Vladimir Propp Functions of the Dramatis Personae in Morphology of the Folktale
Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Joel Hunter (JH) Rita McGlynn (RM)
[Show music begins]
Eric: Hey! Josée! Wait up!
Josée: Oh hi, Eric! I'm sorry, I really can't talk right now. I'm running late.
Eric: Late? Late for what?
Josée: Oh, it's because I have to go meet Keith and John Granger. I'm actually going to listen to a Harry Potter literature lesson at MuggleNet Academia.
Eric: Oh cool, that sounds awesome. Can I come with?
Josée: Yes, of course you can. Just come with me.
Eric: Okay. Let's go!
[Show music continues]
KH: Welcome to MuggleNet Academia, the podcast that dives deep into the literature aspects that are created by author JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series. We take a look at a variety of different academic subjects. This is Lesson 7 and today we'll be discussing "Folktale Structure as the Key to the Success of the Harry Potter Series" with Professor Joel Hunter of Arizona State University and one of his top students, Rita McGlynn. We'll say hello to them in just a few minutes but I'd like to bring in my guest host, author of many books that dissect the Harry Potter series including The Deathly Hallows Lectures, Unlocking Harry Potter, The Hidden Key to Harry Potter, and so many more!
KH: Welcome back, John! It's been a few weeks since our last lesson.
JG: Yeah, Keith. It's been a little while since Ascendio. It's time for another convention.
KH: I can't wait. We're going to LeakyCon in... tomorrow. When are you getting up there?
JG: I drive up there tomorrow night, I'll be in there for my talks on Friday and Saturday.
KH: Now, how many talks are you doing at LeakyCon?
JG: I'm doing four talks this time.
JG: I did one talk at LeakyCon 1, and two talks at LeakyCon 2 - Joel is seeing how this progresses here - I'm doing four this time. I don't know if that means sixteen or eight at the next convention, but I'm... yeah, I'm doing sort of a greatest hits set of Hogwarts Professor talks. It should be a lot of fun.
KH: Now, you're going to be in which side of the hotel?
JG:[laughs] I have no idea.
KH: Northwest, I think it was. I think it was the northwest side of the hotel. Friday and Saturday from 10:30 to 3:00, basically. Both days, right?
JG: That's right, that's right. I talk in the morning and talk in the afternoon. We're doing Ring Composition, we're going to do Seven Keys, we're going to do Ten Things You Don't Know About This Stuff, and we're going to do the Eyeballs by popular request.
KH: I love all those.
KH: My favorite is still the ring theory.
KH: I just love that thing to death. But anyway, our last show was at Ascendio down in Orlando, Florida and honestly, John, it was a terrific hit for us. We had Heidi Tandy, who chairs the HPEF and was in charge of the entire convention along with people like Flourish and Gwen, and everybody else down there did a great job; what a great event it was. It was just a totally amazing dive into everything. I mean, the people were so nice, the events held were just spectacular.
JG: Yeah, we're talking about two hundred... over two hundred and fifty separate events in four days. That's just mind boggling. In a way you couldn't get... outside of the giant events like the ball, you couldn't get that many people because there were so many things going on at any given time. It was an amazing finale, and the professional organization and such - as always with HPEF - it was first class.
KH: Yeah, I had a blast. But, you know, we did that show down there; the topic was "Fan Fiction and Copyright Law - Lesson 6" and we had a lot of downloads on that show. In fact, that show has nearly surpassed all of the other shows in downloads and it's the last one that we had out. Whereas...
JG: Have we... did we get any feedback?
KH: Yeah, we've got a couple of people with feedback. I'm actually going to read some for you. In fact, let me do that now. The first feedback that I saw on that show was actually from a good friend of ours, Dr. Aaron. Said on the website, she goes:
"Holy moly, how brilliant is Heidi Tandy? I really appreciate her detailed explanation as an intellectual property attorney. Do you have this written down anywhere, Heidi? It's something the students in my 'Harry Potter' class would love to know.
For what it's worth, JK Rowling didn't invent the name 'Hogwarts'. It shows up in the Molesworth books. I also don't know how the CS Lewis or Rowling estates can claim ownership of the silver doe, since it's in Petrarch, but I'm sure they could try."
So anyway, I didn't know that Hogwarts was invented before and that would be my fault. During the show I said that she invented that. But hey, we all learn lessons after, you know? But that was a good review from her. Obviously, I'd like to get Melissa, Dr. Aaron, on the show at one point in time so you might be listening to her in a future episode. Another episode that we had - number three, I think it was - was translations with Josée, if you remember that one, John?
JG: Oh yeah, oh yeah.
KH: That was a good show. We had a nice feedback recently from Nina of Austria. She is sixteen years old and she said:
"First off, I wanted to tell you that I only just started to listen to your show (after years of listening to MuggleCast) and that I really, really love what you're doing.
I just finished listening to the episode on translations and wanted to comment as well:
I started reading 'Harry Potter' when I was nine years old, and being from Austria I started reading them in my native language, German. One of the things you've mentioned in the show is the issue with the names. In the German translation, some (but not all) of the last names are translated (for example the Care of Magical Creatures teacher Professor Grubbly-Plank to..."
And you're going to have to forgive my pronounciation on this.
"...Raue-Pritsche, which literally means grubbly plank)."
And I have no idea if I said that right.
"Hermione's name however, was changed to Hermine, an old-fashioned German equivalent to Hermione. To make the anagram in 'Chamber of Secrets' work, Tom Marvolo Riddle had to be changed to Tom Vorlost Riddle (which anagrammed to "...ist Lord Voldemort" - is Lord Voldemort)."
So, that's pretty neat that they still kept that in there.
"Oddly enough, also some spells were changed (Stupefy to Stupor). In contrary to the Portuguese version you were talking about Hagrid actually does have an accent - he is the only character in the series with an accent."
So, that's interesting. But later on, she goes on to say:
"After having read the series for the first time in English when I was fourteen, I never went back to the German editions. Looking back they still mean a lot to me since they first made me interested in books, I don't like the translations. Way too much of the original atmosphere and tone gets lost in translation."
JG: First of all, this is a sixteen-year-old girl. Her English... she sounds like she's ready to teach. This is amazing. I studied German for four years, and at sixteen I could barely find my way to the bathroom. This woman sounds wonderful.
KH: Yeah, absolutely.
JG: It very much is extraordinary.
KH: I thought it was interesting also that she's collecting the books like Josée is in all the different languages.
KH: I don't know how many she listed, but she listed like ten different languages of Philosopher's Stone. And that's really neat for people to go back and actually learn a language from the Harry Potter books. It seems to be pretty much a popular thing these days. So anyway, one of the things I wanted to mention before we get into the show is that MuggleNet Academia is now available for mobile apps. You can get this on the iOS devices, such as iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and also through Amazon for Android products. Basically, for Android you just go to Amazon and purchase the app. It's $1.99, it's a one-time fee. And for the iOS apps, you go and download Podcast Box app, which is a free download. And then you search for our podcast, MuggleNet Academia, and then you download us and then you get all of these shows plus, as a special bonus to all the app purchasers, we will be doing some bonus content periodically. You'll probably get some discussions separately with some individual professors that are teaching courses, John and I might do a little thing here and there, but there's going to be a couple of bonuses. And basically the $1.99 helps because of the cost of making the application, so we thank you for that.
JG: I got to tell you, Keith, this - in Ascendio in Orlando - was the first time I can remember half of the audience at my talks had their phones out. And I thought, "Wow, I have totally lost this crowd." And then it turned out that they were Twittering all their friends about what a great time they were having and all the things they were learning, and people started to come [laughs] after the lecture had started because everyone had been Twittering on their phones. I'd never seen anything like it.
KH: Yeah, that's how people get here. Yeah.
JG: So, that was fascinating. Props to you for getting these things out. It's where people live now. Forgive me for "Buggy-Whip John" here. I'm totally obliviously to this kind of stuff.
KH: "Buggy-Whip John"? [laughs] Did you come from Lancaster, Pennsylvania? [laughs]
JG: That's right, that's right. [laughs] You know where I'm from.
KH:[laughs] Well, the reason I went and did these apps, primarily, is because I was getting some people saying they don't have iTunes, they can't listen to the show, the RSS feeds they don't get for some reason, whatever. So, this was another avenue for people to actually get our show. I mean, I got a lot of emails saying, "Hey, is there any other way of listening to this thing?" So, for those people, that's why I did the apps, kind of make it a universal way of getting to us and hopefully reach out to a few more fans. But anyway, that's all I wanted to say on that. How about we go and introduce our guest today?
KH: Yeah! Joel Hunter, please introduce yourself.
JH: Well hi, I'm Joel Hunter. I teach at Barrett Honors College at ASU, Arizona State University, in Tempe, Arizona where today it's about 115 degrees, I think. But yeah, so that's me.
JG:[gasps] A dry heat.
JH: Indeed, so it's an oven.
KH: Now, are you also teaching Harry Potter courses there, Joel?
JH: I have taught a Harry Potter course for upper division honor students on two occasions, yes.
KH: See, that's what I find interesting about this, is that not only through this show but you can search your college or university that people are going to, and there's a ton of Harry Potter courses out there. I mean, we have them... some of them listed in our class area of MuggleNet Academia, but I'm sure I'm missing some. So, if somebody is out there and they are taking a Harry Potter course and they want to add it to our list, please feel free to send it in to me so I know about it.
JG: Tell us some more about your background, Professor Hunter, because you are... I love talking with Professor Hunter. This guy is a heavy weight.
JG: Tell us some of your background here, about how... when you say you've taught Harry Potter classes, I'm afraid even Harry Potter fans think... kind of roll their eyeballs and think, "Oh, this guy majored in basket weaving or something." Professor Hunter - I mean, this is the real deal here, as we're going to find out in today's conversation. But could you tell us some of your intellectual background and stuff before we head into your student here?
JH: Well, some of the brightest people I know are basket weavers, so...
JG: That's right! Slandering basket weavers.
JH: ...I think that would be a very poor assumption on those people's part. But as it turns out, I have an engineering background. I have an electrical engineering degree from Georgia Tech. I will not sing the fight song although it is the best fight song, college fight song, in existence. After that I worked for some time in a couple of industries, one being the power industry - power generation industry - and the other being environmental consulting, and I design systems to clean up contaminated soil and ground water. Now, while that part of my life was going on I was also preparing to enter my current life, which is the life of an academic, and so I got a master's degree in philosophy and then a PhD in philosophy. And so that is my official scholarly area, and my interest in that area... well, I have many besides Harry Potter and imaginative fiction in general, but they include philosophy of science, in particular quantum mechanics. So, that's a little about me.
JG: We have a rocket scientist, Keith. This is the real deal. All right, anyway...
JH:[laughs] Hardly. Although, that was... I hope you all watched the landing of the Curiosity. That was some exciting stuff. I totally freaked out on that.
KH: Yeah, that was kind of neat to watch NASA's reaction when it finally landed. It was like, "All right, that's pretty good." In fact, a lot of the materials they used were made locally in Pennsylvania somewhere. I don't even know... I saw it on the news. I was like, "Oh okay, that's cool." Something like the structure of the Curiosity was made there. I don't know, but anyway we'll move on to Rita. Rita, please introduce yourself.
RM: Thanks, my name is Rita McGlynn and I am one of Joel's students here at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizonia State University.
KH: Okay, so now I have to ask: As a student of Professor Hunter...
KH: ...are you calling him Joel or Professor Hunter in this?
RM: In class I call him Professor Hunter, but I have also worked on research with him and actually started the ASU Harry Potter Society here at ASU with him. So, I do call him Joel sometimes. [laughs]
KH: That's fine, and however you want to do it on the show is fine by me. Joel, I hope you don't mind if I call you Joel.
JH: Not at all. Sovereign Lord, great.
[JG and KH laugh]
KH: Sovereign Lord or The Dark Lord, whichever. [laughs]
JG: I can't wait to hear... we're going to describe this project I know that Rita and Joel worked on here because this is really the cutting edge of academic attempts to understand these books and why they're so popular. And we're going to get to that in just a minute, right Keith?
KH: Absolutely. In fact we'll do that real soon, I just want to make one more announcement, based on Rita. If you would like to be like Rita and be on the show as a student guest, you can go to the Academia website.
[Show music begins]
KH: There are instructions there to send in information that I would need. And we'll put you in the queue if you are qualified, and find a show for you. Right now we're booked out pretty much through October, so we have some good shows lined up here and I am excited! So, let's get this thing underway, John. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I am John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor, author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
JH: I'm Joel Hunter, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.
RM: And I'm Rita McGlynn, a student here at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.
[Show music continues]
KH: All right, we're going to kick off Lesson 7, and Lesson 7 is "Folktale Structure as the Key to the Success of the Harry Potter Series." I have a couple of questions to start this show off, and I hope you'll forgive me but the first question I'm going to ask you, Joel, is exactly what is a folktale and how it gets into the Harry Potter series.
JH: Yeah, sure. The folktale is... I'm using a definition that's developed by Russian literary theorist Vladimir Propp from the early 20th century. And it's a little tricky, actually, to define folktale speaking as someone outside of his tradition, and English translators have really substituted or interchanged fairy tale with folktale when they discuss Propp. So, you can think of folktale as... I'm using the term much like a fairy tale, and so the characteristics of a folktale are those familiar things that we learn in the nursery when we hear Cinderella and The Three Bears and things like that, those kinds of stories.
KH: Okay, so that's just basically what it is. A folktale is nothing more than a fairy tale that we've heard growing up. Got it. Now, obviously folktale structures have a lot to do with the series, as we're going to find out in the show, but I want to know from your standpoint as a professor if you can give me an overview of what the academics have been doing with Harry Potter since the publication of Deathly Hallows. I'd really like to know where academics are in the structure.
JH: Right. Well, there was a period where academics started publications in what I call the interregnum, that period between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix. But after that, some of those articles that were done I say around 2004 or so were revisited and revised, and so you get second editions of some of that earlier work. But since Deathly Hallows, there has really been an explosion, I suppose, of academic interest and work and research in the Harry Potter series, probably resulting now in I would think dozens of publications.
KH: Yeah. Well, actually one of the things that interested me - I wrote this article on MuggleNet about a year ago - it still blows my mind, is that there is a college in China that's using Harry Potter to study genetics. I mean, have we gone that far, that we can actually use Harry Potter in genetics, Harry Potter in psychology, Harry Potter in mythology, Harry Potter in alchemy - I mean, all these brands of academic structure are based on... are right here in the Harry Potter books.
JG: That's a great point, Keith, but I think what Joel is talking about here is specific treatments. Like, I can say - because I was one of those people that was writing in the Interlibrum or whatever - that when Goblet of Fire came out, there were fewer than five books that were guides to Harry Potter, Philip Nels being probably the best, Richard Abanes as being the one that was the most famous, or infamous. I wrote my first book in that period as well, but now there are over a hundred books. And they vary... I mean, some of them - like you say, Keith - are sort of exploitative, "Buy my book on economics because it's Harry Potter and economics." But I think most of them really are about Harry Potter as a literary event, these books as how to read them. I'm curious, Joel. Do you think that... what questions do you think are most important for serious readers or academics to be thinking about that, to focus this study? I mean, I don't think there's much of a future in the exploitative thing. That will die out as the big crest of the movies and stuff plays out. As serious readers, our primary audience, look at these books, what questions do you think we need to be thinking about that other academics are thinking about?
JH: Okay, let me... before I answer your question, John, let me turn to something Keith was mentioning about the school in China.
[JG and JH laugh]
JH: That caught my attention, they're teaching genetics and Harry Potter. Now, I can't really understand how you would teach genetics, as the scientific discipline, through the words of Harry Potter, the Harry Potter series, but I can see how you would teach an ethics class for geneticists from Harry Potter. And that's really, I think... and I use that as a segue to talk about my own field, philosophy, and there's been a huge amount of activity and interest from philosophers in exploring the different philosophical themes, whether they're metaphysical, whether they're ethical, whether they're aesthetic, you name it. Philosophers have really taken notice of how this series is reflecting the zeitgeist, so we're trying to understand, how do people view the world? What's real anymore? As well as how we ought to live, how can we shape our moral imagination to become better people, as Rowling put it so well in that commencement address at Harvard in 2008. So, I think... and that's another reason academics I would say gained interest, was because, "Wow, Rowling is invited to be the commencement speaker at Harvard. Okay! Let's listen!" and I think it's probably a good idea for us to listen.
So, as far as what questions... now, John, I think you were asking about questions that are important for serious readers to be thinking about. I would avoid norming those kinds of questions; I wouldn't want to exclude anything. And just to sort of tie these two questions together, one of the things that appeals to me most about doing scholarly work in Harry Potter is that it transgresses the ordinary boundary that exists between popular mass culture and academic culture. And you see this in some of the publications, like your own publications, John. You're dealing with scholarly work to flesh out these ideas but you're writing for a popular audience. So, it's a really great thing when an academic can write for a popular audience. Now, scientists do that, we get popular science works that try to communicate very difficult and complex ideas about, say, physics or chemistry to a broad-reading audience. And to do that in the humanities, in the literary field in particular, is an unusual thing. As far as I can tell... now, you probably know that literature better than I do.
So, I like the transgression that goes on between academics and popular readers and writers. I think that's a good thing. I think that's a great interface for creativity to occur. And I think you and I have both seen that, John, at conferences where we have that mix now in the flesh, and we get to have speakers who aren't credentialed per se, but who have unique and interesting insights to talk about, and are listened to and respected by scholars and vice versa. So anyway, I think find those places where those two groups get together, and that's where... those are where the important and interesting questions, I think, will be raised and talked about.
KH: Let me ask Rita a question on this because I have a serious concern that the popularness of Harry Potter leads to an exploitation. Basically, books... like John had said, some books are written, just because they have Harry Potter's name on them they're going to sell. So, there is an exploitation to the name. Is it that way as well with some academic classes? Do you think that some colleges have Harry Potter courses to try and gain the interest of the mass of fans that we have out there, just to get them enrolled into that school? Do you think that's happening as well?
RM: Yeah, that wouldn't surprise me if that was part of it. But from what I have seen and heard and read about some of the classes that are out there, I think that even if it doesn't... if it is just that name recognition and it doesn't really tie it in that much, if a student is interested enough in Harry Potter to enroll in a class just because it has that relation, I think that even if they don't really go into it that much in the class, that fuels the fire to have that student go and look and see what else they can find that does tie it in a lot more, kind of what they were expecting. So yeah, I...
JG: Did you take Joel Hunter's class at ASU? There at the Honors College?
RM: Unfortunately, I didn't. I really wanted to but it didn't fit with my schedule.
RM: But I did sit in on a couple of times because I had a lot of friends who were in it. But I have taken other...
JG: Did he require that everybody had read the books before they came into the classroom?
JG: I've talked to other professors that have done this and they said that it was the only class they had ever taught where they could require the primary reading material before the students came into the class, and it caused no obstacle.
KH: Yeah, but do you think that's a big deal? I mean, most of the people who are going to these Harry Potter classes are going because they read the series, so I don't think that's really that big of a criteria going into it.
JG: Well, you would think that, but you talk to a professor who has never taught a class in which the students have come less as prisoners looking for a credential than as people that are honestly looking to understand more profoundly a 4,100 page novel [laughs] that they've loved since they were a child. It's a bizarre experience. Am I wrong here, Joel? What... how did that differ from your other classes? Or did it?
JH: Well, my teaching methods don't differ. I do socratic seminars, and what that expectation, that unlimited enrollment... and you've got to understand, for a socratic seminar you've got to keep numbers fairly low. We kept pretty much at twenty, typically. And so that makes those spots very desirable. And so who is going to... [laughs] Rita, you tell me now if this reflects how the honor student prepares to register for that one class they've got to have. You're going to stay up and your finger is going to hover over the Enter key to hit the registration right when it releases. And who is going to do that? Is it going to be the student who, well kind of, sort of has read some of the Harry Potter but has seen all the movies? Or is it going to be the person who has read them?
JH: The aficionado, the one who has read them five times or more? It's going to be the latter. So, it really was not... like Keith was saying, it's really not that big of an expectation to hold. Now, that may change as history progresses here, but hitting the crest of popularity like this - what that enables us to do then, is work with that familiarity that students have, and challenge them with the critical material, the really difficult theoretical stuff. And it's a great way to introduce students to graduate-level material, and that's what I do with my Harry Potter class.
JG: Okay, and that brings me to, I guess, the question I wanted you to answer earlier. Again, what question are you asking them in this socratic seminar? What are you after, not in terms of a specific answer, but what questions are you most interested in exploring? I know you have this research project that we're going to describe in just a minute, but is that largely what you're talking about in your classroom as well?
JH: Yeah, it's a one-hour course, so we're limited in the demands that I can make of them as well as the amount of time that they can put into the course. But we... what we do is we divide the course up into halves. The first half is essentially treating the Harry Potter series as a literary work and so we look at a lot of different types of literary approaches - theoretical approaches - to the series that have been done and evaluate those. And then the second half, we treat Harry Potter as a cultural phenomenon. So, that's looking at it as a literary event in the broadest sense of the word. You're looking at its cultural effects... its social effects. And so for that, we're looking at political themes, we're looking at race and gender, we're looking at any number - the broad spectrum, multi-disciplinary spectrum in that second half, which is often the students' favorite part of the course.
KH: Well earlier, Joel, you had mentioned the name Vladimir... I think it was Prop or Propp?
JH: Propp. Uh-huh, yes.
KH: Vladimir Propp, okay. And you had said that he described what a folktale and fairy tale description was. How does that work come into Pottermania here and how does it relate to Harry Potter? I want to get into this whole folktale structure.
JH: Well, okay, so there's two things you need to know about "Why Propp?" and then we can talk about "How Propp?" in a moment. But there are two things that you need to know. And number one is, like all good ideas, this one was spawned over beer. And so I was drinking with a colleague of mine - having a beer with a colleague of mine - and...
KH: You're my kind of guy already, I can tell you that.
JH: Well, he was pointing out that... he's one of my colleagues who likes to tease me a bit about my Harry Potter interests. That's its own little phenomenon in academia, by the way. So anyway, so he's doing his teasing thing over beers one day, and he pauses, and he shifts, and he gets a little serious, and he says, "But you know, have you ever considered looking at Propp's literary formalist structure?" And I said, "What? I don't know what you're talking about." And he went to explain that he encountered Propp through his own studies in the history of science - he teaches evolutionary biology - and so I think it was a review of a book called Narratives of Human Evolution - I've got it right here - Misia Landau. And in that book, she uses Propp's schema to evaluate how the story of human evolution has been told. And interestingly enough, she finds that it conforms to that structure of storytelling of folktale. So, I looked at what that was and then I thought, "Okay, well let me just hunt around and see if anybody has talked about Propp and Potter." And so I found two references to Propp and Potter. One was through John's book. What was that book, John? What was the one about...
JG: The very first thing I wrote, The Hidden Key to Harry Potter.
JH: It was How to Cast A Spell, right?
JG: Well, it's now called How Harry Cast His Spell, yeah.
JH: Yeah. So, in that one there was a footnote, and so I followed the footnote to a New Yorker article and Joan Acocella wrote this article and she mentioned Propp just sort of in passing. The other reference to Propp and Potter was in one of those academic collections, collections of essays that published in '04, I think. And Jann Lacoss wrote an article in which she spent about a page or two on in actually filling out Propp's Table for Philosopher's Stone and for Goblet of Fire. And so I read through those articles and I looked at that material and I thought, "Hmm. Well, isn't that something?" And I thought, "Well, why not? Let's see what some of the other stories look like." And just sort of sketching it out - I didn't do a thorough analysis at this point - but at that point, I started to realize maybe if there's something to this, let's see what we can do. All right, so that was the germination of the research project. On the other side...
JG: Before you go on, Joel, can you explain what... you mentioned charting things out. What is that Propp does? I might share with you what I think Propp does... and you can correct me, maybe that's the easier way to do it.
JG: To me, Propp seems to take... he seems to describe fairy tales as having specific atom-like structures. And they may have constitute what we call elements, but they are all made up of these specific atoms in different alignments or whatever. And so, his big contribution was to identify the substructures that make up all the larger elementary categories that we call stories. Is that fair? Is that what you're charting when you talk about charting the Harry Potter books?
JH: I think that's a bit overstated as to what Propp's intentions were, and we can talk about that, how Propp has been misused. I'm actually dealing with that. I had to add some material to my revised conference paper from Scotland about that. [laughs] But before we get into that, I have to mention the second thing, John, because it involves you.
JH: And the second thing is that as much as I admire and enjoy the approach that you take to interpreting and understanding Harry Potter, I think that if we start closer to the ground, closer to the earth, we can get a little further along in the project of answering the question of "Why Harry Potter is so popular?" Cross-culturally. Different ages.
KH: Because they're awesome books, that's why!
JG: There's the answer.
KH: Problem solved! Let's move on. [laughs]
JG: This is great because Joel and I had a conversation in the pub here over some beer and says, the question that I'm always after... every one of my books, all the many books that I have written on this subject, are trying to answer just that question that Joel brings up: Why are they so popular? I come at it from the literary angle. I come at it from artistry and meaning. I say the books are written is such a way that they have a certain effect on us that brings us to some kind of experience of transcendence. Joel's approach is very different and... basically he's accusing me of being... artsy fartsy, I'm afraid, is the word I'm looking for here, Joel. [laughs] He said I'm going a little too much in the clouds. Can you contrast your approach to answering this question?
JG: Because this is fascinating to me. I think it really is the biggest step forward the academics have offered in a long time in getting at this question.
JH: Well... and I wanted to sort of confront you head on about it, and see what might come from that exchange, and will continue hopefully to come from that exchange. But I would never call you fartsy, John.
JH: Maybe artsy, but I would never call you fartsy. But I would prefer the term esoteric, I think, for your approach. And if you look at my bookshelves, you will find plenty of esoteric literature, so I am not at all opposed to the kind of approach that you take. But I think to work backwards into history, to say Coleridge's primary and secondary imagination and get into the chemical scaffolding and all of that, is an enriching thing that I find in many ways compelling. But I think part of that is because of the kind of literature that I have read myself, and that you and I have read some very similar things, and that has prepared us to talk about that. But I think a lot of people who want to understand or hear what scholarship has to say on why this series would be so popular, are going to start closer to the ground. It's sort of like Baconian methods, right? Hey, let's watch out for idols that we've set up, idols of the tribe, idols of the theatre, and let's not get wrapped up and led astray by high-level thinking until we have secured the ground that we have a firm grasp on things that are immediate to experience. So yeah, I wanted to see whether Propp's methods, which I would categorize - and I think you do, too - as one of the scientistic reductive approaches to literature. It has very limited value beyond what it does, but I think it does help us advance an answer, or at least part of an answer, to why Harry Potter is so popular.
KH: Let's ask Rita. What's your opinion on why these books are so popular, Rita?
RM: I think that there's not just one answer to that. I mean, I definitely... obviously since I have been helping Professor Hunter here with research on it, I am going to be a little bit biased in that because I think that what we have done with it is really enlightening and it just makes sense. So, I do think that there's a lot of the fairy tale structure in it, and I think that that is a huge part of it. But I think, too, it just grabs your imagination and you can't just put that aside too quickly when you're trying to answer that question. I think there's just fun to it and that's a big reason that it is so popular as well.
JG: Please will both of you describe this project? Because, again, this is to me... as Joel has said, he and I come at this same question from very different angles. Not neglecting or despising the other, but we come at it from different perspectives for different reasons. But this project that Rita and Joel have worked on is a fascinating, controlled look at what makes Harry Potter work using Proppian analysis. Can you describe what you actually did? And especially the popularity survey that you did as well, as this is fascinating stuff.
KH: And also, how long have you been working on this?
JH: Ahh, yes. How long have we been working on this thing? Well, we started early in the previous semester. Isn't that right, Rita?
RM: Yeah, like...
JH: I think it was...
JH: ...January, February... yeah.
RM: Is that right?
JH: And we really got into it and started filling out the details and the tables certainly in March. We were thick in it.
JG: Can you please describe the table? Because this is something that people aren't going to...
JH: Yeah, sure.
JG: ...know what you are talking about.
JH: Sure. Well, you'll have to get my paper when it comes out.
JH: So yeah, the... actually if you just Google "Propp functions", you'll probably get it real quick. But what it is is a table of thirty-one functions, and a function for Propp... I can... I would interpret it as an action, something that happens in the story. So, I use my talk at Scotland, I use the example of The Three Bears. So, the first thing that happens is there is a set-up of the story. So, there's the three bears and they live in the woods, and then they go away for a little while. And then there's this reconnaissance done by the old woman. The old woman peers through the key hole. All right, so what the story does... the way the story progresses is in the same way that a sentence is constructed. These elements follow one another, so in the same way that you would have a noun follow a definite article, let's say. You have a reconnaissance followed by a delivery. And that's the organization. Now, the table is a full thirty-one functions and they have seven groups. What they do is... it's an exhaustive list, so not every folktale or fairy tale is going to have all the functions. But what they will have is a set of functions in that sequence that's given in the table. So, a true folktale won't deviate from the sequence of its elements, of those action elements. Does that make sense?
KH: Makes sense to me.
JG: Can you give us an example from, say Harry Potter, about how it proceeds with the functions on the table - it has to be in this sequence?
JH: Sure. Let's say... okay, so one of the simplest is Goblet of Fire. So, with Harry, there's a preparation section in each of the stories, and so a lot of it has the familiar set-up. Now, the preparation section is when there is the first attempts by the villain to sort of get the goods on the hero. And so, we have the interdiction as one of the earliest functional elements, and an interdiction means, hey, don't do this. Or a reverse interdiction is a command: Hey, go do that. So, there's always a standing interdiction for each of the Harry Potter stories. The first one is, of course, the Dursleys. The Dursleys say, "Don't you dare mention or use magic," right? So, that's interdiction. And the other is the Ministry of Magic rules against underage magic. The thing that follows interdiction, then, is a violation. So, in The Goblet of Fire, we have a particular event that's the interdiction, and that is Vernon doesn't want to let Harry go with the Weasleys to the World Cup. He is resisting that, and the violation of the interdiction comes when the Weasleys arrive at the Dursleys, in all their glory, to collect Harry for the World Cup. So, that's just an example of two elements and how they appear narratively in the proper sequence, according to Propp's schema. And that's just one section.
KH: Yeah, but at the same time, while Vernon is struggling with his wanting to give in to Harry, to let him go do something he wants to do, at the same time Rowling is also stating that one of the benefits of letting him go is that they get rid of him a couple of weeks early.
JH: That's true. That's true. And, for the purpose of doing the Proppian analysis, it's not that you have to exhaustively capture all of the story elements. What you do have to identify, though, are those that move the narrative along, and whether or not they conform to those atomic elements that Propp has identified. So, if you move on from that inner conflict that Vernon has, about whether or not to let Harry go, you do get what follows that, is a violation. And so, since there is a very clear violation of the interdiction, then the interpretation or the part of the story that we use in the interpretation of interdiction is that resistance, that Vernon expresses to letting Harry go, because he doesn't want him to have any fun.
KH: When you said the interdiction, Joel, and you were starting to lay it out there, I really thought you were going to go to Order of the Phoenix, obviously the Dursleys not wanting Harry to perform magic at the house. The Ministry of Magic saying you can't do it because of underage wizardry...
KH: ...the Statute of Secrecy and everything else, and then the Dementor attacks Dudley and Harry, and he has to violate it to save his life.
KH: So, when you said the interdiction, I thought that was where you were going to go. Is that also an example of that same interdiction, then?
JH: That's exactly right. I just pulled out my Order of the Phoenix table, and you perfectly described the interdiction and violation movement there. Actually, Order of the Phoenix it's interesting because there's a second one. So, there's actually two interdictions that happen, and violations. The other one is that Harry is warned about his scar-dream connection to Voldemort, so he violates that by really not doing much to prevent those visions that he has. So, that's an example of "What would I do, then?" - and this is very hard to do without a visual, [laughs] but if you have two very clear interdictions and then followed by those two clear violations, what I'd do is set those up in braces so that one of them, the one that you mentioned, is on the top line and the other one is on the bottom line. So, you put them in braces so that it is clear that, hey look, there is more than one of these elements going on. And that gets into "What do we make of that?" Once you complete these tables of the Proppian schema for the Harry Potter stories, what do we do with that information? [laughs] And that's actually the most difficult part of the process because Propp himself did not give us a method to evaluate the completed schema. Sorry, I went off onto that. But yeah, you're right. It isn't difficult... and thank you, Keith. It's not difficult to jump into this, and Rita can talk about the training that we did to sort of calibrate ourselves so that we were... our team was interpreting and analyzing with the same set of eyes and thoughts. But yeah, really it's not difficult to get trained to do this.
RM: It was actually really interesting when we were doing the compilation of all of these tables. Like Joel just said, we did kind of calibrate ourselves to be looking for the same types of things. But going back to something you said earlier, Keith, about that internal struggle with Vernon in The Goblet of Fire, that's something that I had a lot of trouble with throughout the entire series, is you have to really separate what is structural and what is more plot based because this is a structural analysis and it's really easy to get caught up in the storyline of it. We have to look for the structure, the what's moving it along. Yeah, so for the preparation of our compiling the tables, we actually all went through The Goblet of Fire together and kind of worked through it, talked about what would fit with what so we knew exactly what constituted a violation, what constituted a villainy, and a counteraction by the hero. It took a while, but we came up with a pretty solid framework of how we were going to approach all of the stories.
JH: Oh, I should mention as well that Rita was one of three undergraduate research assistants on this project, and the other two were Tracy Smith and [unintelligible], all of whom took a lot of time - a lot of their time - and really helped me out on this project. So, a lot of credit to them, to see this thing through and to do everything on time, and... it was great. They're really great students.
KH: Well, let me ask you a question, Joel, because I'm still a little confused on this. There's thirty-one elements to this, and we just cover basically, what, one or two with the violations...
JH: Yes, that's right.
KH: ...and everything? All right, so there's thirty-one elements to this whole table thing. Is that for each story, then?
JH: That's correct. And this... I can talk now about tying this or correlating it to the different responses that readers have, to the individual stories in the series. It's one thing to say, "Hey, why is the Harry Potter series so popular?" And you're looking globally there, at the whole thing. But we also can look... and I think this is the advantage of this method, is that we can get more fine-grained analysis of, well, wait a minute, why do people have a negative response to... overall, I'm saying... to Chamber of Secrets, for example? Why is that? Why does that happen? And so, what we do is we tie together reader's responses - aesthetic satisfaction, I call it - their aesthetic satisfaction with the individual tales, and we look at the conformity to Propp's schema in the individual tales. And so, the project required us [laughs] to go through the individual tales and complete those tables for each one, and then after we completed that part of the project, we looked at the entire series.
KH: Okay, so now after you've gone through and you've identified all thirty-one items in each of the series, what's the... how does this end up being... like you had said, not artistry that John goes into, but more of self-transcendence, or something like that? Is that basically what you're looking at?
JG: Well, Joel's approach is, as he described it, inductive and empirical. He's looking at qualities that appear in certain stories, and the more they conform to - for lack of a better word - archetypal structures, Joel suggests that those stories should be the more popular ones. And as they conform less, they should be less popular. Am I misstating that, Joel?
JH: No, that's well put. As one of the sort of checks on how far we would explain the schema and its ability to explain the popularity of Potter, I think it's really important that we not use this really as an archetypal type analysis. That really is a different literary approach. It's not a universal model. He is not finding the err of folktale. That's not what he's doing. In fact, he says there in his text that there's thousands of other kinds of stories. So, we didn't want to force this into the type of story that it really wasn't, but we found that for most of the tales in the Harry Potter series, it did fit really well. And if you buy some sort of developmental theory on this, and it seems reasonable to me, that because we've all... regardless of our culture, because we've all heard stories - fairy tales, folktales - from a young age, we know how these stories go. It's been essentially programmed into us to anticipate where the action is going as well as then to enjoy them because they're fun. And we like to hear them over and over again when we're three, as any parent can tell you. So...
JG: Just to be clear...
JG: And this is really important, I think.
JG: I think you agree it's important. It's not hard-wiring, that we weren't born knowing these structures or recognizing these figures, but these are things that we have learned. And therefore when we see them, see stories that conform to these patterns in our recognition, we enjoy those stories more than stories that might not conform so much to these patterns that we have learned.
JH: That's correct.
JG: But it's not hard-wiring.
JH: Yeah, hard-wiring would be the wrong word.
JG:[unintelligible] ...the collective unconscious or whatever, where people all see a vampire or whatever, "Oh, I know what that is. This is..." we've heard stories that have this type of character in it and recognize this action that these things will take in this sequence, and that's what makes us say, "Oh, this is a good story," because it conforms to the pattern.
JH: Right, yeah. Although... and I think we should leave some room open to accounts of, say, evolutionary psychology or social biology that might be able to talk about a... not hard-wiring, I think that conveys the wrong thing, but in some ways in which this is a natural form that stories take. And you might be able to give an account like that. But no, I'm fine to set that aside and say, well look, yeah, this is what we find by virtue of how we learn here and learn these stories from a very young age, and so we're conditioned, really, to understand how they go and we also usually have the experience of really enjoying them.
KH: Well, every fairy tale has that happy ever after ending, and certainly each one of the Harry Potter books has that happy ending in it. There's... he has battled the evil that was presented in each book and he won, he became victorious, and he goes home for the summer. Let me ask you this, though: If, let's say, Harry dies in Book 7, does that now mean that this is not a successful series? Because Book 7 all of a sudden didn't conform to that happy ever after folktale story?
JH: Yeah, I would say so. I mean, Harry is a victim hero, and he becomes a seeker hero - and John, I think this is where your approach sits right on top of what I'm doing - he becomes that seeker hero, where the seeker hero is not only solving mysteries, as he does throughout most of the books, but he's also finding himself. He's finding his true self, and has to attain this kind of self-transcendence. So yeah, I think if you lose that Dramatis Personae, if you lose that key figure and he dies, then what you have then is a different kind of story. You might have, say, a post-modern transgressive fairy tale, [laughs] but not a traditional kind of fairy tale.
JG: We love Deathly Hallows, Joanne Rowling said it was her best book. If Harry Potter had died at the end, I am very confident that the book would not have been received with the adoration that it has been. And I think that supports your theory, right, Joel? That it would have stepped out of the conformity with the models that we were used to - as Keith said, the happily ever after ending - it wouldn't have been as popular as it is. Where does Deathly Hallows rank? Because I think you had to do a survey, Joel, and found out where a great number of Harry Potter fans... how they ranked the books? Can you explain how that works in terms of conformity or lack of conformity with the models that we learned as children?
JH: Yeah. The Deathly Hallows was the number one beloved book in the series, and it was chosen together with Prisoner of Azkaban. It was assigned a rank of number one more frequently then any other rank, so that's its mode, in statistic speak. So yeah, it ranks very high and it probably has a lot to do with wrapping up all those loose ends that the complete series has set up for you. When you see my table for the complete series, you will find that there's a huge section for what's called the connecting event that follows a villainy. And basically, that's Books 1 through 6, and then the outplaying of the main narrative, Harry's victory over Voldemort, is the bulk of Deathly Hallows. So yeah, you're sort of on edge, you're really in the complication phase, all the way into Deathly Hallows and then Deathly Hallows plays it out. So yeah, it would have been a disaster if Deathly Hallows didn't deliver.
RM: I was going to say, another interesting thing is specifically with Deathly Hallows, it's also... right at the end there, it doesn't just end at the end of table. It actually goes back and sets it up for another kind of run through the fairy tale table because at the end in that epilogue Harry sends off his kids on the Hogwarts Express. That's the very first function which is absentation, someone in the family is leaving. So, it almost gets you feeling like, "Oh, there are more adventures, there is more to come," which I think is a really unique thing that she did there as well.
KH: Well, she has said many times that she could write an eighth, ninth book with absolutely no problem, and I certainly believe that she could, obviously carrying it on with the kids instead of anything else. But I also believe she could write prequels to the series. I mean, the format that she uses is... I agree with you, it is a fairy tale or a folktale structure immensely based on what you're saying. I am interested in where this all goes in the future for other series, say, like The Hunger Games, or Twilight, or something like that. I mean, obviously... I'm not a Twilight fan, but I am a Hunger Games fan. Does this whole structure work in that, too?
JH: Well, the person you need to ask is Rita. So, Rita, why don't you take that?
RM: I actually took a Hunger Games class through the Honors College here, with Professor Hunter teaching that. For the final project, I actually took this Proppian analysis and applied it to the books in The Hunger Games. And the results were really interesting. It was really difficult for me, and also Tracy Smith, one of the other researchers for the Harry Potter analysis. She was in the class with me and we did this project together. And we were struggling with matching the functions. It's kind of like a puzzle and once you figure out one piece, it's kind of like a key. You can go back and kind of match everything up after that. And we were having a lot of trouble with Katniss as the hero, so we tried putting Peeta as the main character who is the hero in this table and it fit really well. It actually worked out a whole lot better and made a lot more sense than when we had Katniss as the main character. And we did this for the entire series as a whole novel. And it was really cool, though, because it did fit fairly well. There were a couple of inconsistencies, but with Peeta as the hero rather than Katniss, it made a lot more sense.
KH: That's interesting. Did you ever take one of the other Harry Potter main trio, say, Hermione, as the main character in Propp's table and put her as the heroine? And did it play out as well, or not?
JH: Do you want me to take that, Rita?
JH: We actually had some interesting panel discussions on this. What we found was in - let me see if I can get these right - Philosopher's Stone and... what was the other one? The other one was Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore acts as a co-hero to the story. In Philosopher's Stone, he's a victim-hero. And in Half-Blood Prince, he's also a victim-hero. Now, that makes the tale more complicated than sort of the straight one-line - there's one hero and there's one villain - no, it was more complicated because Dumbledore and Harry worked together to resolve the villanies that occur in the story. So...
KH: Yeah, but as we talked about earlier, there was no happy ending for Dumbledore, so that obviously didn't work.
JH: Yeah, that's right! And by the way - and I should point this out, too - that's interesting. And the "happy ending" part - I would actually not associate that with a fairy tale. Now, I think with certain versions of fairy tales, say, more 20th century ones that are put on film by certain cartoons. Yes, but the fairy tale needs a victory. It doesn't necessarily need a happy ending. So, with Dumbledore, what we learnt when we finished the entire series is how Dumbledore enabled this victory to occur, and so we come to appreciate Dumbledore even more after it's done. A second tale that has a dual hero structure is Prisoner, and there you have Sirius as also a victim hero and Harry, again, helps him. He liberates Sirius and is restored in his relationship with Sirius.
KH: Okay, so... but what about Hermione and Ron? Do they fit into this scheme, or is it just Dumbledore and Sirius that were...
JH: Right. That's a good question, and at key points in the narrative, I fill out the table with "The trio" when it is three of them working together, or if it's two of them working together to, say, accomplish a difficult task, to solve a difficult task, or to counteract the villainy. Then I think it's appropriate when the two are acting as a unit or the three are acting as a unit to point that out. But solo heroes, I did not see and, Rita, correct me if you all talked about this offline from our panel discussions, but I didn't see Ron or Hermione as solo heroes in any of the individual tales.
RM: No, I didn't see that either. And also, there's a lack of information on Ron and Hermione compared to what you have on Harry and Dumbledore, which really makes it a lot easier to fit those into the hero roles. When you don't know how they're reacting to something, then it's a lot more difficult to kind of see them as that figure.
JG: Joel and I have gone back and forth about this because, obviously, we come at this question from different angles. Joel, as you said, is coming at this from a very inductive, empirical approach. He's talking about story types that we seem to have learned and its programming and there's - again, this is a naturalist model...
JG: ...in which there is nothing outside of the person and their experience in their childhood. We like stories because they conform to certain patterns. These stories, even though they're relatively exotic and they're a mix of all sorts of different genres, as Joel, I think, has demonstrated, they can be reduced to story elements that we all recognize from other stories that we've heard, from parables to fairy tales to even family stories that also conform to these models. I have a... I struggle with it because so much of the tradition from which Rowling draws, which obviously includes these story elements, also includes what Joel has qualified as esoteric elements I would simply call spiritual elements, that they refer to realities which are not physical in terms of having energy or matter. Quantities, that they have certain aesthetic qualities. Certainly, the alchemical tradition side, English literature, the idea of... Propp is really the origin of the whole heroes journey thing that Joseph Campbell writes about. That's not just, obviously, a western element. That is a universal model. That is an err model of story, and the idea of the circular story taking us to the secret inner chamber where the reader has a transcendent experience by identification with the hero. Those things don't seem... just on the surface, they seem qualitative experiences that the reader has really outside of their psychological state. They seem to... as [unintelligible] says, they seem to suspend their disbelief, they suspend their individuality per se, and their rational faculties, and they have some greater experience. Rowling is drawing on those traditions and she has had a remarkable success, an over-the-top success, an unprecedented success. I've argued that she's had that success because of the abundance and the syncretic success of the books, how all of these elements that she's chosen - the circular story pattern from Privet Drive back again, and the fact that every book has an inner chamber, that the books are told in a ring composition format - all of these things working together to deliver that transcendent experience seems to give us what Illiadi says is what books are for, that mythical, religious function of reading. You seem to be arguing, though, that what we're looking for inside story is a recognition of stories that we like, that we've been trained to like, like rats in a maze.
JG: And... obviously what bothers me about that is if that were the case, maybe someone could sit down and take a Proppian form and deliver the perfect Proppian story, and they would have similar success to Joanne Rowling. Obviously I'm attacking here, Joel. [laughs] I'm trying to throw this back at you. I'm having difficulty seeing how Proppian conformity gives us Pottermania, because... do we have any control... so that she has so conformed to this pattern that it causes such a remarkable recognition that we love the books the way we do?
JH: No, no. I think there is no single answer to this, and for those who read the stories and have that, they essentially function as icons where they can attain this self-transcendence and have this divine connection, that seeing-eye thing. I don't see the explanation that I'm offering. I think you have to keep in mind the scope of the explanation is very limited. It's not explaining everything that can be found about the popularity of the series but it does explain, I think, some very simple phenomena we see with people who do not report a life-transforming event or imagining themselves to become better people as a result of reading the stories, but who, nevertheless, enjoy the stories, will re-read them and will always be fans. So, I think we might be talking about different responses.
Now, some people - and correct me if you disagree, or refute me if you disagree - but I think some people are simply bereft of that spiritual organ that you describe, and it has to be in place and functioning in order to have that kind of encounter with Rowling's work. In the same way that some people - and this is, I think, undeniable - some people are bereft of a moral sense, where they are simply unaware that they have obligations to others, [laughs] that there are certain moral duties that they have as human beings. Some people simply do not have that. And I think the people that do not have... that are bereft of the religious or spiritual sense for whom self-transcendence in a religious direction is not a live option will not... we can't account for their enthusiasm in the story. Unless you want to go to some sort of "Well, you don't actually knowing what's going inside your soul." And maybe that's true, but if we're going to be able to talk about people's responses and to take what they report just at face value, then we'll have to set that aside.
So, I don't see... John, I would say reject the tyranny of the either/or and embrace the both/and, because what... although this is a naturalized account for the popularity of the series, as you wryly put, I am eager to point out that the scope of that explanation is well constrained... is constrained to certain kinds of stories and it's also constrained by the complexity and multifaceted artistry of the stories. So, I mean, Rowling being formed by those same stories from the nursery - fairy tales - and adopting that structure to her own storytelling is no more implausible than your saying that she's drawing from this body of alchemical literature. I think it's both - or I think it can be both - and I think that I can prove the former much easier than I can prove, or you can prove the latter. But that's where we are.
JG: And this is really what I love. I would say... because you've already allowed that Proppian analysis is a western event and yet Pottermania is a universal human event. I mean, a joke I've said too many times [laughs] that we've heard is that Osama bin Laden had Harry Potter action figures in his cave. I mean, this is such a universal event. Even people that we see as evil, in a way, enjoy these stories. It seems to suggest that this is not a western event that's captive to elements of Proppian analysis, but it does seem to respond to something within the human being. Much like... you can... if you study anthropology, as I know you have, you've dabbled in, you see these colors of black, white, and red being pivotal in any kind of civilization. We see them also in alchemy. We see them not only in African tribes, we see them as the predominant colors in Shakespearean drama, so much so that you very rarely... not necessarily very rarely, but the colors that are far and away the lead colors in Shakespearean drama are black, white, and red.
That suggests that there is some sort of a universal capacity in the human being which story... how do I say this? Chemically speaking it accelerates, it brings the reaction into activity. These stories... it's the parables of Jesus of Nazareth. I mean, he doesn't teach per se. He tells stories into which people can enter and identify and be transformed. That capacity of imagination seems to be a universal event. If we're allowing to start that Proppian analysis is only appropriate for western stories and then we see Harry Potter is universally popular, we seem to have immediately opened up the suggestion that yes, there must be something peculiar to the human being per se, rather than the human being as trained in specific cultures that allows them to embrace these books. I certainly agree with you, these books have an iconological effect because...
JG: ...literature has that iconological effect, as Northrop Frye says. That's why... in a way, to understand literature is to understand iconology.
JH: I think the question you ask about - the universality question, I think that's where there's a potential convergence - I'm not saying there is one, but there's a potential convergence in our two approaches, and the way they would converge, or where they would converge, is trying to understand why Proppian analysis works outside of the particular the cultural expressions that Propp himself was dealing with. We're talking about Scandinavian and Russian folktales, after all.
JG: I agree.
JH: Those are quite specific. And why should that same structure work in 20th century, 21st century British literature? And for American readers? [laughs] And for Osama bin Laden? Why does that work? Why do these structures seem to transcend the cultural constraints within which Propp was working? Now, that's where... trying to account for that is where our answers might converge. But the problem then for my method is to restrain from distorting Propp's schema to make it fit into things that it really can't and doesn't. And that's the sort of abuse of the method. So, it doesn't work for every single Hollywood movie. [laughs] It doesn't work for those different kinds of stories. Although it has been applied to things like performances and dance and other cultural products besides writings and stories. As I mentioned earlier, the narratives of human evolution. I think that's really interesting. So yeah, you can get some really interesting questions about that convergence. Where does the natural... supernatural convergence occur, if at all?
KH: Let me ask you a question a minute, Joel, in wrapping this show up. I wanted to know... you said you started this analysis or research into this Propp table back in February, is that correct?
JH: That's when... yeah, that's when I started... or that's when I had decided that I was going to commit my time and resources to doing this as a research project, yeah.
KH: Okay. And so when do you think something will be out for us to share with the audience to show them what the thirty-one elements are and how it's all put together for this story?
JH: Well, I did the preliminary findings - we completed the project - I did the preliminary findings at the conference in Scotland. I'm not sure if your listeners are aware of that conference. John, I'm sure, can fill them in since he was keynote.
KH: Oh yes, we are.
KH: Yup. [laughs]
JH: And I did that, actually, because John was keynote. I wanted to have some fireworks there.
[JG and JH laugh]
JH: And then go to the central and have a pint at the pub. But the publication, that's... I don't know. We have... let's see, we're getting into editorial review. I'm actually late getting my copy back, but I want to make sure that it really is ready to publish. And when the volume will be put together, I don't know. John, you probably know the editors, so do you have any insights on that?
JG: I know that the editor, who was the man who put the conference together, John Patrick Pazdziora, is working on it. He's still collecting the best of a spectacular conference. God willing, it will be out early next year. So, it should be coming out soon. I wanted to ask Joel before he left, Rowling has fairy tales inside her own story. She has these Tales of Beedle the Bard, and she suggests that there's something really wrong with people who can't understand - you talked about people that didn't have this moral capacity. Are you referring really to Voldemort being unable to understand fairy tales, that seems to be a marker inside the story that she's talking about in this capacity?
JH: Sure, sure. Yeah, yeah. Bereft of the imaginative organ by which you change your actions, your behaviors, your attitudes. Yeah, some people think of the imagination as this disposable and impractical faculty when it's anything but. And it's only with that faculty that we gain things like empathy. So, yeah. So the hard question, I think is, for those bereft of that moral imagination, how can they be trained, you know? How can we get them to leave the Mirror of Erised that they're staring in, and develop that sense...
JG: That's right. She only gives you two options, and it's either feel remorse or Avada Kedavra.
[JG and JH laugh]
JG: There's no help for you.
JH: All right.
JG: Anyway, Joel, this has been great. I wish this conversation could go on much farther. Obviously, you and I come at this from different angles, but what I love about it is that what Professor Hunter is doing here with Proppian analysis is getting at the core question that I think every thinking person, whether they are readers [laughs] or bereft of this imaginative quality, they have to come to terms with, why has the world gone looney tunes about Harry Potter? What is it about these stories that has caused this? And I'm really looking forward in the next decade or so, different angles, different approaches, that are different from my approach, certainly, different from Professor Hunter's, as we all come to grips with this question, which is, I think, the core question.
JH: Well, thanks for having me on the show, John and Keith.
RM: Yes, thank you.
KH: Hey, it was our pleasure to have you on the show. Same with you, Rita. We want to wish you the best with your research and getting this out in publication. And if you would do me a favor, when that does reach please give me an email so we can put it up on the Academia site or somehow share it with the audience, even if it's not obviously the full piece.
JH: You got it.
KH: But maybe a taste of it that will get somebody to dive into it a little bit further. Who knows, you might have a future student in your class that has read this and listened to the show and ends up at ASU.
JH: Well, we love to geek out here, so I'd be glad to do that when it's available, yeah.
KH: Well, thank you very much. John, we have a show in a couple of weeks that I think is going to interest a lot of people, so I'm looking forward to the next show as well. Each show just keeps getting better and better. It's just amazing how this thing goes. What's it going to be like in ten years, I wonder.
[JG and KH laugh]
KH: So anyway, that's going to wrap it up for today. Again, if you want to be a student on this show, go to the Academia website, fill out the information, send me an email.
[Show music begins]
KH: We do ask that people fill out surveys that are on the website - it's just a demographic survey so we make sure that we're hitting the right target audience - as well as some surveys and reviews on iTunes are appreciated. And until the next time, my name is Keith Hawk with MuggleNet.com.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor, author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
JH: Joel Hunter, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University.
RM: And I'm Rita McGlynn, a student here at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.