A problem with the first two is that they stay too close to the book. While it was great to see so much of Rowling’s world for the first time, it is not necessary for the movies. Sue Snell’s letters and her connection to the events of Carrie are down played in the film because they are not as relevant to the movie. Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite of the series because it was the first to break away from the books. It offers some differences, giving up events that would not have worked as well in the movie. With the exception of some bad digital animation, I thought it was a great adaptation.

There seems to be two ways that adaptations fail. One is trying to stay too close to the source. With a lot of movies, especially the video game adaptations, staying true means losing out on the new aspect that fans want to see. These films can also rely too much on knowing the book to be enjoyed by outside audiences. But when they change too much, this can also be bad. When the plot is completely changes, then the audience feels cheated.

Kat Oldrey, Enlightening Writing Monday, Jan 31 2011 

On Friday, our class had the pleasure of meeting a writing alum of the course, Kat Oldrey. Her experience with writing is not just in her spare time, as she is on the writing track as well as working for the Penn. A few of the things that she mentioned during her speech were things that I had heard before, from other writers and anonymous pieces of advice. Yet she did not allow her topics to become uninteresting. The way that she tied her presentation to the Potter books as well as her own experience.

Oldrey brought up some very interesting ideas. One is the importance of consistency when she mentioned Chekhov’s Gun. The fact that an item placed in a story must be used somehow is one that shines in the Potter books. Examples of this can be seen with Hagrid being expelled that came up again in book three. Another issue that was mentioned was the development of character and voice. This is one of the things that I love about Harry Potter and my other current series, the Cal Leandros series. As Oldrey pointed out, the style of storytelling changed as the characters changed with age. The voice is not the same as the first person that is used in the Leandros series, but the way that the characters talk and the changes that one can see in the reading keeps the interest in continuing to follow the books.

The thing that struck me about the presentation is that it is not just about creative writing. Dr. Powers mentioned that the inability to follow through with writing can be found in academic writing as well. This is a point that I have experienced personally. Many times I have told myself that I would start writing a paper for class, get ahead of the final moment rush at the end of the semester. And yet, many times I have been stuck until the last moment. Even now, I have a paper left over from an earlier year that I want to work on. But to do so seems impossible. Any time I think of writing, I meet the same blocks that Oldrey mentioned. The fear that what I write will not be good enough overcomes my interest in the topic. Instead of waiting, I should do some work every day. Just like Oldrey mentioned, practice will better your writing.

The Battle Against the Books. Monday, Jan 31 2011 

Since the rise of the Potter phenomenon, there have been questions centered on the texts. One of these issues is the intellectual integrity of the series. Two views were offered in the articles presented by Harold Bloom and William Safire. These two journalists take two sides of the argument against Harry Potter, saying that it is a threat to intelligent readers. Either the novels lack originality or any mentionable message. In reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, they have found that it does not match what they consider “real” literature. And by “real” literature, they seem to be focusing on prose that has been tested by time. Huckleberry Finn and Alice in Wonderland were offered as examples, both of which have survived over a hundred years. And while they are great books, they were once new. These classics faced the critics who hated the way that the story was portrayed. There are still people who look down on these books as racist or the result of a drug infused trip. Harry Potter may become the next Alice, allowing for Rowling to be read by academic types without shame.

 A common theme that critics share is that the series is classified as children’s books.  It is a misconception that people have, that something meant for a younger audience could have no value.  To Safire, the books of our childhoods are just stepping stones, a push forward into a larger world. He admitted it himself, before throwing them them away as insignificant to his matured mind. Perhaps it is because I was in my teens before I actually came to love reading that I still remember the books I read as a young adult. No, I did not read the average pre-teen novels of Babysitters Club or Hardy Boys. Not that I have anything against them, I simply had no interest in them.  I went from a simple reader version of Oliver Twist to fantasy genre to Poe to whatever I got my hands on from different age groups. Each of these books had something to teach. Many of the same issues that arise in Harry Potter shows up on these novels; rejection, depression, struggles for survival, hope, joy, humanity. These same basic themes stand at the center of the greatest stories. Look at the adaptation of the story of Beowulf that Safire applauded for defeating Rowling. The hero of this tale struggles against great odds in order to save his people. This is a plot that has existed since the beginning of storytelling; Gilgamesh, Hercules, Frodo Baggins, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, a few names among the countless others who have captivated the minds of children and adults. And I must mention that many of these stories, both in the traditional oral telling and the modern adaptation, have found their way to children’s ears as well as adults. The oral tradition was meant to teach and entertain, Beowulf’s story would not have been different.

As a final note, I bring up a topic that aggravated me. The idea that the only reason that someone would allow themselves to read Harry Potter is because there is nothing better to read. At one point, Bloom states “Presumably, if you cannot be persuaded to read anything better, Rowling will have to do”. This is a big assumption to make. Who is to say that those individuals, both young and old, would be willing to read anything else? A vast majority of the population is not among the literary academic elite who take some form of pleasure from working through Faulkner or Shakespeare. The fact that people where grabbing the same books and actually reading them instead of letting them sit on shelves or on nightstands is a big deal. They are forsaking the video games, movies, reality television to take up their time. If they do read, it would not be The Tale of Two Cities that you find in their hands. Instead you would see Harlequin romances or the biographies of sports stars. Is it not better for readers to pick up Potter, where they gain access to new ideas that could make them want more stories that are similar? I think that just getting the masses to crack a spine instead of watching drunken hussies make idiots of themselves is a big step forward for intelligence.

The Halls of Knowledge, View of the Ravenclaw Thursday, Jan 20 2011 

The Ravenclaw house is one that focuses on the importance of intelligence. Several times, this has been stated by the sorting hat. It is a house of the cunning and those who are seeking knowledge. This knowledge is not just book leaning, as it shown by Luna Lovegood’s vast facts about unknown, or some would say false, creatures and plots.

                One downside to this illustrious house is the fact that Ravenclaws can be lost in thought. Again, Luna was a good example of this, as she was often seen in a daze as she moved through life. Luna also shows that Ravenclaws will turn against their own. Although she could be seen as being teased by other houses, after all her nickname of “Loony Luna” was known to her Gryffindor year mate Ginny, Luna’s own house seems to be the worse. At the end of her fourth year, Luna was seen looking for a list of lost possessions. While there is no proof that these items were taken from her dorm, it seems likely. This is not the only example of Ravenclaw’s betrayal.  Marietta Edgecomb informed Umbridge abouth the D.A in order to protect her mother’s job and her own future in the Ministry.  Even Cho Chang, who had also been sold out by Edgecomb, saw logic in the treachery. Taking this into account, it would not be difficult to see the Ravenclaws also bullying a member of their house that does not seem to fit with their image or plans.

                When I was sorted into this house, I was not surprised or disappointed. I believe that this house is a good fit for me. It is the house that I have always thought that I would be placed in. I share the same love of learning and intelligence that marks the house. It has always been a belief of mine that knowledge is an important part of understanding life. I do not agree with some of the practices that those students who came before me showed, such as the bullying and willingness to sell out others, but these were not traits that every Ravenclaw hold.