maryailes (maryailes) wrote,

Defending John Granger

This is very well said. One of the things I have enjoyed most about analytical writing regarding the Harry Potter books among adults has been the high regard for all of us who are attempting to think through these wonderful books. It has been very helpful for me to read John Granger's works, as well as many others who I may disagree with as well. It's fun to think through which parts I agree using the canon text and which parts I may disagree. I took several classes at Georgetown University as a post-grad student on Shakespeare, taught by Ken Addleman. He was something else - in addition to being a respected authority on Shakespeare, he was also the chief arms negotiator for the United States during the Reagan Administration, during the height of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. You can imagine what his class was like if you got something wrong! In fact, he banned the use of the word "Shakespeare" from his class - you had to use the text (like we use the canon of Harry Potter) in order to make your case. If you use too many outside sources or began to try to put words into Shakespeare's mouth, well, I shudder to think what might happen.

When I took his Hamlet class I listened carefully to his theories and pondered them. But one time there was one of his theories - argued completely from the text - that I disagreed with. With great trepidation, I raised my hand and told him I did not agree. You could feel the air suck out of the room (or was it just me?). I felt like Neville Longbottom in Potions. But I pressed on and began to make my case for a complete opposite point of view from the professor. He stared me down as I spoke (one can only imagine what the Soviets felt like when he stared them down too) but I kept going, using the text and plunged on. Finally, I finished my point. There was silence. Would I be ridiculed? Would he just respond in silence and pretend I don't exist? Would me fellow classmates speak to me? Would I ever come back to class? He continued to stare at me with his dark eyes.

And then he jumped up, with great enthusiasm, and cried out "Well done!" He lifted the book up in the air and said very loudly "That's what I'm looking for! Those are excellent points, argued from the text. I will now have to consider why you may be wrong," he said, "but this is what I'm looking for! Excellent!" I nearly collapsed.

It is okay to disagree, arguing from the text, the canon. But if we're going to carry on these conversations, don't we need to read what each of us has actually written? I have a book that just arrived from England that are academic essays on Harry Potter that slam Jo Rowling for being bourgeois and a closet traditionalist, that she shows women and girls in terrible stereotype and that she's a threat to liberal society for her backward traditional views of morality. Really! I am going to make myself read this book - and then figure out what may be true and what may be false. All ready it is clear that the writers are not citing the canon and text, but reading into the text their own bias, rather than allowing the text to speak - including the mysteries.

That's what makes this so much fun, isn't it? We all bring our biases, our ideas, our views to our reading. The challenge is to see if the text, the canon can stand up to our theories. But it's not necessary to attack each other because we disagree, is it?

I do agree, that because Barb has shown leadership in fandom, that it would be very helpful to younger readers to see kindness and respect shown amongst the adults who are writing about Harry Potter. I would hope, Barb (and believe me, I may have to do this myself by the time I'm done reading this academic anthology sitting here on my desk) that we can show graciousness and good will towards those with whom we disagree, if only as an example to younger readers on how it can be done.

What would Dumbledore do?

Thank you so much for listening,
Mary Ailes
Author, "Why the New York Times Should Restore Harry Potter to the Best Seller List," from the "Plot Thickens."
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