Thursday, October 29, 2015

I'm Published! "Harry Potter for Nerds: Vol. II" Now Available!


Some very exciting news to share with you all! The newest book of Harry Potter studies, "Harry Potter for Nerds 2" edited by Travis Prinzi of thehogshead.org and Kathryn McDaniel features my essay on the Hogwarts ghosts and their liminal status between gothic and comic traditions (just in time for Halloween!). This book includes some amazing works of scholarship: everything from house-elves, Remus Lupin, dystopian elements, philosophy, quidditch, reverse alchemy, and Native American elements are all explored by some of my favorite fantasy scholars writing today.

I'm particularly honored to be included in this volume because my favorite Potter scholars and fellow mythgardians are a part of it as well: Mythgard Professor Dr. Amy H. Sturgis and fellow students Katherine Sas, Kris Swank, Laura Lee Smith, and Emily Strand all have outstanding essays in this book. If you are a fan of Harry Potter, love studying Literature, or are just a Ravenclaw at heart, I think that you will not only enjoy this book and learn a lot from it, but also be down-right blown away at the ways in which these scholars talk about the series. All the essays are accessible, brilliant work on Rowling's world and the Hogwarts Professor John Granger himself calls it a "seismic event" within Harry Potter scholarship!
"For Serious Readers of Harry Potter, this is essential reading for greater understanding of the Hogwarts Saga, powerful scholarship in conversational language that delivers insight after insight."  
                  -John Granger, The Hogwarts Professor and author oHarry Potter's Bookshelf. 

Art by TheGeekCanPaint
My own chapter, "When Gothic Meets Comic: Exploring the Ghosts of Hogwarts Castle" looks deeply at some of the most important--but often overlooked-- liminal characters within the Harry Potter world. The Hogwarts ghosts, it turns out, are complex: they are not only textually in between life and death, but they are also in between two literary conventions: the gothic and the comic. Rowling herself has said that death "is one of the central themes in all seven books." My essay explores how the ghosts, as supernatural beings that are "neither here nor there," have a profound influence over Harry's developing attitude towards death. I really hope you get a chance to read it and the other marvelous and stunning essays that are included in the volume. The book is available both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

"To have essays of this depth still coming out…there's more to say still, there's deeper things to say and there's better conversations to be had--and I think this book represents that." 
              - Travis Prinzi, editor of Nerds 2, and author of Harry Potter and Imagination

MuggleNet.com's MuggleNet Academia recently devoted a whole episode to discussing this book, which you can check out right below:



Psstt! also! Unlocking Press is offering something special for everyone who buys a hard copy or eBook before Halloween. Send your proof of purchase to John at HogwartsProfessor dot com and you will receive a link to the Harry Potter For Nerds members only website, where you’ll have access to free videos and live or recorded discussions with the world’s finest Potter Pundits, which includes a talk with one of my favorite Harry Potter scholars and current Star Wars professor (!!) Amy H. Sturgis!  Woo! 

Read more about Harry Potter for Nerds 2 and purchase the book on GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.


Further reading and listening for Harry Potter scholarship:

Harry Potter for Nerds Vol. 1
Harry Potter and Imagination
How Harry Cast his Spell
The Ravenclaw Reader
MuggleNet Academia episodes! Particularly:
episode 31: "Books Within the Books of Harry Potter" (I guest host!)
episode 9:  "Fairy Stories--Comparing Rowling and Tolkien"

Monday, December 22, 2014

Battle of the Five Armies Review


 The Desolation of Smaug ended with Bilbo’s horrifying realization that he has just played a part in releasing an angry dragon on the town of Esgaroth: “what have we done?” he asks in horror before the screen turns black. The Battle of the Five Armies opens with the terrifying answer. Smaug’s attack on Lake-town is a visually superb experience: we get some beautiful shots of Smaug flying in the night sky paired with images of the terrible carnage and chaos he inflicts on the town. After watching the cat and mouse game between Smaug and the dwarves in the previous film, it was a treat to actually see Smaug as a formidable and frightening creature. This is the Smaug that attacked Erebor all those years ago. This is Smaug, the last of the great dragons of Middle-earth. His desolation of the town was paced well with the exploits of the master, Tauriel and the dwarves, and Bard. The ensuing conversation between Smaug and Bard begins to pull us out of this experience, yet those who have read The Silmarillion are reminded that this too, is how Tolkien’s dragons fight. They manipulate humans with words, feeding of their weakness and fear. Here, Smaug mistakes love for weakness and tries to instill fear and cowardice in Bard by taunting him with his son’s demise. But this moment only drives home what will be one of the main themes of film: that love, family, and home should be valued above the anger and greed that comes with gold. Bard shows just how powerful family is in defeating Smaug when he figuratively and literally uses his son as a weapon against the dragon.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Literary Alchemy in 'Hunger Games' Part 2: Peeta and President Snow in the first Mockingjay Teaser



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(This is the second part in a series exploring the literary alchemy of the Hunger Games. You can read a brief outline of the alchemical imagery of the trilogy in Part One, right here.

President Snow's chilling address to Panem in the first teaser trailer for Mockingjay Part One was released last week. One of the most interesting things about it is the use of the color white throughout. Even the casual reader or viewer of The Hunger Games can sense that this first trailer is all about President Snow and that the whiteness reinforces Snow's power, corruption, and control over Panem.

If you read my previous post, however, you'll remember that the color white in an alchemical novel is part of the cleansing, purifying white "Albedo" stage-- something that President Snow far from represents to Katniss. This trailer, by dousing President Snow and Peeta in white imagery and putting them side by side, points to something that is a bit more subtle in the books: that Peeta and Snow are both "white" characters that compliment and contrast one another…

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Literary Alchemy in 'The Hunger Games': Part One

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 If you're a serious reader of Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, chances are you've heard of John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor (and if you haven't heard of him, you should go ahead and click on that link). You might even recognize his name from this very blog, as he was the one who introduced me both to literary alchemy and ring composition, which I've touched on before here and here
In light of the first teaser trailer of Mockingjay Part 1 released just last week, I'd like to turn to literary alchemy once again. Because once you know the symbols and images that correlate to alchemy, it's near impossible not to feel as if the trailer is wrought with alchemical meaning. John gives a lengthy but extremely readable discussion of literary alchemy and how Suzanne Collins particularly, uses it to structure her Hunger Games series here. I recommend reading through it at least once, but here is a short snippet that very simply describes the process of alchemical literature: 
"Alchemy is a three stage work in its simplest outline...with each stage represented traditionally by a different color and set of meaningful images. In the first, the person to be enlightened is broken down, shattered really, to their core idea or ‘prime matter.’ This process when represented in metallurgy was one of “burning down” and was known as the nigredo or black stage because of this process. The second stage is one of purification or cleansing. The shattered survivor of the nigredo here is washed and restored in preparation for the chrysalis of the remaining stage. Unlike the first stage, then, which was represented by the color black and fire, the second stage, the albedo, that is the opposite of the first, is about the color white and purifying water. The last stage is red because the person’s transformation and illumination accomplished in the albedo is revealed usually in the red-hot crucible of the story’s final crisis. It is is called the rubedo and as you’ve probably guessed is represented by red figures."

Friday, May 30, 2014

Interpretation and Dream Visions in Chaucer’s Early Poems


     Many of Chaucer’s early poems show a deep interest in dreams and medieval dream theory. Of his early poetry, The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, the Parliament of Fowles, and The Legend of Good Women are all in fact framed as a dream vision where the narrator of the poem takes it upon himself to describe and interpret his dream in poetical form. Even Troilus and Criseyde, the only lengthy poem of his earlier works that is not a dream vision includes a discussion of the importance of dreams. However, throughout his early works, it is clear that Chaucer is not just using dream visions as a simple convention of the time, but exploring the value and interpretive difficulty of dreams to examine the nature of interpretation in poetry itself.