Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Kate Behr (KB) Danielle Karthauser (DK)
[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 back to MuggleNet Academia. This is Lesson 22: "Harry Potter and the Narrative Transformations." We're going to be joined with a very special guest and a student guest to discuss the narrative transformation that takes place in Harry Potter. But first, I want to say welcome back, John. It's been a little while.
JG: Yeah, since our big adventure with The Group That Shall Not Be Named in Laconia, New Hampshire. That was a blast.
KH: I'll tell you what, that was such a great convention. I can't wait until 2015 to do it again. I hope they welcome us back again as a group to do it one more time. But, you know, just the people, the location, the atmosphere, everything that we did, hundreds and hundreds of hours of programming, it was just a lot of fun. I don't know, my favorite convention so far. How about yours?
JG: Well, I've been to a lot of conventions and this one was very different. Everyone there has been a serious reader of Harry Potter for years and years and years, so conversations were about the history of fandom as well as what we got out of the books and such. So it was a much more concentrated experience. It wasn't... there was relatively little of the usual fandom stuff. There was wizard rock, there was a costume ball, there was all the peripheral stuff. But for people that were there really for the intense conversation about literature, it was a real treat.
KH: You know, it was very similar to Ascendio, an HPEF convention that we had down in Orlando. Same type of atmosphere, I felt.
KH: Very educational, very Potterish, you know? A little bit of Quidditch, a little bit of wizard rock, a little bit of...
KH: The costume ball was pretty big at Ascendio. So yeah, I see what you're saying. It was very similar to that.
JG: Yeah, it wasn't so much about the movie stars, though there were movie stars there. But that wasn't the beginning and the end of the show.
KH: And you know what was great is because at MISTI-CON was Ellie Darcey-Alden and her family. Ellie played Lily Evans in Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and such a wonderful, down to earth family.
JG:[laughs] Yeah, wasn't that refreshing?
KH: Yeah, and they were not restricted in any way. They got to do what they wanted to do, they had a great time, they met a bunch of people, everybody was very open to them and not, you know... no fan girls screaming and hollering and pushing, trying to get to the signing table or anything. It was very laid back and I think they really enjoyed that. That's opposed to the type of atmosphere that's going to be happening next week - or actually, this coming week - in Portland, Oregon when LeakyCon Portland takes off, a huge convention that's going to be taking place up there. So if you're going there, have a great time. Unfortunately, we will not be there...
KH: ...but I'm sure there's going to be a lot of great things to do. A lot of the MuggleNet staff will be in attendance; I think we have eight of us going.
JG: Yeah, I love LeakyCon. This is the very first LeakyCon where I won't be speaking, just because of my schedule. I love the Leaky people, but it's such a... I mean, you can't even meet a tenth of the people that come. There's thousands of people there.
KH: That's the part I don't like about LeakyCon. I love LeakyCon for all it does for all the fandom, but I really like meeting everybody. And you're right, you just cannot possibly say hi and shake the hand of every single Potter fan that you meet. It's just impossible.
KH: But anyway, we're going to be getting on to this show. Before we do that though, I do want to read a review that just came in recently from iTunes. In fact, it came in today as we're recording this on Sunday, June 23rd. This is from ladymblack. It says:
"Real 'Harry Potter' discussions
There is still so much to discuss with these books. I feel that it's wonderful that they bring in so many different ideas and perspectives. They're mostly American, yes, but that doesn't mean that the discussion isn't worthy. Every person who reads something takes something out of what they read. Listening to how very learned persons digested it and interpreted it, based on their professions, is really something different, at least in terms of what has been done with the series so far. I generally have no problem when John Granger steps in and makes a point. He will often do so even when it goes against what he originally thought, rethinking his point. Anyone who has a serious interest in 'Harry Potter' should be taking note of this podcast and pay attention to what is going on here. Kudos and thank you so much for making my life so much better with this wonderful show."
That's a great review. People, if you're out there listening right now, go to iTunes, give us a review, tell us just how awesome we are, and give us five stars.
JG:[laughs] Well, I don't know, Keith. Was that a bit of a pat on the head, there? I generally don't...
KH: I liked it!
JG: I generally don't mind when John jumps in because he's usually saying he didn't get the point in the first place.
KH: No, no, no, there's been a couple of times in the recent past that you thought one thing and then, during the discussion, you're like, "Oh, you know what? Yeah, that kind of does work out like that."
KH: And it was nice to hear the change. So I like when people say, hey, we're not all all-knowing. That's good.
JG: Well, I'm looking forward to tonight's conversation because we're all going to learn a lot tonight. This is going to be a great one.
KH: That's what it's about here, John, is on MuggleNet Academia, we are all about learning. So let's get on with introducing our special guests. Why don't you introduce our special guest professor this evening?
JG: Well, I don't know Professor Kate Behr. A lot of people who come on this show are my friends, I've had conversations with at conventions. I have never met Professor Kate Behr. But what I know about her is that she has the equivalent... a first class degree from the University of London in English Literature with emphasis in Shakespeare and such, and then she has her PhD from Pembroke College, Oxford, also in English Literature. She's the author of The Representation of Men in the English Gothic Novel, 1762-1820 and I'd love to talk to her about that tonight, really. I'd love to talk to her about the Jane Austen novels and how the Rowling influence... Rowling has always said that Austen is her favorite author, and I wonder how much of that is the Gothic novel men. But what we're talking to her about is her contribution to the seminal book, really, in Potter punditry, is a book called Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter, Elizabeth Heilman's book, which she wrote years and years ago and then redid after Deathly Hallows came out with updated things and new pieces. And Professor Behr wrote a wonderful essay in there about narrative transformation, which really rocks my world here, especially with her conclusion about the change from pagan myth to Christian myth, and so I've invited her on here. And just our short conversations before the show, I know this is going to be a great one. We're all going to learn a lot tonight.
KH: Well, welcome to the show, Kate.
KB: Well, thank you for inviting me to join you in the discussion.
KH: Absolutely. I hope you have a good time. And tell us just a little bit about yourself and where you're from. Outside of what John already mentioned.
[JG and KB laugh]
KB: Well, I live in Yonkers, New York. But my accent is...
KH: You don't sound like a New Yorker.
KB: That is what people say, but I have actually lived here for 18 years. [laughs] So...
KH: Oh, wow.
KB: For some reason, I just didn't get the accent.
JG:[laughs] Praise God.
KB:[laughs] I can't fake it either. I can't do accents at all. And I am an English Professor at Concordia College, which is in Bronxville, New York, and I'm also an ad hoc Professor of Literature at St Vladimir's Seminary, which is also, weirdly enough, where I live.
KH: Very nice. Great. It's wonderful to have you, and again, welcome aboard. I hope you enjoy being on the show.
KB: I'm sure I shall.
KH: Awesome. Also, our student guest hails from West Chester University. West Chester University is located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She resides in Hatfield and is a wonderful student of English. Her name is Danielle Karthauser. Did I [say] that right, Danielle?
DK: You did.
KH: Awesome. Well, welcome to the show. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
DK: Thank you. Well, as you said I go to West Chester University. I just graduated.
DK: Yes. [laughs]
JG: Congratulations! Hooray!
KB: Yeah, absolutely.
DK: Yes, thank you. And I'm very passionate about Harry Potter and studying books.
JG: Phew. Were there any classes at West Chester on Harry Potter or parts of classes?
DK: No. Unfortunately no. That was a shame.
DK: But I would love to have taken one. [laughs]
KH: There are so many colleges all over the world, not just here in America but in England and everywhere else. And there are some colleges that actually have these Harry Potter courses, and I think it's getting to be more and more of a known entity that colleges should say, "Hey, you know what? If I have a Harry Potter college, I'm going to get a lot more people to sign up for this stuff." And it just seems like whenever there is a college that presents a Harry Potter course, all I hear is that there are lines out the door, waiting to get into the class, and that just says something about the studies and the various topics of discussion that people can have at college regarding Potter. And that's what we do here on the show. So, Danielle, welcome aboard. Kate, welcome aboard.
One other note before we get into the heart of the show is that MuggleNet Academia is available on your mobile device. For an iOS system like the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, just simply go into the Apple iTunes store and download what's called Podcast Box - that is a free app. From there, you search for MuggleNet Academia on the device and you will find us, and it's a $1.99 one-time subscription fee, and right now we have I think it's six different bonus features on there outside of the normal shows. And they're well worth listening to. You do get a little bit more insight into some stuff. Or if you are on the Android device, then you go into Amazon.com, search for MuggleNet Academia, and download the app there. You can also go into the MuggleNet Academia website where we have all of the transcriptions from all the shows that we have done...
[Show music begins]
KH: ...including the last show from MISTI-Con.
JG: Which had Janet Batchler talking.
KH: Yup. That transcription is now live on the site, so go ahead in there and you can find out the history of all of our professors and all the transcriptions that have taken place over the last year and month. So let's get on with the show, shall we?
JG: I love it.
KH: Let's do it. All right. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
KB: I'm Kate Behr, the English English Professor.
DK: And I'm Danielle Karthauser from West Chester University.
[Show music continues]
[MuggleNet Podcasts promo begins]
Harry:[yawns] Good morning, you two. What are you up to?
Ron: Hey, Harry. Hermione and I found this wireless sitting here in the common room.
Hermione: We can't decide what to listen to, though.
Harry: Well, have you two heard of Alohomora!? They always come up with interesting new ideas and theories about the wizarding world, and invite their listeners to participate in the discussion, on and off the air. They even talk about things we do here at Hogwarts, like magical creatures, wizarding history, Divination...
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Harry: Chosen One gets first dibs!
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[Harry, Hermione, and Ron bicker]
Neville: Good morning, you three. Err, what are you doing with my wireless?
Ron: Neville? This is your wireless?
Neville: Yes, I've been looking for it everywhere. I don't want to miss MuggleCast. They're always up on the latest wizarding news.
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Harry, Hermione, and Ron: Ginny!
[Ginny, Harry, Hermione, and Ron bicker]
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KH: All right, we're going to jump into Lesson 22: "Harry Potter and the Narrative Transformations." Professor Kate Behr has her PhD from Oxford's Pembroke College and teaches English here in the States at both Concordia College and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary which are both in New York. She is the author of The Representation of Men in the English Gothic Novel, 1762-1820 but we've invited her here not to discuss Snape as a Gothic hero - or maybe even a villain - but her contribution to Potter punditry. That's what this show is about. She has a chapter in Elizabeth Heilman's collection of academic pieces called Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter. Her essay is called "Philosopher's Stone to Resurrection Stone: Narrative transformations across the Harry Potter series" and this essay challenges us to re-think how we understand the story being told in light of how the same story is re-told and how we are transformed by the telling and re-telling. So for our loyal fans of MuggleNet Academia, you are going to need to ask Aberforth for a drink that's a little bit stronger than Butterbeer tonight because this show promises to be some remarkable conversation.
The first question that we always open the show up with, professor, is you are an educated English woman who educates young minds here in the United States on the very subject of English and English Literature. So I need to ask you a question: When did you first start reading Harry Potter? Was it a love at first sight, or maybe you had an acquired taste for this, or was it thrust upon you as an obligatory reading in light of Pottermania in your academic career? How did you get to meet Potter?
KB: Well, I first read Harry Potter, gosh, a horribly long time ago now, in about 1998. So...
KH: Wow, one of the originals!
KB:[laughs] One of the originals.
JG: Got us all on this! This is great.
KB: Well, it was on the recommendation of my godfather as a matter of fact, who is now Bishop Server of Pittsburgh.
JG: Oh, my goodness.
KB: And he's this sort of icon of popular culture in all kinds of ways, and there's lots of stories but I won't go into them here. But he seems to read and listen to just about everything, and when we chat, which we do sort of infrequently, he always says, "What are you reading? Have you read?" And many years ago, around about 1998, he said, "Have you read this? You really need to read this." So I did. So it was a recommendation from a friend, essentially. Usually recommendations from friends, when people say, "You really need to read this," you know nothing good is going to follow on from there.
KB: It almost never works. There's always some awful disconnect. But this time, it wasn't obligatory reading. It was really enjoyable. So it wasn't exactly love at first sight, but it was definitely pleasure at first read.
KH: How about you, Danielle? How about you? When did you first come upon Harry Potter?
DK: I think I actually was at a Toys R Us when I bought the second book, I believe, in 1998, I think.
JG: Couldn't have been, couldn't have been. If you were in the United States...
DK: 1999, yeah. I was in fourth grade, and I read it constantly. [laughs] The second book I actually read first; I didn't know what order they were in when I was younger. But then I bought the first book from a book order, and I've loved them ever since.
KH: One of those Scholastic book orders?
KH: And then growing up, you kept on going with that I guess, right?
DK: I did, yeah. I loved them then.
KH:[laughs] That's awesome, I love that.
JG: So do you remember a time consciously before you met Harry Potter? This is like one of your earliest experiences, right, as a reader?
DK: Yeah, because before I'd read The Magic Treehouse series or something. [laughs]
JG: Right. Yeah, yeah.
DK:Harry Potter was this huge book where it was, for me, little words and so long that I could barely... when I first read it, I just couldn't believe that I was reading a 300-page book.
KB: It's a big jump from The Magic Treehouse.
DK: Yeah, it's a huge jump.
JG: Well, this is why publishers didn't want to publish the book series. They figured, Danielle, that you wouldn't be equal to it. But as JK Rowling says, "They always underestimate the child reader." And here you are, graduating in English Literature. I think Rowling can add that to her trophy case.
JG: Seriously, what a wonderful thing. You two pre-date Keith and I by years. You were on board the bus, the Knight Bus, long before we were. That's a great thing. And especially Kate, in that you were in the United States in '98 reading it. You were with a handful of people... you weren't riding anybody's wave...
JG: You were there before almost anybody, before the Time Magazine articles, before the mania. I'm going to ask you two questions about this, because you're living on a seminary campus or whatever, [laughs] and you read this because your bishop recommended it, which is just wonderful. What was your response when the Potter panic began, when people began to condemn the books because they were, in some people's minds, the gateway drug to the anti-Christ or to the occult? And then, as an Oxford-educated English don, how did you get over the snobbery thing, where people just said... where a New York Times editorial writer wrote that this was not serious fare for adult readers? How did you deal with those two responses, one from academic and one from the cultural gatekeepers?
KB: Well, on the academic front, this snobbery-chasm that you talked of, I didn't really jump it. I just wasn't even aware that it existed.
JG:[laughs] That's great.
KB: It may just be that I'm nicely inbred and have lots of natural arrogance, but it never occurred to me, ever, that Harry Potter wasn't a subject to be read, talked, and written about. And it was because of Harry Potter that the Times developed a separate children's list in its bestsellers.
JG: That's right.
KB:[laughs] So I think the writer in that Times review was probably eating his or her words, rather. And, as I think you mentioned in the intro, my doctoral research - which was also a horribly long time ago - was on Gothic novels. And Gothic novels were like the harlequin romances of their day. They were very trashy. They had a terrible reputation. They were like pop culture, they were kind of like video nasties, with maybe dialing down the sex and the violence a little bit. So I'd been studying pop culture and fantasy of a somewhat specific and antiquated sort for several years, so it really didn't occur to me that there was anything odd about this. With regard to the hysteria, I also teach in a religiously affiliated college. Concordia College is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
JG: Oh, my goodness.
KB: And I was asked... it was my first time I ever gave a talk on Harry Potter. I was asked to give a talk in 2001 alongside another faculty member and Sorcerer's Stone was a book that the wider community was reading for a books and coffee series that they have and you introduce these books with a faculty talk and it's at three o'clock in the afternoon and there's lots of sort of older people who generally come. And it was right before the first film came out, which was obviously why they timed it for that. And it was a totally bizarre experience. I talked about some of the themes. I talked about the children's literature that I was absolutely sure that Joanne Rowling had drawn on, which of course was all the stuff that I had read as a child. [laughs] And I talked about things like that. And the audience... they just wanted to ask these, I thought, completely irrelevant questions. One that sticks with me is, "Couldn't I see the Witch of Endor on every page?"
KB: To which the only answer was, "No." [laughs] Or they wanted to talk about the potential for moral decay, and I was left to sort of say... well when they said, "What do you say to people who say that?" I'd say, "Read the books because clearly you haven't."
KB: It was a really strange thing. So that was my first sort of experience of the negative attitude - kind of the popular negative attitude - towards Harry Potter. But I didn't get into writing about Harry Potter more seriously until a couple of years later. There was a conference and the theme was something like "Intersecting Cultures," something like that. And I quite fancied going because it was in Niagra Falls and I'd never been to Niagra Falls.
KB: And so I was working on a proposal for... I think I was going to do it on Shakespeare's Tempest or something along those lines. I forget now, to be honest. And then I suddenly thought, "No. Muggles and wizards would be a lot more fun." And I was right. It was. [laughs]
JG: A bigger crowd too, right?
KB: Yes, actually. Oddly enough.
JG: Oh, no, not oddly enough. It's stunning to go to academic conferences and you have Harry Potter on the thing. Some people will sneer at the fact that you're going so low brow. But the size of the crowds is always... it's like you're keynoting when you're just a side speaker.
KB: Well, they've all been reading it in brown paper covers many years ago.
JG: That's right.
KB: But just... if you ever find yourself being sneered at by a pseudo-intellectual again, you could tell them that people have been writing about Harry Potter seriously, academically, since at least the beginning of the century.
JG: Oh, yeah.
KB: Because there was a really good Harry Potter symposium at The Chesterton Review in 2001, which was full of professors talking about what was going on in the books to that point. So really, I don't think the snobbery is as prevalent or the chasm nearly as wide as you might feel from your own experience. [laughs]
JG:[laughs] I get it.
KH: That's really interesting, how people look at the Harry Potter series and claim it to the occult. I've heard this when I first started reading the books back in 2005 and I was like, "Really? I don't see where this is all going." I've seen a lot of changes in the air, which is nice to see. But I want to get back into the topic at hand here and discuss... the title of this show is called "Harry Potter and the Narrative Transformations" and basically, Professor Behr, your chapter is in the book called Critical Perspectives on Harry Potter and you talk about this narrative transformation. And I read the piece; I read your chapter on this. But when I hear this word "narrative" I'm thinking of speaking and talking, and I don't understand what it really means as far as the Harry Potter series. Is this something about how Ms. Rowling is telling the story? Or stories told within her novels by the characters? Or is it something else? What does this narrative mean?
KB: Well, technically, the narrative is the entire text. Okay? It's all the words on the page. So all the words of the individual book are the narrative. So in one sense, the narrative is how JK Rowling is telling the story. The facts, selection, ordering, arrangement, her tone, her choice of narratorial perspective, and so on. And that does include, of course, stories being told in her novels by other characters as well. But there is another dimension because the narrative is not just the text, it's also the reader and how the reader receives or interprets the text. In a sense, readers do construct the narrative themselves while reading. And I don't mean by this that a writer can say that the sky was red and the reader can turn around and say that the sky was black. [laughs] That's ridiculous. But it's more that narrative, which is storytelling, is an act of communication. So if no one opens the book, if no one reads that story, the act is unfinished. So narrative is very much a two-way process. Does that make sense?
KH: Well, that makes a lot of sense to me.
JG: Okay, but the name of the show is "Narrative Transformations." And you say in the article that "narrative is transformation" and that all spells, all the magic in the book, "show the relationship between narrative and transformation," because you define narrative for us as the text and the exchange, the communication. Is that transformation and the magic of written speech in the story, or is it something else - how the reader is changed, how the stories being told become different, or how the content of Ms. Rowling's message is altered from start to finish? How does transformation come into this narrative, this experience, this communication?
KB: Well, all the way through. [laughs] And I guess my answer to your question is all of the above.
KB: Because any narrative, whether it's an oral narrative or a written narrative, takes facts or events and turns them into a story. Without narrative, all you have is a random list. You have something like a shopping list, except it's not a shopping list because you don't have a context to make it a shopping list. And if you remember the story... is it A Canticle for Leibowitz?
KB: This kind of... part of what makes that story so fascinating, they build up the whole mystique and religion about [unintelligible] remnants of science, and it ends up being something terribly banal, but they only had fragments so they constructed their own narrative around it. So for instance, if you had, I don't know, a student, bed, and yawn, that's just three nouns. But "The student fell out of a strange bed, still yawning," is a narrative but it's not a very exciting one.
JG:[laughs] How are we transformed? I can see how the facts are transformed into a narrative, but how are we transformed by that experience, by you writing that down and communicating the story of the student falling out of the bed while yawning? How am I transformed in hearing that?
KB: Well, you may not be.
JG: Okay. [laughs]
KB:[laughs] I would hate to presume.
KB: But I would say that what happens is that process of communication. You allow it to happen than your own experience is, in some way, enlarged. And it may not be a huge significant thing. It may be a very small thing.
JG: Well, I'm going to kick this to Danielle and say Danielle, when you were in the fourth grade when you first picked up these books, obviously you weren't thinking about narrative transformations, or if you were, you were precocious. But I'm sure though, that you felt some kind of engagement, and you said you read them again and again and again. Was it just a function of there was something in the story that you felt was acting on you? That somehow there was a different sort of connection with the story than you have with other books?
DK: Yeah, I found I could relate to it a lot more. The way it was written was just very detailed unlike any other book I ever read. And I felt I could relate to all of the characters in some way, shape, or form, and that's what I got out of it when I read them.
JG: Now, Professor Behr talks about this on her piece - and I really do recommend that you pick up Critical Perspectives for her essay and all the other... it's a wonderful collection - that largely this is about Rowling's artistry, that this narrative is of such a design that we are especially transformed by it. And please, Professor Behr, jump in here if I'm putting words in your mouth. You write, for example, that Rowling's depictions of our world change it "twice over" and that the wizarding world is Muggle existence "transformed by narrative." Tell me more about that. I mean, it seems you're saying that Privet Drive is a philosophically nominalist place where only the surface facts, the "signifier" or object, is real, while magic reality is the "signifier," this greater existence beneath, behind, and within the surface of stuff. How does her depiction of our world change it twice over?
KB: Well, you're asking two different questions, actually.
JG: Ah! Oh no!
KB:[laughs] That's all right.
JG: Sort me out!
KB: Okay. With the changing it twice over is that she takes the real world with a very given definition of the word "real," [laughs] her recognizable real world experiences, what every writer uses, and transforms that but does it twice over because, first of all, it becomes the Muggle world and the Muggle world is not an exact depiction of Britian in the 1990s. And then it is transformed again into the wizarding world, thus twice over.
Now, on the signifier, signified thing, not quite right about that. And I think it's the technical vocabulary that's the problem. When I say that in the Muggle world, the world of Privet Drive, you have signifiers with essentially no substance. This is because... when we talk about the signifier, it is essentially the word itself on its own, a collection of letters, which doesn't actually mean anything unless you know the code. It's just a collection of letters. There's no picture to tell you what it means. It just is. So it's a very abstract thing, really, the written language - well, English is anyway - and there's very little about it that is physical. Whereas what we understand by those words, that's the signified. So if I see the word L-A-P-T-O-P, those letters don't really mean anything but I understand them to mean a "laptop," a "laptop computer," and I know exactly how that is different from any other kind.
And the reason why that is relevant to Harry Potter - at least I thought it was; I'm willing to be convinced otherwise - is that when I was first thinking about the relationship between the Muggle world and the wizard worlds, I noticed a few things that sort of stood out to me. One was... and these are all really obvious observations, I hasten to stress. One is that Muggles have technology, and wizards have magic. So light, heat, transportation, things that we use technology for, they have magic. The second thing was that the Muggle world is the acknowledged world. The wizard world exists in these funny little gaps - these weird, little pockets that are sort of glanced over. And some people know about it, but not very many. And then the third thing was that everything pretty much in the wizard world was a magical version of the Muggle one. And the example that I used when I was writing, because it made some sense to me, is that money in the Muggle world is notional. We don't even use coins hardly anymore. And the coins that we do use bear no relation to any kind of real monetary value. It's an entirely abstract system of exchange. So money for us is just... it's a word, and it's a word that buys things. But in the wizard world, what Rowling has done is that you don't have money, you have gold. And gold is really gold. [laughs] It's solid.
KB: And I noticed that that was the case with a lot of things that fall in our world that don't have substance: memories, obvious example. Memories are things that we just can't hang on to. Well, you can in the wizard world. [laughs] Photographs and portraits. Also, I think with Dolores Umbridge - I'm going to make sure that this kind of sticks to you, as it were. This lesson is really going to be written... well, it really was written in blood, wasn't it?
KB: So it seemed to me that what you had in the Muggle world were sort of signifiers. All these kind of empty words for non-tangible things. And in the wizard world, what Rowling had done was to show us all these realities for these ideas.
KH: Okay, but in the beginning of your essay, one of the first things you mentioned with Rowling is this scene. It says:
"Rowling highlights this relationship between narrative and transformation within her text from the moment we see Ron trying to cast a spell: 'Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow/Turn this stupid, fat rat yellow'."
We all know these words. We all love this scene in the movie. It's wonderful. How is that narrative transformation? I don't understand it.
KB: Well, what is he doing?
KH: He's casting a fake spell.
KB: But he doesn't know it's a fake spell.
JG: That's right.
KB: So what is the spell actually doing?
KH: Absolutely nothing. It's a whole bunch of empty words.
KB: Right. Now, if he was able to do it properly, if he had the right words or a better wand... [laughs] Ron and his wands.
KB: It's like an ongoing theme, isn't it?
KH: Oh, don't get started on the wand stuff.
[JG and KH laugh]
KB: Yeah. Okay. But if he'd been able to cast the spell properly, he would have used words and what would have happened? A transformation.
JG: That's right.
KH: Yes, if he'd... which happens in his fifth or sixth year.
KB:[laughs] Yeah, he's a slow learner.
KB: Yes, a late developer or something. Yeah, no, I think it is. Spells do... they are transformations. They change - if they work - the reality. And my favorite one is Riddikulus.
KH: It's one of my favorite ones, too.
KB: And it really... it is a total... in fact, it's a narrative transformation. It's not just a transformation because what do you do? You take the thing you're most afraid of, and it appears to you in all its awfulness, and then you add details, you change the narrative, and it becomes... you turn it from something terrifying into something hilarious.
KH: A massive snake that turns into a jack-in-the-box.
KB: Yeah. A legless giant spider. [laughs]
JG: That's right. This is great, but you also talk about how the narrative transformation is not just about how words and stories reshape reality, but how her storytelling changes from comic to dark. Can you give us some instances of how the narrative itself is transforming as we go through the series?
KB: Yeah, I think so. Well, from comic to dark. Polyjuice Potion...
JG: There you go. [laughs]
KB: ...is probably a good example. What I tended to see as I read through the books is that I kept on encountering the same elements being shuffled in different ways. The books, up to about Book 4, it looked like there was a formula. We were going to find out that He Who Must Not Be Named is threatening Harry, there was bound to be an outstanding Quidditch match...
KB: ...there was bound to be some new spell which they couldn't quite master, there was bound to be some rule breaking, and there would be maybe one or two perhaps near death experiences connected with that rule breaking, and then they would come through and save the day and get lots of house points.
KB: And it pretty much looked like that was the pattern. Thankfully, that did not continue to be the pattern, [laughs] otherwise it really would have been a little dull. But the Polyjuice Potion pops up several times in the course of the books. I mean, Danielle, you know, right?
DK: Yes, exactly.
KB: So what's it like the first time we encounter Polyjuice Potion?
DK: The first time it's basically for a comic thing when Harry and Ron turn into Crabbe and Goyle. And we see them in this ridiculous [laughs] manner. And then it goes to...
KB: And Hermione. Don't forget Hermione.
DK: Yes, Hermione.
KH: Oh, don't go there. Don't go there.
DK: Yes, [laughs] how could I forget Hermione?
JG: I got in trouble for that, Kate. So we can't talk about Hermione's transformation.
JG: We did a show on sexuality in the series, and of course it came out that she turned into a cat, which in English parlance - I don't know if this is British parlance, but in American English - pussy has a different meaning. So basically...
KH: Just listen to Lesson 2 and you'll laugh your butt off.
JG: Basically, the transformation is about menarche. Anyway, [laughs] more than you wanted to know, Kate. But that...
KB: Well, especially as it's only her head. That's a bit disconcerting. Anyway...
JG: Well, she has a tail doesn't she?
KB: She does have a tail. No, you're right. She does have a tail. Yeah.
JG: She has a tail. But anyway, that transformation is still funny.
JG: I mean, it may have some overtones of this and that, but then we get to Goblet of Fire and all of a sudden this is not a happy thing.
KB: Not at all. No.
DK: Yeah, it's very dark seeing... who was it again? I forget his name. Who transformed into Mad-Eye Moody?
KH: Barty Crouch, Jr.
DK: Yes, Barty Crouch, Jr. And that's extremely dark, and then of course you have... in Hallows you have Harry, Ron, and Hermione transforming to go into the Ministry of Magic.
KB: Right, and it's another life and death situation.
KH: Well, there are so many instances of Polyjuice Potion in Deathly Hallows it actually got to be...
KH: ...little more than just a... every chapter seemed to have Polyjuice. You had the Seven Potters, and then you had the Ministry of Magic, and then you had when they go into Godric's Hollow. I mean, there were tons of it.
KB: Yeah, no, you're right.
KH: Vats and vats were in her beaded bag.
KB: And it tasted disgusting, as I recall...
DK: Yeah. [laughs]
KB: ...from the first thing. Well, there's an example of something that when we first encounter it, it's comic and it's quite funny and it's almost like... I mean, it's done with a semi-serious purpose, but the atmosphere is very much like a couple of eleven, twelve year olds playing a practical joke. But by the time we've got to the end, it is a much darker and more desperate thing.
JG: And you mentioned in the article too, Cornelius Fudge and how...
KB: Oh, yeah.
JG: I mean, he's wearing his little hat and he seems like an English bureaucrat. In Prisoner, he's all hail fellow well met. And then when he's in the hospital wing at the end of Goblet, he's this viscious, the benal evil from [unintelligible]. I mean, this is a nasty man. And the bathrooms. You mentioned the bathrooms, too. The bathrooms are these liminal taboo places, take on an increasing thing where they're hiding in the bathroom with Moaning Myrtle in the beginning of the books, but by the end of the books Harry almost kills Draco in a bathroom.
KB: Yeah, they never seem to get out of the bathroom.
[JG and KB laugh]
KB: It's nearly always the same one. Yeah, the bathrooms are interesting, and it is because bathrooms are kind of... I don't know, they're a room for such a specific purpose and...
KH: Yeah, when you read a book, I mean any kind of book, you don't really read about a bathroom. None of the characters in any of the Harry Potter books have ever gone to the bathroom.
[JG and KB laugh]
KH: To literally go to the bathroom for that purpose.
JG: Seven years of constipation.
KH: But this is every single book out there. Any John Grisham book, any Hardy Boy book, or any book of that series. The Hunger Games, the Divergent series... nobody ever goes to the bathroom anymore!
JG:[laughs] I'm afraid... well, and Edith Nesbit didn't go to the bathroom either or CS Lewis. I mean, it's not as if that's a standard that we're departing from. The fact that she actually puts scenes in a bathroom, though, is different.
KH: Huge scenes. The Polyjuice Potion plus when they do the egg for the prefects' bathroom in Goblet of Fire.
KB: That is a different bathroom... yeah, yeah, yeah, it's the prefects' bathroom. But one of the things I thought was interesting about... and again, it's one of those comedy to... it's not exactly comedy to tragedy, but a realization that there's a sort of darker and darker atmosphere is... I don't know about you, Danielle - I'll keep the guys out of it for a minute - but when I was in elementary school, the absolute taboo was the boys did not go in the girls' bathroom. It was like the ultimate no-go zone. And consequently, if you were being chased or bothered, the girls would just sprint for the girls' bathroom.
KB: It was a sort of haven, almost. The boys did not dare cross some invisible line. [laughs] I can't remember what it was. But there was definitely some point beyond which the force was strong and they could not cross.
KB: But this is not the case in Harry Potter, is it? It's not... that particular bathroom anyway. It definitely hasn't been a haven. Myrtle died there.
[JG and KB laugh]
KH: And the funny thing is that they do call it a girls' bathroom but nobody ever goes into that bathroom just because of Myrtle.
JG: And Percy is upset when he sees them coming out of that bathroom. Percy voices the taboo there, "What are you doing in this bathroom?" But I think it's only because there's a sign on the door saying "Out of order" more than the fact that they crossed into the girls' bathroom.
JG: Percy being Percy.
KB: And of course Draco goes there to cry.
JG: Yeah, the only sympathetic figure, is Myrtle cares for him and his nightmare. Yeah, in the second book we go into the bathroom, and we get the Moaning Myrtle jokes, this, that, and the other. And then in the sixth book, in parallel in terms of the ring composition we have Draco going in there and he's having conversations with this woman, this ghost. Oh well, forgive me.
KH: He goes to the bathroom, but I don't think it's the same bathroom.
JG: You don't? Myrtle is in there!
KH: Yeah, Myrtle goes through the pipes. I don't think it's...
JG: Oh, okay.
KB: She does, yeah.
KH: I think it's the boys' bathroom that it's near the staff room.
KB: Are you sure?
KH: I'm pretty sure because...
KB: Are you sure he doesn't go to the girls' bathoom to get out of the way?
KH: It was described as somewhere near the staff room or something like that, whereas Moaning Myrtle's wasn't described that way. I mean, it's just my recollection of it. I have to look a little bit closer now.
KB: You're probably right.
KH: But I mean, yeah, Myrtle is in both of them. That's the parallel part of it down.
KB: And there's the taboo. Myrtle can go in any bathroom.
JG:[laughs] That's right.
KB: When Harry is bathing, there's a lot of trying to hide himself with a cake of soap or something.
KB: We have this sort of parody of being spied upon, and of course it's the young boy being all embarrassed because this older, predatory, eternal moaning teenager is peeking at him.
KH: Really older because she's...
KB: About fifty years older, yeah! [laughs]
KH: Yeah, but in the movie, even Shirley Henderson who played Moaning Myrtle was 33 when she filmed that.
KH: She was old.
JG: Oh, come on, Keith. That's not old.
KB: I honestly don't regard 33 as particularly old. [laughs]
KH: Compared to Harry, compared to Harry.
JG: Oh, okay.
KH: Not compared to you and me, buddy. [laughs]
JG: We can go there, we can go there. All right, back to this article here. Transformations. Probably the character that goes through the most transformations is the protagonist, the central guy here: Harry's transformation. He changes his understanding of everybody, especially near the end of the book. His understanding of Dumbledore, Snape, and himself, right up to the farewell in the epilogue where he reveals that he gets it that Snape wasn't this guy that he thought he was. You suggest in your article that much of this narrative and self-understanding are actually shaped by the Dark Lord. Does Harry ever really become the author of his story? Say some more about how the Dark Lord is shaping Harry's narrative transformation.
KB: Well, I'm trying to balance a little bit because it's really hard not to talk about the characters as if they were real people. [laughs]
JG: Go ahead, go ahead! [unintelligible]
KB: Yes, maybe.
KB: Of course Harry becomes the author of his story. But yeah, Voldemort really does shape Harry's narrative because... it says so somewhere, I've forgotten where. I think Dumbledore probably says it. He says, "Voldemort made this happen. Voldemort chose you to be the boy in the prophecy." There's a definite sense that, had things gone the other way, Neville could have easily been the Chosen One. But Voldemort chose Harry, Voldemort targeted Harry's family, Voldemort, in attempting to kill Harry, inadvertently gives him... shares his own Parseltongue gift with him, and half-kills himself in the backlash. And all of that, and Voldemort's continuing attempts, of course, to return to full life - which he can only do, apparently, with Harry's full death - shapes the narrative. So yeah, Harry and Voldemort are constantly circling each other. There's no mistake when Rowling says in the prophecy... what was it, around about Book 5, Book 6? I don't remember. The bit about only one will survive.
KH: The prophecy is Book 5.
KB: Thank you. The bit about only one will survive. Neither can live while the other survives, something like that. And we find out eventually, of course, that Harry is the eighth Horcrux. So that becomes even truer.
JG: But when Dumbledore reveals this to him in his speech before the tower, I guess, in Half-Blood Prince, and Harry comes to understand that he has a choice to make in response to this narrative - is that when Harry, in a way, takes responsibility for this narrative and begins to write his own story?
KB: I think he started to write his own story from the moment he told the Sorting Hat that he wanted to be in Gryffindor.
JG: Huh. Huh, you're right.
KH: That's interesting. That's interesting.
JG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that's why Dumbledore says to him, "The Dark Lord should have realized what a foe that you were," because of his ability in front of the Mirror of Erised to see the Stone instead of...
KB: Yes, exactly.
JG: That's wonderful, that's great. [laughs] This is for that audience member who says, "Oh, John learnt something. John just learnt something. Put that flag up." That's great, that's great.
KH: See, it happens. Even to the best of us.
JG: Oh, come on. Come on.
JG: I loved your discussion of the plot point correspondence between Stone and Hallows while making the case that the stories are completely different, as you say. What is this? Is this just a comic to tragic transformation? What is the substance of that transformation in the narration of what is superficially a similar story? I mean, you see a lot of the same spells, you see a lot of the... in my book, The Deathly Hallows Lectures, I think one of the appendices has 35 direct echo references from Stone to Hallows. And in my book on ring composition, I show how that "1," "4," and "7" is actually the ring echo or whatever. What's the substance of that transformation from Stone to Hallows?
KB: I think it's the stones, and the stones are emblematic of Harry's attitude to death, and that's what makes... and also, of course, Harry is much older. [laughs] The view of a heroic adventure, when you're not even aware you can die as an eleven year old...
KB: ...is very different from the way that Rowling makes Harry walk deliberately to his death in Deathly Hallows. He has to choose death in the end.
JG: The stones.
KB: The stones.
JG: Because Voldemort wants the stone in Book 1...
JG: ...he's indifferent to the Resurrection Stone in Book 7. What's that about?
KB: Well, the Philosopher's Stone - or so the myth is in Book 1 - can produce an elixir that will give you immortality. But it's giving you immortality just by postponing death, okay? So it's like, I guess, a continual presence sort of. It postpones death, that's what it does. The life you're living now, that's what's important, that's what you hang onto. Your life as well, your living. Whereas the Resurrection Stone also transforms things. The Resurrection Stone, we are told, brings the dead to life and it's a very dangerous, dangerous thing to do for the wrong reasons. And the two things that Rowling tells us about Voldemort consistently from Book 1 onwards are that he's terrified of death and that he cannot understand love. So the Philosopher's Stone is a natural thing for him to want, this prolonging life. But the Resurrection Stone reaches through... you have to go though death to get the life and consequently it doesn't matter at all to Voldemort because he is determined not to die himself and he doesn't want to give anyone else a chance at a second life. So...
JG: He doesn't love anybody, right?
KB: He doesn't love anybody, absolutely.
JG: Who is he going to talk to?
KB: Exactly, yeah. He's a very isolated individual in that respect. So Harry though, Harry is operating on a totally different wavelength.
KH: Let me ask you a question. I have a quick question, I just thought of this and I wanted to throw it in. The Resurrection Stone - if you go into the Forest and you find it where Harry dropped it and you turn it thrice in your hand and wish for Voldemort to come back...
KH: ...would Voldemort come back?
JG:[laughs] He'd have to! We assume that he's back at King's Cross and he's waiting there for you to turn that stone over.
KB: I don't think he could though, because by that point...
KH: There's no soul left.
KB: ...there's just the one little stunted bit left that actually remains in Voldemort himself, which is one eighth of what he needs to have.
KB: There is this awful stunted, flayed thing. I don't think you could.
KH: What do you think, Danielle?
DK: Well, when he dies you don't think he would become his full self again in death? You think it would still be separate souls when he dies?
JG: That's what Harry warns him about in the final confrontation.
JG: He says, "I've seen what you become. You need to feel some remorse." So Harry is saying, it doesn't look good for you in the next world or whatever because you've so destroyed yourself. But I wonder if the Resurrection Stone wouldn't work so that you could actually see him the way that he was. We don't know because...
KB: You can see him the way that he was! You see him as Tom Riddle in...
JG: Oh, his memory. Yeah.
JG: That's a different thing than with the Resurrection Stone. Because all the people we see from the Resurrection Stone are the good guys...
JG: ...and they come back with a full, near-corporeal presence. The only thing we see of the Dark Lord in the next world is, as you say, this flayed, near child, this needy, whining package. And I wonder... it's a great question, Keith, but I don't think we can give a definite yay or nay on this.
KH: No, I don't think you can either. But what you see when you turn the Resurrection Stone over is how they were when they died. Because in the story, "The Tale of the Three Brothers," the widower sees his widow come back as she was, almost like continuing on with life as it once was from where she left. And I think the same thing when we're in the forest, and we see Lupin and Sirius come back. It's as they were when they died. I don't think it's any different. So I mean, if Voldemort was to come back in this - God help us - false scenario, then Voldemort would be as he was, not Tom Riddle but as he was.
JG: Neat. Keith, I'm going to jump back into this because I don't know how much time we have and I've got to ask her this question. I'm dying to ask her this question, which is about the conclusion, Professor Behr. This is great. You say that the great leap in narrative transformations between Stone and Hallows is from a classical understanding of death to a Christian one. And I know that's certainly going to surprise many readers, even Christians, because it's the idea that the stories somehow aren't Christian at the start and all the way to the finish but somehow they become a Christian myth instead of a pagan one. It's going to make them scratch their heads. How are Harry's victory over death so different in the saga's opening and closing chapters?
KB: In the first book, the quest for the stone is a quest to avoid death, and Harry's survival is the focus. He is known as the Boy Who Lived. [laughs] It's like the survivor, and that carries on right the way through to the end. But in the last book, Harry can't survive with his integrity and tact by avoiding death. He has to do two things, in fact. He has to make two choices, which I think is significant. He has to choose to die himself and he has to deliberately choose to send other people to die as well, and that is the focus of the climax of Deathly Hallows.
JG: Who do you mean when you say Harry sends them to their deaths? When he tells Neville to confront the Dark Lord or... who else?
JG: Okay. Excuse me.
KB: Yeah, when he tells Neville to confront the Dark Lord. He knows that's probably a death sentence because Harry doesn't expect to survive. He's not doing it in that kind of cartoon comic booky hero way that we saw in the first book when being too clever by half would get you through the trials. In the last book, he's really... he's stripped of everything and he has to decide to die and and he has to do so. He does so without knowing it's... not thinking that he's trading his life for anybody. He's got no expectation that this is going to do any good. He said he just knows that he has to go to his own destruction. He sort of gives up his action hero role and he picks up the role of a victim, and it's only then significantly that he realizes how to access the Resurrection Stone. And he doesn't use it to do anything except to bring the people he loves most. They come back to walk with him to his death. In a way, he sort of resurrects love. Nothing else. And I'm sorry, if defeating death by dying...
[JG and KB laugh]
KB: If having some compassion for an enemy as well, I'd say. And if resurrection through love, if that's not a Christian paradigm, I don't know what is. [laughs]
JG: That's right, yeah. How about how... I mean, the Philosopher's Stone has been a trope though, for the eucharist since the metaphysical poets - well, even in Shakespeare - so you cast that book as a pagan myth. That's where I'm... is that a big change?
KB: Yeah, I did. No, I cast it as a pagan myth because of this attitude to death. It really is. It goes from being something that has to be avoided at all costs to being something that is not the end. There are things that are worth... without sounding too corny, there are definitely things that are worth dying for. And that's not exactly how it is in the beginning. So I think that the resurrection is not the sort of resurrection you'd expect, but it turns out to be exactly the right kind of resurrection. So I'm not suggesting that Harry is a sort of trope of Christ or anything ridiculous like that, but I am saying that the way that the novel pivots around these attitudes towards death in the end, I think, are resting on a very firmly Christian world view.
JG: Yeah, I don't think he's a cardboard stick figure for Jesus of Nazareth, but he's certainly a Christian every man almost about the entire series in that he makes these choices, these sacrificial love choices, at the end of every book. He comes to a near death thing and then a symbol of Christ appears and he rises from the dead. And in the first book, after three days. I mean, she's not being especially subtle.
[DK and KB laugh]
JG: This is not an opaque reference. Or when Narcissa in the forest comes to see him and her nails pierced his flesh, and I'm like, "Okay, how many more Calvary references do we need here?" And all the thorn wands that they're playing with or whatever. But that Christian everyman imagery comes... it's like Christianity Today, they did their review of Deathly Hallows. They said, "Harry Potter 7 is Matthew 6," meaning that it was so much more obvious in the end game than it was the beginning. She seemed to finally say, "Okay, this book is about our choices." Which brings me to really my last question, almost. It's about the last paragraph of your chapter. And it's... I've been reading it. I've read it at least six times now trying to make sure that I get it or whatever, because I'm going to read this paragraph out loud because it's worth it.
"Over seven books, she has told, retold, enlarged her story and told it again. Eleven-year-old Harry grows throughout the series, continually making choices, re-evaluating what he thinks he knows and growing in wisdom. Rowling's narrative concludes as the now-adult Harry defeats the much older but still spiritually childish Voldemort. Like Harry encountering the black-haired, orphaned Tom Riddle, or the snake-faced tyrant, or the stunted, flayed near-child, we continually meet the stranger face-to-face and find that he is us, transformed by narrative."
Now forgive me, that "he" in the last sentence referring to Harry - is it referring to Harry Potter in that we've alchemically been transformed?
KB: Mmm-mmm. It's referring to the stranger. Sort of a generic...
JG: That's right. Okay, good. So it's our dark side... we have our dark side that's very much like Voldemort is to Harry?
KB: I didn't really mean it like that, to be honest.
KB: I suppose, yeah, in some way I was referring to the way that the reader appropriates a narrative, so that, yeah, Harry's narrative in a way becomes ours. I didn't really mean to imply that the stranger is always the dark or the shadow side of us, but I mean I can see why it would sound like that. But to be honest, that sounds really solipsistic. [laughs] You don't exist as a bit player except as a bit player in my narrative. Ha ha.
KB: On some level, I just wanted a nice ta-da for the end of the piece. But I think to get some sort of larger meaning out of it, I think perhaps what I was reaching for is that I think that the Harry Potter books do say something about what it means to be human. And when you look at the way that narratives transform and change, and you see the power of the words to change the situations and the people and perceptions and so on, when one human being encounters another human being you're just encountering a different narrative in lots of ways.
JG: Wow, that's great.
KB: So I think that's probably what I was aiming at. And a nice ta-da as well.
JG:[laughs] Well, as I said it was a great finish because I got to read it again and again doing the "oh yeah, oh yeah." All right. Danielle, we've been hearing a lot about narrative transformation here. I want to hear about... can you imagine starting to read Harry in '99 when you were a fourth grader, as you said, can you imagine a world without Harry Potter? What would your life be like if you had never had this narrative transformation experience, where you have this encounter with Harry, identify with his choices? How has that, do you think, shaped who you are?
DK: Well, I think for one thing it's really gotten me much more into literature and reading, much more than I think any book ever has. And I think another thing, since we were talking about Harry being a Christ figure, I've often related in my faith to Harry in my Christianity views. And I find that I wouldn't be the type of Christian I am today without reading Harry Potter. I wouldn't be the student I am today without Harry Potter because I pick up books today and relate them to Harry Potter and what I learn from Harry Potter. And I think they have a huge effect on those type of things.
JG: Wow. So Harry Potter has had an influence... I'm not saying that Ms. Rowling and Harry are driving your vehicle around or whatever, but that's an amazing thing. Now, Professor Behr, you were a mature woman with a PhD in Literature when you first encountered Harry Potter. You and I were old enough then that we remember life before Harry.
KB: Yes, I've got life after Harry as well.
JG: Can you imagine what life would have been like without Harry Potter? How would it have been different? Did it change your idea of literature? How did Harry influence you...
KB: No, of course it didn't. It didn't change my idea of literature. [laughs] I already had, I hope, a reasonably broad definition of literature. I wouldn't say it was that, changed my idea of what literature is or anything like that. I guess one way my life would be different if I'd never read Harry Potter, I wouldn't be doing this for one thing.
KB: I never would have met you three, so that would have been a big loss. What it did do, though, oddly enough, was it pushed me in a lot of other directions in terms of what I was interested in working on. So it was working on the stuff with Harry Potter... which I confess, I really sort of got into thinking about Harry Potter and found it a useful vehicle for writing about because let's face it, it's a really small corpus.
JG:[laughs] That's right.
KB: I mean, you don't have to read... [laughs] I mean, now, of course, writing about Potter is just proliferating like crazy, so I can't really say that anymore. But the core books - that is a nice, small number to master. But the... it really pushed me into thinking about narrative, actually, and realizing how much I enjoy looking at the way things fit together. It also opened doors for me with regards to children's and young adult literature. I've had some experiences that I would never have had without Harry Potter. And I would never have stayed up until two in the morning with a friend making a Hogwarts castle cake, either.
KB: It had a moat, a giant squid, it had owls. It was magnificent.
JG: Did you get to Niagara Falls?
KB: I did get to Niagara Falls.
JG: That's right, Harry Potter...
KB: And I got to Niagara Falls. That might not have happened, either. So my life would have been distinctly poorer, I think, and quite a lot greyer, probably, if I'd never encountered the Boy Who Lived.
KH: That's how I feel, too, because I've met so many wonderful people by this series of books, and the fandom that I've been associated with, and obviously in this lucky position that I'm in to not only have this great show with you, John, but to run the site and meet all the fans and everything like that. It seriously has changed my life for the better. But it hasn't changed or altered my life. I still look at things, I still hold the same principles, I don't view anything drastically different, I still love playing baseball, and that's... my life is what it is.
JG: Did it confirm and strengthen those principles? I mean, that's what I think...
KH: No, no, I don't think it changed me at all that way. I really don't. But again, the big thing is how it's opened my world up to so many different people out there that I absolutely have some of the best friendships with or even a casual relationship means a lot to me in this world, because we share that same common bond, and it's nice to have that bond instead of just... you go up and meet somebody you could talk baseball with. Okay, well there's somebody that you met that you have a bond with. With Potter, it's a totally vast world of Potter-filled people that it's wonderful. I mean, Danielle lives right down the road from me. So I could go and see her, and we could talk Potter for hours. You know what I mean? You don't get that with anything else, I don't think.
JG: Well, I can say that it's... I mean, I read Jane Austen before I read Harry Potter, but I can say that reading Jane Austen after reading Harry Potter was a very different experience because I was reading Jane Austen through the lens of Joanne Rowling. There's gothic parody inside Jane Austen, and then there's parody of Jane Austen inside Harry Potter, which is, again, the gothic castle with the subterranean thing. It really did change my idea of what books could do and what experiences were possible inside books. But I was a classics major. I wasn't an English don from England. [laughs] I think I was just astonished at the seriousness and eagerness that people had after reading these books to talk about them as some sort of shared experience, like we'd all gone to the same small hotel in Southern France and we had to talk about what the breakfast was like there. [laughs] People had that about reading Chamber of Secrets. What did you think about that? What's going to happen next? Oh well. This has been a wonderful conversation. I thank you, Kate Behr and Danielle, for joining us here on MuggleNet Academia. Keith, have we got more announcements? What are we up to here?
KH: No, I just... I wanted to add one thing to you.
KH: Honestly, I'll never read another book without looking for the ring composition in that book.
KH: And that's all because of you, my friend.
JG: Well, yeah. We'll have to have Kate Behr back to talk about Reverend John Becks' stuff on chiasmis and Orthodox scripture or whatever.
KB: Oh, no. Please. [laughs]
JG:[laughs] Yeah, Rowling's pattern work... she's a pattern artist. That's been a remarkable thing to me, and how that bleeds back to CS Lewis and the influences on Lewis's favorite writers to include Williams and Tolkien. That's changed my whole idea. I don't know how many times I'd read the Chronicles of Narnia and hadn't realized that Lewis was a strict ring-writer - that the beginning, middle, and end reflect one another, and he's got these parallel chapters across the thing. And the fact that Rowling picked that up and largely borrowed that, inside an alchemical framework, that's been a mind blowing thing for me. I didn't have any idea that that kind of thing happened inside books. I think I was much more a nominalist reader, that Rowling really made me a much more penetrating reader than I was. Anyway, but that's the John story here. Forgive me. Danielle, I'm coming back to Allentown soon for Keith's birthday or something, and we'll have to have a reunion. We'll have to have a Harry Potter thing up at Wegmans.
DK: Oh, yes.
[JG and KH laugh]
DK: Yes, that'll be great. [laughs]
JG: I don't know if they have Wegmans in Yonkers.
KB: Oh, sorry.
DK: Go ahead.
KB: I didn't know what Wegmans is.
JG: See, that's good. I'm sorry, it's a Pennsylvanians' joke or whatever. Pennsylvannian Yorkers is... the big grocery store there...
KB: Oh, right.
JG: ...is this family owned business called Wegmans or whatever, and that's where Keith and I first hashed out the idea for this series. So we'll have to have a party on their second deck sometime, Keith. [laughs]
KH: They have no idea what they're getting into.
JG: A little cosplay at Wegmans.
KH: Well, once again, I do want to say... I'm going to close up the show and say thank you again to Danielle and Professor Behr. It's been wonderful having you on the show. Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come on the show.
KB: Well, thank you for having me. It's been a pleasure.
DK: Thank you for having me as well. It's been a lot of fun.
KH: Great, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I do have a couple of announcements for you, John. June 22nd - which was yesterday by this reporting - the Harry Potter Exhibition has opened up in Tokyo and we had a member of the fandom that lives in Tokyo attend the exhibition for the press and he wrote a wonderful report. It's available both in English and in Japanese on the website. So if you have a chance and you want to take a peek at that, see what his viewpoint was of the exhibition. Also, we just celebrated the Order of the Phoenix's tenth anniversary.
KH: And Eric Scull put together a wonderful video of what took place when he went to the midnight release out in Oak Park, Illinois. It's really a great video and something that you should take a look at. Lastly, I want to remind you guys to tune into all of the MuggleNet family podcast shows. We have Academia, which I hope you really enjoy. We also have Alohomora!, who just finished up Prisoner of Azkaban. They just recently finished watching the movie as a global re-read and they will be breaking out into Goblet of Fire soon. MuggleNet Audiofictions is a wonderful podcast where they read a fandom's fanfics and they do the voices of the characters as they're reading it. So it's really a cool thing to listen to. Also, you have MuggleCast, which unfortunately will be ending in August. That show will be coming to an end.
KH: But we will be adding Hogwarts Radio to the family podcasts. That is a successful podcast that Terrance Pinkston, who is a MuggleNet staffer, has done for the last couple of years. They have over a hundred and thirty shows out and they are joining the MuggleNet family once MuggleCast is done. So a lot of changes in the world of MuggleNet, but we're on top of our game. How about you, John? Are you on top of your game? You got anything good going on over at the Hogwarts Professor?
JG: Oh, it's been slow here because I've been so busy in my Muggle job. But God willing we'll... a woman just wrote to me yesterday about the reverse alchemy, about the ring being...
[Show music begins]
JG: ...that we go from red, white, black in the first three books. She says that's actually Voldemort's disintegration. Fascinating stuff, but I'll be talking about that at Hogwarts Professor pretty soon.
KH: Wow, that does sound interesting. I'm going to read that one.
KH: Awesome. All right, well thank you once again for listening to MuggleNet Academia, and we will be talking to you on the next show. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and the author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
KB: I'm Kate Behr, an English Professor from Concordia College and St. Vladimir's Seminary.
DK: And I'm Danielle Karthauser from West Chester University.