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Literature 137: Harry Potter: Literary Allusion, Children ’ s Literature, and Popular Culture

Literature 137: Harry Potter: Literary Allusion, Children ’ s Literature, and Popular Culture. Some definitions and questions:. But first,. Here’s what I learned about the class Monday:

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Literature 137: Harry Potter: Literary Allusion, Children ’ s Literature, and Popular Culture

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  1. Literature 137: Harry Potter: Literary Allusion, Children’s Literature, and Popular Culture Some definitions and questions:

  2. But first, Here’s what I learned about the class Monday: • Out of 90 students enrolled in the course, several are brand new students who are in college for the first time, while some are seniors getting ready to graduate this semester. • Eight students have not read any of the HP books, while a few others have read the books in the series more times than the professor!

  3. What this all means is that • Any material covered will always be too easy for some students and too difficult for others. • As I try to find a “middle ground,” please be patient, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

  4. Back to: Some definitions and questions:

  5. Literary Allusion • allusion (a-LOO-zhuhn):  a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature. Allusions are often indirect or brief references to well-known characters or events. • www.uncp.edu “glossary of literary terms”

  6. Why allusions are important • Allusions are often used to summarize broad, complex ideas or emotions in one quick, powerful image.

  7. An example: • For example, to communicate the idea of self-sacrifice one may refer to Jesus, as part of Jesus' story portrays him dying on the cross in order to save mankind (Matthew 27:45-56).

  8. How allusions work • Thus, allusions serve an important function in writing in that they allow the reader to understand a difficult concept by relating to an already familiar story. • In other words, allusions are shorthand. • But, in order to understand them, you need to know what they are shorthand for.

  9. This is Minerva McGonagall:

  10. And, this is Minerva the Roman Goddess:

  11. Allusion: • Minerva’s name is a literary allusion that reveals a lot about her character: • The Roman goddess Minerva is based on the Greek goddess Athena, who was the goddess of wisdom and the craft of war (among other things) • She was a warrior goddess and also known as “Athena the virgin”

  12. Layers of meaning • When used well, literary allusions add layers of meaning to a work of literature so that it has more depth as well as more ambiguity. • When we know that Minerva is both a goddess of wisdom and of war, it makes sense that McGonagall turns from a “schoolmarm” into a warrior leading Hogwarts in a large-scale battle by the end of the series.

  13. What do the following names mean? • Argus

  14. Argus • Argus=giant in Greek mythology, a watchman with a hundred sets of eyes (200 in total)

  15. What do the following names mean? • Sibyll

  16. Sibyll Trelawney • Sibyll= In ancient times a Sibyl was a prophetess who, in a state of ecstasy and under influence of Apollo, prophesied without being consulted

  17. What do the following names mean? • Lucius

  18. Lucius • 'Lucius'=common first name among Roman nobility; possible reference to Lucifer. Lucius was the name of a Roman emperor who fought against King Arthur in legend.

  19. Children’s Literature: • writings specifically intended for children, or that children have made their own.

  20. Why study Children’s Lit? • Aren’t children’s books just simplistic little books about bunnies?

  21. Or, • Just books with easy vocabulary used to teach things to children?

  22. No! • Quite a few children’s books are complex, dense, and beautifully written works of literature that are read and studied by people of all ages.

  23. Books like this one • Have complex story lines, difficult vocabularies, and are filled with literary allusions and other sophisticated literary devices. • Most importantly, the best children’s books don’t talk down to child readers!

  24. Books like, Alice in Wonderland

  25. The Hobbit

  26. The Secret Garden

  27. and others, are all studied in literature classes around the world using the same critical tools we use to study Shakespeare or Faulkner.

  28. Indeed, in some ways, children’s books require more complex reading strategies than texts written for an adult audience. Here’s why . . .

  29. Children’s texts occupy a unique and complex place in our culture: they are written by adults, published and sold by adults, often bought by adults for children, and often read aloud to children. In these ways, children’s texts are filtered through adult interpretations at every level.

  30. What this means is that children’s books, movies, toys, television shows, and games do not reflect so much what our children actually are, but instead embody the qualities we hope our children will possess, nostalgic visions of our own childhoods or what we wish our childhoods could have been, and all of our collective adult anxieties about what we worry our children might become.

  31. In this way, texts for children become a barometer measuring a culture’s relationship with its children; its hopes and fears about the future and the values that society holds most dear.

  32. This is why people get so “touchy” about children’s books: When people debate children’s books, they are debating the values being passed on to child readers.

  33. One of many Websites arguing that HP lures children into Witchcraft and Satanism:http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/Harry&Witchcraft.htm

  34. From “The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000”:(compiled by the American Library Association)1.Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz2.Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite3.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou4.The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier5.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain6.Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck7.Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling8.Forever by Judy Blume9.Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson10.Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor11.Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman12.My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier13.The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger14.The Giver by Lois Lowry . . .

  35. Most of the books on the ALA’s “most censored list” are books written for children and adolescents because well-meaning adults want to protect child readers from dangerous ideas.

  36. “Dangerous” = threat to adult authority • For example, the Captain Underpants books are high on the list because some adults worry they teach children to question authority and to misspell words. Really.

  37. Where it all begins to come together . . . • Another thing the books on the “most censored” list have in common is that they are considered “low-brow” texts, works of popular culture not considered to have “literary merit.” There’s loads of sex and violence in the works of Shakespeare, but these aren’t on the list because they are “classics.”

  38. Popular Culture • Mass-produced • Consumed by the masses • Everyday culture • Low-brow • Short-lived and trendy • So, why would we study it at a university?

  39. Statement from BGSU’s Pop Culture Program: • Popular culture studies everyday life, including but not limited to everything that is mass produced by us and for us. Its subject matter is the world in which we live, relax and have fun. By examining television programs, movies, cars, houses, music, museums, celebratory events, holidays, magazines and many other manifestations of culture insights can be used to examine society presently and historically.

  40. We study Pop Culture • To figure out who we are, what our values are, what we believe, and to understand the complex interactions that make up contemporary society • This means that we don’t just read the HP books, we also need to read their contexts of production (everything that surrounds the books like the movies, fan sites, fan fiction, spoilers on the Internet, etc.)

  41. Is Harry Potter popular culture? Let’s go back to the definition . . .

  42. Mass-produced? • Consumed by the masses? • Everyday culture? • Low-brow? • Short-lived and trendy?

  43. Can a text be both popular and a quality work of literature? How is “literary merit” defined?

  44. Literary merit • Is hard to define • Some say it is subjective • Some say it comes from “cultural consensus”: when enough people agree that a work of literature has merit, then it has merit.

  45. Scholarship • One measure of merit is the level of debate that exists about a work of literature, how many literary scholars are willing to take the time to argue about the meaning of a text. • Here’s a link to a bibliography of HP scholarship: http://www.eulenfeder.de/hpliteratur.html

  46. Critic William Safire dismisses scholarship about the books saying, • The trouble is not that children are being lured into belief in witchcraft, as some tut-tutting clerics complain; Western civilization has survived Merlin's magic in the tales of King Arthur. Nor will poor children be corrupted by tales of life in upper-middle-class English boarding schools.The trouble is that grown-ups are buying these books ostensibly to read to kids, but actually to read for themselves. As Philip Hensher warns in the Independent newspaper, this leads to "the infantilization of adult culture, the loss of a sense of what a classic really is."

  47. This course counters Safire on two points: If classic works of literature are defined through use of sophisticated literary devices, through character development, through intricate story telling, and through the use of literary allusions for symbolic purpose, then the HP books qualify. Also, many non-western cultures and cultures in the past did not so rigidly segregate stories based on the age of the implied reader. Indeed, some of the best classic stories we still value today like myths and folktales were told to audiences of all ages.

  48. This course assumes the Harry Potter novels have literary merit and are worth studying at the college level. • But, we will also consider other, broader questions about literature and culture beyond just “merit.”

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