Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Rochelle Deans (RD) William Sprague (WS) Kelly Kerr (KK) Steven Lee (SL)
[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!
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KH: Welcome back to MuggleNet Academia. This is Lesson 23: "There and Back Again: Chiasmus, Alchemy, and Ring Composition in Harry Potter." John, how are you this evening?
JG: Doing pretty good, Keith. It's the end of a long week, but what a great way to finish off the week with my friends here.
KH: It's going to be a lot of fun tonight, but before we get into tonight's show, I want to say: Welcome back from LeakyCon, everybody! I hope you all had a great time, for those of you who were out there. There [were] about 5,000 people out in Portland, Oregon this past weekend. And from all the pictures I saw, it looked like a total blast. I wish I could have been there with you, but I'm glad you all had a good time. There are some interesting news that's going on right now in Harry Potter, John. I'd like to touch base on it just for a second. Did you know, John, that you can look at Diagon Alley on Google Earth right now?
KH: You can! You can actually go onto Google Earth and look up Diagon Alley. And what happens is...
JG: London or Orlando?
KH: It takes you into the Studio Tour [in] London, in Diagon Alley. It gives you a 3D view of Diagon Alley. It's awesome. The news is posted on MuggleNet, so if you go to the MuggleNet homepage and look that up, it's great news. We have a link in there that takes you right into it and you can check out what Diagon Alley looks like in 3D. It was really incredible. Some other stuff that's going on in the world of Harry Potter, we have a lot of anniversaries and a significant month in the way of birthdays this month. You know whose birthday it is, right?
KH: No, this month.
JG: This month. The end of the month is the Boy Who Lived, right?
KH: And Joanne Rowling.
JG: That's right. The green-eyed duo.
KH: Yup. Actually, on the 31st not only is it Harry Potter's birthday and JKR's birthday, but it's also, rest in peace, Richard Griffiths' who just passed away this past year. He would have been 66. But we still remember him and his birthday on MuggleNet. We like to have everybody in there that's taken part in the Potter series. You can look and see who all is in there. In fact, Neville Longbottom is obviously the day before - along with Francis de la Tour, who played Madame Maxime - on the 30th. But also, this month has a lot of releases. Did you know that July 2nd just passed, and that was the Chamber of Secrets release in the UK in 1998?
JG: You must be looking at this MuggleNet Calendar that has all of this priceless information listed for readers on it.
KH: It's a great calendar. It really is. I have to admit, it's a great calendar. [laughs] And I'm glad you brought that up. That is one of the areas that all this is posted in. In fact, on the 8th, we have the Prisoner of Azkaban book release from the UK, as well as Goblet of Fire for both the US and the UK. That was the first book that was released simultaneously in the UK and US, and that was only thirteen years ago. And then on the 9th, the Half-Blood Prince book was released. So July is a busy month for book releases, let me tell you. Yeah, speaking of birthdays, in other news, we have on MuggleNet a large birthday contest that we are just kicking off: Create a birthday card for Harry Potter either digitally or handmake it and take a photo of it, and send it in to us. All the rules and instructions are on the MuggleNet news section. You can send it in to... what is it? I don't know what the address is. Never mind.
JG: Hey, Keith, what is Harry Potter's... how old is Harry Potter this year?
KH: He will be thirty-three.
JG: Really? My goodness.
KH: Thirty-three years old. He's an old man.
JG: He's getting on, man.
KH:[laughs] So you can be creative and include that in his birthday card, if you want, for this contest, that he's thirty-three years old. That would give you some extra bonus points.
JG: There you go.
KH: Say that you heard this on MuggleNet Academia and that will even be some more bonus points, I'll tell you that much.
KH: Other news, we do have - this is a big event for the year - the MuggleNet OWLs are starting on Monday. That's the 8th of July. Monday, 8th of July - we will be going for three weeks this year - take your MuggleNet OWLs! They are very difficult tests. You can take a test in all twelve subject areas and see how you do. We have the grading systems come to you in an email format, so you'll have an e-owl deliver all your grades. So make sure you take all twelve exams and have some fun. So anyway, that's it for the news, so I think we're ready to get into the show, John. Let's introduce everybody, and actually how I'm going to do it is have everybody introduce themselves. So let's start out with Rochelle Deans. Say hello, Rochelle.
KH: How are you this evening?
RD: I'm doing well.
JG: I've got to ask Rochelle, because she's from Portland, Oregon, did you go to LeakyCon?
RD: I didn't and I regret it, [laughs] but I did not go.
JG: Aww. Well, I'm with you. I've been to every LeakyCon except for this one. I just couldn't come this year, which is a real shame because I love Portland. The city of roses, what a beautiful place.
RD: It is.
JG: Anyway, tell us about yourself.
RD: Well, I'm an editor thrice over; I work for an engineering company; I work for George Fox Evangelical Seminary, editing dissertations; and then I take, sometimes, freelance work editing dissertations home with me.
RD: So I do a lot of editing, and in my free time I study Harry Potter.
JG: All right!
JG: And what are you going to share with us tonight? Just the title of what you bring to this conversation.
RD: Well, the title is "The Dark Lord's Descent" and it talks about how Voldemort goes backwards from being a spirit and a soul in the first book to his incarnation in the end of the fourth book, and how that sort of follows a reverse alchemical process.
JG: Oh, I love it. This is going to be great, Keith. Next? Who's next in line?
KH: Next we have Will Sprague. Will is from Torrance, California. Say hello, and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you're going to be discussing tonight.
WS: Hello, my name is Will. I went to Long Beach State, and I work for a freight-forwarding company [unintelligible] at LAX Airport. Kind of a normal guy. I studied Japanese...
WS: ...at school, so I speak Japanese.
JG:[unintelligible] My goodness, that's great.
WS: But my passion is more for literature, especially Old Testament and New Testament.
JG: Yeah, but Will, your ability to speak Japanese and your understanding of scripture explains a lot about you being an alchemical ring guy because it's very difficult, if you studied Japanese, especially with the in and yong stuff - in and yo, I should say - not to see a lot of that in chiasmus or whatever. I'm interrupting you!
JG: Will, your stuff was posted at Hogwarts Professor, my home website, and your theory is largely that to which Rochelle was responding. Explain to us what you saw when you started thinking about ring composition.
KH: You want to do that now?
JG: Just real briefly, what his topic is or whatever.
WS: Well yeah, really briefly, what I did was I read two John Granger books, one on ring composition and the other one on how Harry casts a spell, and realized that the two probably should go together. The alchemical process was probably mirrored in the first three books, with the center at the fourth. And obviously, Rochelle developed that into a very, very interesting theory that I had barely any inkling of when I initially thought it up.
JG: Great. Next! Who's next?
KH: Next is Kelly Kerr from Franklin, Tennessee, to join the show. Hello, Kelly, and tell us a little bit about yourself.
KK: Hello, Keith and John. Thanks for inviting me. I teach at a local, classical Christian school here, primarily fifth and sixth graders. We've been in Franklin for about three years now. I'm married to a very lovely lady for ten years, and I have two small kids, Christiana and Caleb.
KH: Great, and what are you going to be discussing on the show tonight?
KK: Well, I hope to be able to contribute to a little bit of everything, but probably the angle that I'm coming from is, I enjoy studying Biblical literature, chiastic structures in Biblical literature, and having looked at those and loving Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia, you just start to wonder if these structures appear in other places, and as your mind starts to wonder, as my mind started to wonder, I decided to at least try and see if I could tease something out. So I started with The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
KH: Great. Well, welcome to the show.
JG: That's good stuff.
KH: And last, but certainly not least, Steven Lee from Dallas, Texas. Hello, Steve. Welcome to the show and tell us about yourself.
SL: Hey Keith, hey John. Well, I teach Theology and Philosophy at the high school level at a private school. I've been there fifteen years. I've got a Masters degree in Theology, Philosophy of Religion, and I'm working on a Doctorate in Humanities. And I also teach adjunct Philosophy and World Religions at the collegiate level as well.
JG: Woot. What do you bring to tonight's conversation?
SL: Well, my focus and interest was the pure chiastic structure of the Harry Potter series, and I was introduced to chiastic structure as well in my Old Testament survey class and I just found that quite interesting as I began to look at it. And I also wanted to talk about, what's the difference between this chiastic structure - this literary structure - and plot structure, and how to tell the difference between the two.
JG: That's just great. Steve has published a chapter in Travis Prinzi's Harry Potter for Nerds, in which Steve talks about this, and it's a wonderful chapter and you need to... if you haven't read that book, you need to pick that up because this is really outside of my lecture notes, which are available almost privately. You can read a little bit about chiastic structure in Steve's and my pieces inside Harry Potter for Nerds. But anyway, the gang is all here, there are four of us - five of us, if I include myself here - and Keith, I know you're enamored of this subject. We've been talking about this ever since we met, really. It's going to be a lot of fun tonight, talking about There and Back Again and how this works with Harry Potter.
KH: I'll be honest with you, John, I've been looking forward to a good ring composition and alchemy show. Now, the chiasmus is new to me. I know what a chiasmus is, I understand it, I've been seeing papers on The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings that...
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KH: I think it was Kelly that sent over? Yeah, it was Kelly that sent that over. So I read it, I understand it, but to discuss it is going to be a totally different thing. So I'm kind of anxious to do that. So let's get on with the show, shall we John?
JG: I love it. Let's do it.
KH: Let's do it. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
RD: I'm Rochelle Deans, a Hogwarts Professor adjunct.
WS: I'm William Sprague, the Japanese expert who reads Harry Potter for this kind of stuff.
KK: I'm Kelly Kerr, from Franklin Classical School.
SL: I'm Steve Lee, instructor of Theology and Philosophy at Prestwick Christian Academy.
[Show music continues]
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KH: Well, thank you very much, Hermione Granger. I'm glad you're listening to MuggleNet Academia. That's what this show is, Lesson 23: "There and Back Again: Chiasmus, Alchemy, and Ring Composition in Harry Potter." Way, way back in 2003 at the publication of Order of the Phoenix, a gentleman by the name of Brett Kendall of Fordham University argued that the series structure for the Hogwarts saga was a chiasmus or ring scaffolding. John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and our friend here at MuggleNet Academia, has argued since 2011 that the series is indeed a ring composition and that each book of the series is one as well. Tonight, John has invited several correspondents of his that have taken this idea in various directions to join us for a discussion of what chiasmus is, why Harry Potter fans should care, and the effect of this artistry on readers of the Hogwarts saga adventures as well as in other stories told this way. Can you say CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia? How about Tolkien's Middle Earth stories? Join our panel of serious readers at the bar and let Aberforth bring you a cold brew for a hot discussion.
All right, we start off our shows every single time asking our special guests, what brought you into the world of Harry Potter? When did you first read it, how did you come about it, and how did you get hooked into it? Here, we have four individuals who are highly educated, highly talented, and yet all four seem to really like this boy-who-lived story that's for kids. I'm not really sure how that worked out. Can you guys tell me how that worked out for each of you? How about Rochelle? We'll start off with you.
RD: Well, I'm going to date myself by answering this question...
RD: ...because I was one of those 12-year-olds in 2000 whose mother wouldn't let her read the books at first.
RD: Well, and my sister got them read to her in class and my mom read it herself to see what was going on because that was the height of the whole anti-Christian - or anti-Harry Potter Christian - movement. She read it, she gave it to me, she was like, "There's nothing wrong with this. Enjoy the series," and didn't pick it up again herself.
RD: But I actually wasn't a very serious reader at first. I enjoyed them, but I borrowed them from my friend every year when they came out. I actually got into serious reading because of The Hunger Games when Catching Fire came out. I finished it, I got to the end of it, and I'm like, "Peeta is a Christ symbol. He has to be a Christ symbol."
[JG and RD laugh]
RD: And so I went onto the Internet, I'm like, "Somebody else has to have thought this," and I found the Hogwarts Professor, and that was about... it must have been 2010 or so. And I read through pretty much the entire backlog at the time and followed Hogwarts Professor ever since, and it turned me onto the Harry Potter series again.
JG: Oh, I love you, Rochelle.
JG: Yeah, that's the book I have to write, is the symbolism of The Hunger Games, which is really such a wonderful, wonderful series. Forget the movies, but the books are spectacular.
RD: They are.
KH: We did mention that on the show, that Peeta was the Christ symbol in that series. We've mentioned that here on MuggleNet Academia.
JG: Some day we'll have to do a Hunger Games show. After we do our Casual Vacancy show, right Keith?
KH: Absolutely. Absolutely. Let's take it over to Will. Will, how did you get involved in the series?
WS: Well, I didn't read it from the beginning. I actually began reading it right before the fifth book came out. My friends were able to convince me to read it. I was more into traditional fantasy. If it was recognizable or not medieval, I wasn't very interested in it.
WS: So it was a tough sell. But when they did, I got sucked up into the craze, just like everybody else did. And I was not a serious reader until somebody... I don't even remember who. Somebody gave me John's book, and I read it.
WS: And it changed my life, really, because it not only opened up Harry Potter, it opened up reading as a thing you could do seriously, not just consuming things and moving on.
JG: Name the title. Name the title, Will. Which book was this?
WS: Oh, How Harry Cast His Spell.
JG: Wow. Okay.
WS: It was kind of very simultaneous with me becoming a Christian, actually. And so it was... I don't know if it was instrumental in that process, but it certainly was kind of something that inspired me to continue looking into literature, especially from Harry Potter thinking, "If JK Rowling is this brilliant, then I can't even imagine what the Bible is like." And so I kind of got thrown into...
[JG and WS laugh]
WS: ...reading the Bible seriously because of Harry Potter, which is kind of a weird thing when you explain it to people.
JG: Well, it's... I've heard that more than once. But, Will, thank you very much for that. This is quite the collection of folks here. Who's next?
KH: Next is Kelly Kerr from Franklin, Tennessee. Kelly, tell us how you got involved.
KK: Well, I actually got into the series a little late. I didn't start reading until Half-Blood Prince, so I guess that was '05 when that came out.
KH: Welcome to my world.
[JG and KK laugh]
KH: That's when I joined, too.
KK: There you go. Good year. Good year. I was in a Barnes and Noble and I had some time to kill, and the book had just come out and I figured I'd at least see what all the hubbub was about, so I picked up a copy and went to one of their chairs and started reading. And I made it through the first two chapters, I guess, and I'm like, "Wow, this is really good." So I went ahead and bought it.
JG: Wow. So had you seen the movies before or did you really start with Chapter 1 of Book 6?
KK: Chapter 1 of Book 6.
JG: My goodness. That's fascinating.
KH: Okay, now that's unusual. [laughs]
JG: That's fascinating. That's fascinating.
KK: Yeah, I had friends on both sides of the debate: it's evil, others who really enjoyed it. So I figured I'd see who was right. And my wife and I loved them, so we ordered the rest of them and then waited patiently for Book 7.
KH: That's great.
JG: Okay. Over to Steve, here.
SL: I was a latecomer to the series as well. It was about 2005. Actually, I remember when it came out and I actually went online and read - what was the gentleman's name at Yale? - Harold Bloom's review of it.
JG: Oh, my goodness.
SL: And that poisoned me to it. I was like, "Well, I don't want to read this if he's trashing it. So..."
SL: So I just let it go, and I was definitely a fantasy reader. I love Lord of the Rings, I love the Narnia series. But it was actually my headmaster's son who said, "Mr. Lee, you've got to read this book." And I said, "Look, I don't want to read that. Harold Bloom has already trashed it."
SL: And he says, "No, read it. Do me a favor." And, of course, my student was a brilliant student. He actually went off to Yale and took a class by Harold Bloom, oddly enough. And I read it and I was like, "These are pretty good." But probably the fourth book, Goblet of Fire, really turned me onto the book, and that was about 2005/2006. And I read through them very, very quickly at that point, and I went to the midnight opening for Deathly Hallows in 2007.
KH: Yeah, that was almost the same story for me. It was... I've seen Movies 1 through 3, they were out at the time. "4" was not out yet, but Book 6 had been released just recently. And when I got to the Goblet of Fire book, I was sucked in. It had me right there, and I kept on reading them all back and forth again. But that's great. I like hearing how everybody got into it. But here's my... I'm going to open up the show because I have a question: What the heck is a chiasmus?
KH: I've seen it in your notes, I've seen the drawings of it, so I see the shape. To me it's almost like a ring composition where the top and bottom are mirrors. But what exactly is a chiasmus and what does it have to do with ring composition? And, more importantly, why should our listeners even care? How about we start off with John?
JG: Well, I'm going to kick this to Steve.
JG: Steve has studied the Old Testament stuff. Chiasmus structure differs - I don't want to say significantly, or if it's a matter of definition - from ring composition, which I spend more time on that. Steve, you want to go after chiasmus?
SL: I would agree with that distinction. There is a distinction between chiasmus and ring structure. And it's almost difficult to explain verbally. You almost have to see it and draw it out. But one way to enter into what chiasmus structure is is to think of the figure of speech of antimetabole, which is basically the anti... to turn... the metabole meaning to turn around. It's where someone uses a... says a phrase of two or more clauses, but they say it [and] then they repeat it in reverse order. Probably one that everyone is very familiar with in America is John F Kennedy's phrase, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." So we have these kind of turns of the phrase in a metabole, like, "Eat to live, not live to eat" or "I go where I please and I please where I go." I've even thought of some myself, like, "You can have life without liberty, but there's no liberty without life." So there's different ways that you can do this. But chiastic structure is much more than just a turn of a phrase or a figure of speech; it's a literary structure of a work is what it is. A couple of Old Testament and New Testament professors at Fuller Theological Seminary, Arthur Patzia and Anthony Petrotta, said that the word "chiastic" is derived from the Greek letter, Chi, which is shaped like the letter X. And it's a rhetorical device whereby parallel lines of text correspond in an X pattern, such as A-B-C-B-A, sort of like a poetic rhyme structure. But in the Old Testament, which these scholars are mainly referring to, they didn't rhyme words; they mirrored ideas. So what you would do is in the case of a chiastic structure, you'd have A-B-C-B-A. A would mirror A prime at the bottom in a similar fashion. One example actually comes from the New Testament, Mark 2:27 that says, "The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath." As well, Amos 5:4-6, which is a longer chiastic line, goes like this, "Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, or cross over to Beersheba. Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel shall come to naught. Seek the lord and live." So we have these parallel lines, "seek and live" at the front end and back end. And then they move to the center; "Bethel" is mirrored, "Gilgal" is mirrored as well. And a lot of times in chiastic structure, you might have a turn phrase in the middle. And what's really interesting is when you have larger structures of work that mirror each other. Probably the most significant one that I have seen is actually the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke, actually, as a chiastic structure. And actually he tells us in Acts 1:8, "You'll be my disciples in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth." And what's interesting is both Luke and Acts have that structure. The opening book of Luke starts in Rome in Chapters 1 and 2, and then it moves, the action moves, in Luke 10 to 19 into Samaria and Judea, and all the action ends at the later portion of the book of Luke in 19 to 34 in Jerusalem. And, of course, then he wrote the Book of Acts, which he intended his audience to read thereafter. He opens the action in Jerusalem, in Chapters 1 to 5 in Acts, and then he moves the action out to Judea and Samaria, and then...
JG: Okay, Steve, this is great. This is great. We got the chiastic structure. What does this have to do with ring composition and why are the Harry... this is fascinating to me. I've got the whole bookshelf, you know, and you and I could talk about this all night. Why should a Harry Potter fan care about this structure? And what does it have to do with ring composition first, so that we get our terms straight. But we've got to get to, right away, why do we care?
SL: One reason [why] you ought to care is because it changes from being a wonderful children's story... which it is. Both of my boys... I have two boys, and my oldest has read the whole series, my younger is reading through it right now. They don't pick up the chiastic structure and the parallel structures; they just love it as a story. But then when you re-read it - and I think it was CS Lewis who said that you really haven't read a book if you've only read it once - when you begin to see this literary structure, you begin to see the beauty and artistry that JK Rowling has built into the book. Because it's not just a story, but it's a story that she has planned out. As you will probably testify to, John, how well she planned out these books and how much time she planned on writing these books, that she put lots of thought to it. And that's why we return to the books again and again and again. And that is why they will be re-read in the future.
JG: I agree. I agree. Let's throw this open to Rochelle and the crowd here. Why do you... first of all, I am pretty sure you all agree [on] the definition of chiasmus as these parallel structures, say A-B-C-B-A. What does that have to do with ring composition and why do you think we care about this?
KK: For me, I think it's mainly a matter of... I mean, if you want to be really technically precise, you could start to delineate all the differences between chiasmus and inverted parallelisms and ring composition. But what it really seems to boil down to, at least from the things that I have seen, is just the way you encode and visually present the information. Because you could take a ring structure or ring composition structure and pretty easily turn it into something that looks more traditionally chiastic. Or you could do that the opposite direction as well. Take something that looks... coming from a Biblical Studies background, take something that looks chiastic and convert it to a ring composition. But I agree with Steve. When it comes to why should we care, it just opens up all these depths of meaning, the beauty, it will be the literary equivalent of symmetry in nature. Almost everything we look at that we think of is beautiful, and things that draw us in, and things that are lovely to us, have these symmetries that are just captivating. So I think that is, at least in part, one of the reasons why we should care.
JG: I want to jump in and give a quick definition of ring composition. And it's from Mary Douglas's book, Thinking in Circles, and she gives seven characteristics; four are really quick. One, it has to be a circle. We have to have the beginning and the end meet up, so you can draw a circle in the air with your finger. Two, it has to have a turning point, a center halfway around, which resonates somehow with that meeting point at the beginning and end. So if you're drawing your circle, you bisect that circle by connecting the beginning and the end with that turning point. The third point is that all the chapters going out to that midpoint on the circle are going to have their parallels in chapters that are coming back - hence the title of this show, "There and Back Again" - is that you're going to see this... when you draw your circle and cut it in half and then draw the lines across, you see the parallelisms, you'll see what's called a turtleback structure. The fourth characteristic that Douglas talks about is that ring compositions, as a rule, have rings inside of rings, and so the individual chapters may also be written as rings. Now, the difference between chiasmus and ring composition depends on who is writing about it. For example, if you draw an A-B-C-D-C-B-A chiasmus structure in a V on its side, you could just turn that over, connect the As, if the D resonates with A, you have a ring composition. The big point most scholars that I have read on this subject differ is that the meaning is in the middle of the chiasmus, and so when you identify chiasmus in the Old or New Testament, in Virgil, in Homer, or whatever, if you get to the middle point, that's the point in which the author is trying to make special emphasis. The meaning is in the middle, as Douglas says. Ring composition, that can be true - it's going to resonate with a beginning and an end - or it can just be the story turn, a big plot point that tells us where we're headed now, coming back. Anyway, why do we care? We're going to talk about that tonight. Why do we care? I think that Rowling really reveals what she's after in her stories in her structures, that the beginning and the end and the middle points will tell you what that tale is really about because that's what she's given as the axis of the story. But I don't want to prejudice you guys any more than I already have. Let's get into the literature on the subject, if you will, to use academic language. Is there any evidence from Rowling's interviews and public statements that she is a ring writer? Has she ever flat out said, "Hey, I'm writing in rings, everybody. Pay attention"? Ring a ding ding. Here I am.
JG: One of her best friends is Melissa Anelli, right? And Anelli is the Italian word for "rings." Is that evidence? What have we got here? Has anybody looked this up?
SL: I don't know any from her interviews itself, but she seems to have evidence in the text itself.
SL: Like the Mirror of Erised. We have... which is "desire" forwards and back. So she seems to have these kind of parallels, and you've even done analysis on names, double consonants, and things like that, repetitions and things like that. It happens over and over and over again. So there seems to be evidence literally in the text itself.
JG: You can search this on Hogwarts Professor if you want, but when the DVD for Deathly Hallows came out she included an interview in it in which she said pretty much that there were certain structural requirements, that certain things had to happen inside the books, in which she included the death of Tonks and such. And those are actual parallelisms that needed to be resolved. So that's as close as she's come, I think, to saying that she had structural requirements. Those aren't quotation mark things, but she said that there were certain structures. And she talked about the circular nature of the series. So she has, in some respect, dropped her guard, but she has not come out, as you said, Steven, and spilled this for us and said, "Here's what it is." But the texts themselves, I think... and here we are, the four of us together here with Keith, the text screams out this to us. Let's start with the series because, Steve, that's what your article is about. What evidence is there that the series is a turtleback structure? That it has this... or a chiastic structure that has this beginning, middle, and an end with the parallels coming across it?
SL: Yeah, the chiastic structure of the series would look like this. The Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1, seems to mirror or parallel The Deathly Hallows, Book 7. Book 2, Chamber of Secrets, mirrors Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book. The Prisoner of Azkaban, the third book, mirrors, obviously, the fifth book, Order of the Phoenix, with Goblet of Fire being the turn itself. And we seem to have... and as I define it in the chapter that I wrote, the method that Rowling employs is chiastic structure. She uses key plot points, physical items, characters, events, and even dedications that are utilized in the first three books and then completed, brought back up, or mirrored in some fashion in the last three books. Probably the one that everyone knows about is in Book 1, Harry arrives as a baby to the Dursleys' home on Privet Drive by Hagrid riding on a flying motorcycle that belonged to Sirius Black. And of course, in the last book, The Deathly Hallows, that's exactly how Harry Potter departed from the Dursleys' home, [with] Hagrid driving Sirius Black's flying motorcycle. For The Chamber of Secrets, Book 2, mirroring Book 6, The Half-Blood Prince, you have this... and this is the one that sort of clinched it for me. There was this flamboyant teacher in The Chamber of Secrets who threw a Valentine's party and starts a dueling club named Gilderoy Lockhart. On The Half-Blood Prince, we have another odd professor who threw a Christmas party and started the Slug Club named Horace Slughorn. You begin to see these mirrored elements. In The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Order of the Phoenix, Books 3 and 5, Harry stumbles across the Knight Bus after abruptly leaving Privet Drive. In the latter book the Knight Bus appears again, and what's interesting is, as far as I'm aware, that's the only place the Knight Bus actually appears, is in those two books where the Knight Bus escorts Harry, Ron, and Hermione to 12 Grimmauld Place for their winter holiday.
JG: I think you're right. I think you're right about that. And these connections - I mean, Steve, you're just giving us sort of a tease or whatever about these things. If you read Steve's article, if you read my book, you find out what these things are. Even in one of the appendices to my book The Deathly Hallows Lectures, I think I list twenty-five or thirty. You have even more between Stone and Hallows. And there are... for example, I think Joyce Adele, the Red Hen, has more than fifty points of correspondence between chapters... Books 2 and 6, Chamber and Prince. You've got everything from the famous new professor to the house-elf unloosed and unhinged. You've got Ron and Harry unable to get to Platform 9 3/4. You've got the Borgin and Burkes discoveries, the potion, the Weasleys and the emergency visit, the room that can't be found, the duel with Severus... it goes on and on, down to Hermione's disappointment where those are the only two books, "2" and "6," in which Hermione doesn't get to take final exams. This is... these parallel structures... again, Joyce Adele in, what, 2005 came up with fifty between "2" and "6." She's clearly trying to draw a connection between these books. And we find the same structures between... and "2" and "6" are the Dark Lord books. We meet Tom Riddle in Chamber and then we go into the Pensieve and we spend all our time with the Dark Lord and Tom Riddle Jr. again in Half-Blood Prince. So we can see that structure is that way. Are we in agreement on that, that the series is a turtleback with a big turn in Chapter 4?
SL: Book 4?
JG: Yeah, Book 4.
JG: That Goblet is the turning point that brings us back to that? I mean, Rowling sort of beats that into a... she was interviewed about it in 2000 when Book 4 came out and she said:
"The fourth [book] is a very, very important book. Well, you know because you read it, something incredibly important happens in Book 4, and also is literally a central book; it's almost the heart of the series, and it's pivotal. It's very difficult to talk about and I can't wait for the day someone's read all seven [books] and I can talk completely freely about it. But it's a very, very important book."
She does the ring there where she says it's a very, very important book and then at the end [laughs] she says it's a very, very important book. Anyway, what's funny about that comment, of course, is that to my knowledge - and I've done some searches of her interviews or whatever - no one has ever asked her why that book was so important. Maybe it's because at the end of Deathly Hallows maybe people think they understand it. But the fact that she calls it a crucial book, which is a sign of the cross, the structure of that book gives us... we see Book 1, Book 4, and Book 7 as the axis of the series. Everything from people we don't see anywhere else... I mean, Steve mentioned that we don't see the Knight Bus except for in Books 3 and 5. We don't see Mr. Ollivander, for instance, except for Books 1, 4, and 7. We don't see, really, Harry's parents except maybe a little bit of a flashback in Prisoner. But other than that, "1," "4," and "7" are where we see Harry's parents. Dumbledore had a mirror, the midnight middles both "1," "4," and "7," all turn with Harry outside the safe zone underneath the Invisibility Cloak at midnight, the two big plans and a scramble, and the sacred blood curse life nature of "1," "4," and "7"'s turn really link those three books in a ring structure. Now, I'm going over this really fast. Those people who want to read this and see all the chapter notes and how all the parallels work, go ahead and buy my ring composition book on this. I want to fast forward this because I want to talk about... I want to get to the alchemy stuff.
KH: Yeah, but hang on.
KH: Before we get to that, John, I have to ask this though.
JG: Please do.
KH: Where did JK Rowling get this structure from? I mean, we know she's a big fan of Jane Austen. Was it from one of Jane Austen's novels? Was it Pride and Prejudice? Was it... because it's a fantasy book that she's writing or a science fiction book, did she get it from CS Lewis? Did she get it from Tolkien? Where did she come up with, hey, those books are written in this kind of structure, so that's how I'm going to write the Harry Potter series? Where did she get that from?
JG: Well, Keith, that is a great question. That is the $64,000 question, if you will. And the first answer that we have to give is we have no idea because she hasn't told us. We can speculate, though.
KH: Okay, so let's have the audience... let's have the members of the special guests here say where they think that she got it from.
KH: Rochelle, what do you think?
RD: Well, I honestly don't know very much about the way this works but I've seen evidence, mostly from Kelly, about The Lord of the Rings, which makes a lot of sense to me.
KH: So you think it's as recent as The Lord of the Rings series. Okay. Do you think she was a big fan of The Lord of the Rings, the way she writes the books?
RD: I think it makes a lot of sense. I remember seeing recently a post that somebody had seen The Hobbit and had confused its timeline with Harry Potter and said that The Hobbit stole a lot of elements from Harry Potter.
[JG and WS laugh]
RD: So I can see it working the other way around, in terms of...
KH: I saw that too, I was laughing so hard. This person... I don't know if you saw this, John. It was on Facebook or somewhere or a post to MuggleNet, and the person was absolutely yelling at Tolkien for stealing Rowling's ideas. He was so serious, it went on with a tirade of about a page and a half of nothing but, "He stole this from her, he stole this from her..."
[JG and KH laugh]
KH: And I was like, "Wow!"
JG: Well anyway, let's hope that was tongue in cheek because I think it makes a point that Kelly can bring up here about the structure of Tolkien's works. I mean, Tolkien, obviously very familiar with scripture and its structures, a classicist - he knows Virgil, he knows Homer, he knows Dante - he's familiar with the chiastic structure. Do we see that in Tolkien's works?
KK: I think so. Just to point out some interesting parallels - the whole book starts with Bilbo at home, Gandalf and the dwarfs arrive, Bilbo is not interested in adventure. They leave and meet three trolls who Gandalf was able to turn to stone by keeping them out until dawn and ends up saving the dwarfs and they get treasure. You have the whole journey back home, they pass by the trolls again, Bilbo comes home with treasure, and a few years later Gandalf and Balin show up again, so you have these dwarfs showing up unannounced and Gandalf showing up at the bookends. Probably the one that most people will be most familiar with is where Bilbo meets Gollum. He finds the ring and they have that contest of riddles. And just after that, when Bilbo finds the dwarves again and they journey and they are trapped by the Wargs, they use fire from above to defend themselves and they are saved by the eagles. Well, that has its corresponding part. Bilbo takes the golden cup and later the Arkenstone from Smaug who owns the treasure, they have this contest of riddles, Bilbo is able to escape in both instances. And then you have Smaug raining fire down from above again, this time not to save himself but to rain destruction down, and the town is saved by Bard from below. So you sort of have a contrast there: Gandalf saving them from above with fire, Bard saving them from below as fire is raining down on top of their heads. And the whole turning point, at least as far as my analysis is concerned - I know, John, you have a different take on it - where Bilbo and the dwarves escape from the elven castle by water and through the food barrels. They weren't wine barrels which is what I originally had, but wine is heavily emphasized there and Bilbo gets bread and wine, so you have this eucharistic center that the whole narrative seems to hinge on.
JG: Yeah, Kelly and I disagree on details, but we don't disagree on the sense that the structure... that there's a mirroring effect inside the story.
JG: Especially the middle of the story, when they arrive at the town Lake-town or whatever, and they come out of these barrels is, I think, clearly a pointer to the beginning of the story where they come through the circular hole into Bilbo's house.
JG: It's a clear... this is a chiasmus structure, the center of the book points us back to the beginning and the end, where we're in the hobbit hole in Bag End. Now, that... but here's the thing. Kelly, I don't know how familiar you are with Tolkien scholarship, I haven't seen anything on chiasmus structure in Tolkien. So if Rowling is getting this from Tolkien, she's getting this from her own close reading of the books. And you've done a chiastic structure, also, for The Lord of the Rings. And again, while we may disagree on points, you made a pretty compelling argument that the entire six-book Lord of the Rings is also laid out on a chiastic structure. So if Rowling... and Rowling... I don't know how many readers know this, but her first husband and mother-in-law said that she never went anywhere in Portugal without her one-volume Lord of the Rings, that she was entranced by it and that... this was during the five-year period when she's outlining the books and laying out how everything was going to work. So if Tolkien is writing in this fashion, it's a fairly good bet that Rowling could get that from that source, and yet we don't know.
KH: So we have two for Lord of the Rings. How about Steve and Will? What do you think?
SL: Yeah, I think... because from what I understand, she studied classics in college and, of course, the classics are replete with chiastic structure. So she's trained in it, or at least trained to recognize it when she was doing her readings. So I definitely think she's probably getting it from the literary tradition itself. I think it's as recent as The Hobbit, which in the forties that was when The Hobbit was published. And then as ancient as the Old Testament itself.
JG: Absolutely. And just to go to your point there about being a classicist, if you read Virgil, every single line has a chiasmus break in it, in terms of the poetic scansion. I mean, having suffered through that in high school and in college, you can't read this stuff without having that been beaten over the head with it. So she already has the prescription in her eyeglasses, and if she encounters it in her favorite books she's prepared to read it that way. Work that I'm doing right now is with CS Lewis and The Chronicles of Narnia and each one of those books... I'm struggling a little bit with Prince Caspian, but each one of the other books has a very clear chiastic structure, or I should say a ring composition structure, which I think he gets from Charles Williams in The Place of the Lion as well as Tolkien's The Hobbit, which are written simultaneously. A writer, Sanford Schwartz, a professor at Penn State University, a TS Eliot scholar as well as a CS Lewis expert, said... he wrote a book about Lewis's Space Trilogy in which he first revealed that Lewis was a ring writer. The Chronicles of Narnia are also on rings, so she's a close reader of that book as well. So we can see that she comes from that world, she's a classicist, she doesn't speak much about her Christian background or scholarships, so we don't know really anything on the Biblical thing, but we know from her classical studies and her reading of fantasy tradition that she should... she has that material, at least in gestation. So I think... does that answer your question, Keith, about where she might get it?
KH: It sounds like she gets it from a lot of different areas to me, but I think I agree that she does tend to lean through Tolkien structure. That's where I see it the most, anyway.
JG: Well, I think you're right in thinking that Tolkien... all the references that we see in Tolkien - the giant spiders, this kind of thing - there's a lot of Tolkien echoes inside the book. It shouldn't be surprising if the structure that she chooses is also the structure that we see in that book. All right, this is... I mean, we're all over the map here.
WS: Yeah, I think that in a lot of ways, Dante might play a key role. If the illusions are there with Lily's eyes and Beatrice...
JG: Yes, indeed. [laughs]
WS: ...then I'll say that has to be part of it. And Dante is kind of Thomistic theology of... well, it's almost like Plotinus kind of theology, where you go from the one to the many and then go back to the one. And there's very much a... I don't know if it would be technically considered a chiasm because it doesn't really center in the center purgatory, but in general I think that Dante structure is generally circular. And for that reason, I would say that I think...
WS: As you said, all the classical literature to a large extent plays into it, but I think especially any medieval reading that she's doing would help to give a ring structure that's really underlaid and not just a straight-up narrative point.
JG: That's a great point. Dante plays a huge piece in this. I've written about this at some length in Deathly Hallows Lectures or whatever, about the connection between Florence and Dante and, especially, as you said, the eyes of Lily Potter and the death of Severus Snape. The death of Severus Snape is almost a re-telling, in modern fantasy format, the end of the Purgatorial and Dante's entrance into Paradise. It's almost a step-by-step entrance into that, where he looks into the green eyes of his beloved and has this sacramental vision, that this is almost what Severus Snape has, to the T. So that's a perfect point, is that if she's read Dante and she does not discuss Dante in her interviews. So even though we see it in the text, we don't have any testimony of it from the author. But you're absolutely right, that that's such a big piece of what she does, that Dante structure. For example, you can take The Divine Comedy and you can find the central word, and the central word, believe it or not, of the series is "roma." And Dante scholars say that you can read that backwards and see "amor" or "love." The thing is meant to be read forwards and backwards as a ring with a turning point on a word that is both about Rome and love. It's an amazingly, carefully structured work. Okay, I get it. Great point. I want to get to the alchemy, Keith. Can we jump to the alchemy?
KH: Absolutely, I'm anxious to get into this part.
JG: Okay, now what Will has done, Will Sprague here, has done is... how many years ago was that? A year ago? Two years ago? Will wrote to me and said, "Look, John, I think we can take the ring composition and we can tie it up with the alchemical evidence that you found about the last three books." Will, are you up to talking about how the last three books are three stages of alchemy and then what the ring composition revealed about that?
WS: Yeah. Well, Rochelle wrote this amazing essay, and I almost feel like she's super-qualified to talk about this because she kind of took my idea and really enfleshed it and gave it [unintelligible].
RD: But I wouldn't have done it without you, so it definitely starts with you.
WS: Well, yeah. I mean, well, I could start with the fifth, sixth, and seventh books, I suppose.
JG: Okay, I'm going to do the Gilderoy thing. The fifth, sixth, and seventh books are the... just think about the people who die at the end of the books.
JG: Sirius Black, Albus Dumbledore, and then Fred Weasley. The three stages of alchemy are the black stage, the white stage, and the red stage. And at the end of these stages, Rowling has characters whose names are black, white - "albus" is the Latin word for "whiter" or "glorious" - and Fred Weasley, the twin whose name has "red" in it, also dies. And each one of those books has the characteristics of that stage of alchemy. So Harry in Order of the Phoenix, just like in the nigredo stage, is deprived of all of his superficial characteristics and he's reduced to his essence, his prime matter which is his relationship to the Dark Lord through the prophecy. And it's a harrowing, nightmarish book. The next book, the white stage, is his purification, hence all the drinking, all the rain, all the snow, and at the end of it, he becomes a Dumbledore man on his own and he's ready to stand on his own two feet. And in the last book, the rubedo, the red stage, is when all the conflicts are resolved; everything is brought out into the open. We have a very clear black, white, and red stage inside those books, as I describe in Deathly Hallows Lectures, and we have a resolution of all those things. And when I wrote this, I thought, "Okay, so we've got the black, white, and red stages," and I didn't think anything about the opening four books other than there's a turn in the fourth book. We'll pick it up from there. What do you see in the first three books that suggests that the ring composition thing tells us something about this?
WS: Well, the three things that really stood out for me when reading about the alchemy in the fifth, sixth, and seventh [were] that... [laughs] one of the main things you talked about in How Harry Cast His Spell was that the Philosopher's Stone was the goal of alchemy. But Rowling starts off the series with the Philosopher's Stone; she doesn't end it with Philosopher's Stone. And so I thought that was an interesting way of beginning the series. It's almost like the alchemical process was complete and Harry is there, as the boy that's left on the doorway. And I thought that's really weird. And then the second book, [laughs] because you said, "Oh, there's all these parallels with the sixth book," I thought, "Well, okay!" And the second book is full of water, in much the same way as the sixth book is. I don't remember much drinking, but a lot of water. And then the third book, which has always been kind of a black sheep to me, was interesting because I couldn't really place it. I was like, "Well, how does this fit as the nigredo?" Well, he gains Black, he gains Sirius Black, and that was all about Sirius Black, so that's a good-enough connection for me. And my friend was actually just talking to me a little while ago. He gets the Firebolt, there's fire, and the Dementors suck away your soul with their Dementor's Kiss and there's something about that that returns you to kind of an evil parody of the prima materia. So I thought, maybe this whole alchemy thing is working in reverse in those first three books, just like it's paralleling by the ring structure, the chiasm. And then in the fourth book, you have the climactic evil moment which is the incarnation of Voldemort, which is its own alchemical thing.
JG: So let me see if I understand you. What you're saying is, if the last three books are the black, white, and red books, then we can... if we draw the ring, we can see the first book as a red book in which we see the resolution of all these things. And the Philosopher's Stone, instead of being created, is destroyed at the end, so it's like a reverse rubedo. And then the second book - which again is a big Albus Dumbledore book, even though he is largely absent - in that book we see Harry, instead of being purified, at the end of it Harry is filled with muck! He's been through the bathroom and the fight with the Basilisk. He's filthy at the end of the book; it's a reverse albedo. Instead of being purified, he seems to be dirtied. And then...
WS: He discovers that Voldemort is inside of him as well.
JG: Oh yeah, that's right! He finds out that he's tainted, if you will, that he has this evil within him. And then the last book of that opening is the nigredo, where he discovers Sirius Black, and instead of being reduced to his prime, he actually gains a relative! He actually takes on something instead of being reduced to something. So we see all these processes in reverse order, climaxing in this incarnational book of Goblet of Fire. Now, Will, is that right? Am I understanding this right? The first ones not only run backwards, but they are inverse. So instead of being red, it's reverse red...
WS: I would say that, yeah, they're reversed. And it's not like the first book is a red book in the same way that the last book is a red book. It's a red book in the opposite way to a large degree.
WS: Instead of the Dark Lord not being there at the beginning, he's there at the end and it's the big reveal, Voldemort isn't really gone yet. And in the seventh book, of course, he's really there at the beginning and then he's not there at the end.
WS: I think that holds out for all the first three, in as much as they bring to light an increasing dower presence of darkness.
JG: And if our listeners want to read more about this, they need to go to Hogwarts Professor - I'm sure Keith will put a link up on MuggleNet or whatever - where they can read Will Sprague's thing on this, which is a wonderful, wonderful post. And Rochelle, you read that and you said, "Well, it's even better than that."
RD: Well, kind of. So I remember reading it - I was sitting at work, scrolling through this, and I'm like, "This is fascinating." And it was one of the first times that it really stood out to me what it meant, I guess, kind of. And as I was reading it, there were two things that Will said that really stood out to me. The first was that Harry doesn't get any worse and the second is that it doesn't end with Harry, it ends with Voldemort. And then thinking about how Rowling works, I'm like, "Well, if it ends with Voldemort, why isn't it about him the whole time?" And so I did not consider myself qualified to talk about this in the least and at the time I wasn't; everything I knew I learned from the Hogwarts Professor website. And so I went out, I had read a few of your books at that time, I grabbed some more, I read every book of yours that mentioned alchemy.
RD: I read Dark Hieroglyphics cover to cover, which you talked about before.
RD: That took me a year.
[JG and RD laugh]
RD: So basically it took me two years to get myself to a point where I felt qualified to even talk about this, [laughs] and so I got to that point and every single time as I was going along reading this I'm like, "This fits, this fits, this fits." So what I noticed was that it does, Voldemort actually goes through this alchemical process backwards. I remember in one of your books, John, it mentions that the whole point of alchemy is to make the body into a spirit and the spirit into a body, and if you...
JG: Right, that's Titus Burckhardt. Go on.
RD: Yeah, I knew it was not you but it was quoted in your book. That's where I read it first.
RD: And when I read that, spirit into body, I'm like, well if you take Voldemort at the very beginning he is very literally just a spirit.
JG: That's right.
RD: And as we go forward, the quick process would be, he's just spirit before the books begin, from the time of Harry's parents' deaths until right about the beginning of Philosopher's Stone when he inhabits a body, which is not... he is now more than spirit but he's still less than body. He is absent from the second and third books, but what we see in the second book is a memory made solid, which to me reads as closer to body than spirit but not quite body yet. And then when he's gone in the third book, we have that set up that Will talked about with the Dementors and getting Harry ready while Voldemort is out trying to figure out how to become a body. And then by the end of the fourth book, that's what he does. He goes from spirit to body quite literally. And as I was looking at it, I was trying to see not only that but also what other alchemical language was used in reference to Voldemort instead of Harry because I noticed in Will's post every single reference to the alchemical language was in relationship to Harry and how it affected him and I'm like, well, if I'm right then it would be alchemical language about Voldemort rather than about Harry. And probably the most interesting thing I found to summarize would be in Chamber of Secrets where the water that we have there is plumbing. It's not exactly the best water.
[JG and RD laugh]
RD: So what we have there is the original Tom Riddle from fifty years ago. What he wanted to do in writing that diary - excluding the whole Horcrux thing - was go back into the school and purify it of Mudbloods. That was his original intention before the whole Harry thing happened. And I mean, this diary was written long before Harry and the prophecy. So his original intention was to do an outward purity of the school rather than an inward purity of himself, and he even says in the end of it that that was his goal until he realized that Harry was around. So Ginny has this diary, and the diary wants to purify the school of Mudbloods but Ginny realizes that it's a bad book, eventually. And normally when I realize it's a bad book, I might set it on fire, I might cut it up... I mean, there were Harry Potter book burnings, right?
RD: There's a lot of ways that you could get rid of a book, but Ginny chooses to flush it down a toilet...
JG: That's great.
RD: ...which doesn't make any logical sense. I mean, even as an 11 year old possessed by Voldemort, I don't think that makes any sense.
RD: The plumbing is not big enough for that to work, which means JK Rowling must have meant something else by that. So what we have is Ginny pushing this into a diary, flushing it, and going into the plumbing, and then the toilet spitting it back out again. And so in a way, this book is baptized into the plumbing of this school.
RD: And when I saw that, I'm just like, "Okay, I have to keep doing this even though by that point I was already a year into this." I'm like, "I'm going to come up with this two years later and they're not even going to remember this post that Will wrote."
[JG and RD laugh]
RD: But when I saw that, I'm like, "Yes, this backwards baptism into this plumbing, that's where the Basilisk hides, and it really, I feel like, fits."
KH: Well, another flooding that you mentioned in your essay here was also about the flooding in the diary. I mean, the ink that spills in Harry's bag is all over all of his books except there's nothing in the diary and it's all basically absorbed. We didn't know at the time but it was absorbed into the diary. And then the flooding of the ink coming out of the diary as Harry stabs it with a basilisk fang. I guess it's, "Ink spurted out of the diary in torrents, streaming over Harry's hands, flooding the floor." I love how you put all of the water and flooding into this Chamber of Secrets.
JG: Now, this essay - God willing - will be in Travis Prinzi's new collection or whatever. Readers are probably going to feel very frustrated that they can't read Rochelle's stuff right now. I mean, I'd love to put it up. Maybe, Rochelle, you could write a very short version that we could post at Hogwarts Professor.
RD: I'll do my best.
JG: Thank you.
RD: I have a URL called "No time for brevity." I'm not very good at that. [laughs]
JG: Okay, but if you can that would be great because I want to kick this back, because this assumes that it's just about the series. We've only been talking about the structure of the series. One of Mary Douglas's points is that there will be rings inside of rings. After reading Sanford Schwartz's book about CS Lewis, I thought, "Well, my goodness, that's an alchemical work." The three books of The Space Trilogy are the black stage, the white stage, and the red stage. I thought, "Well, maybe the seven books of Harry Potter, also the individual books, are rings." And sure enough, that's one of the more fascinating things about this discussion, is that the individual books, each one of them, is a ring as well. I mean, poor Keith I think has seen me give this lecture three or four times now, and it's a long lecture, right Keith? To go through all of the parallels or even as a brief thing.
KH: Yeah, but I learn something new each and every time, which is...
KH: It just blows me away all the stuff.
JG: You are very kind, Keith. But all the parallels... and again, those who are interested in this... we're already close to an hour into the show. I don't want to bury you with this. All the charts, all the notes are in there about how all these structures... for example, when Harry says... he meets Dumbledore to go on the great adventure to find Slughorn or whatever and Dumbledore says, "Pull your wand out, Harry. We don't know what dangers we'll meet." He says, "Really?" He says, "No, Harry, you don't need to worry. You are with me." And the chapter parallel to it says... it has Harry and Dumbledore coming out of the Inferi cave and he says, "I'm not worried, Harry, because I am with you." These mirrored parallelisms, if you will, inside the story are so numerous. That every single chapter in a series of close to two-hundred chapters has these parallels back and forth across the divide is a stunning... either the woman is OCD or it's a stunning literary achievement. I tend to think it's both. But I think, Steve, you've got something to say here. You're not so convinced that we see these parallelisms. What have you got to say?
SL: It's not that I'm convinced, it's more that I want to challenge you, and of course I know you love discussion and being challenged or, as Keith calls them, "quibbles" on the post. But how do we distinguish between a plot structure and a ring structure? Because, look, I haven't written a novel or anything but I've written a couple of short stories. And I'll just admit they were God awful, so they'll never see the light of day.
SL: But I remember writing one short story and I began the book, the short story, with one word and ended it with the same word, and it sort of has this nice resolution to it. But as more of a plot structure, how can we differentiate it being a plot structure? And of course when you build a plot, you have to build in elements that will be used later in the story. You just don't randomly throw something into the story because that would confuse the reader, unless you're trying to do misdirection or something like that. But how would you distinguish between a plot element and a ring structure element?
JG: Well, I think - it's a wonderful question - it's the sheer volume of parallels. When you see, for example, the opening of Goblet of Fire... not so much the opening, but when they arrive at the school and it's a flood. The rain is pouring from the sky, there are stormy seas on the lake, Peeves is throwing water balloons - everything is soaked when they arrive at Hogwarts. Well, the parallel chapter is the second Triwizard task in which Harry is underwater. If what seems to be arbitrary in the opening chapter, when you see it against the parallel chapter, all of a sudden takes on an entirely new meaning, where she has set up as almost like a question, "Why is it so wet here?" with the answer, "Oh, it's part of that Triwizard task." And the Triwizard tasks, of course, are the black, white, and red parts of alchemy so that the white stage - which is the ablutionary or the purification stage - we see in that task that we've been set up for that in that parallel structure. Or in Order of the Phoenix in which we meet Sirius Black's mother, this crazy female relation, screaming from behind a curtain, that Sirius shuts up. And the parallel chapter just happens to the one in which another insane Black female relation blows Sirius Black through a curtain. Those things - yeah, they could be arbitrary plot points, but when you see them again and again and again and again... where you see Harry in Philosopher's Stone, he meets Ron Weasley, they happen to have... they meet... believe me, they're the only first years with their own private room on the Hogwarts Express, right? And they exchange their woes and their fears about their families - I don't have a family, I've got too much family, etc. - and then the parallel chapter is at Christmas time, Harry and Ron standing in front of the Mirror of Erised, both acting out their wishes about their families. It's an amazing structural device. Your question is very well put. It's simply the volume. It's simply the number and the detail of the parallels that make, I think, the difference between just happenstance plot points and an intentional, parallelistic structure. Does that make sense?
SL: I would agree. Yeah.
KH: Even in Deathly Hallows with the Mad-Eye Moody chapters. You had the fallen warrior and then on the other side you have Mad-Eye Moody as the next password to the radio.
JG: Yeah. That one chapter starts off with the buriel of Mad-Eye - where Harry goes into the forest with the old oak tree and in the shadow of the tree he draws the cross on the tree or whatever - and then the end of the parallel chapter has the revelation that Mad-Eye is the next password. She's trying to throw the bookends thing... and those two chapters are kind of insane. Dickensian parallels where Harry, Ron, and Hermione just happen to be in the right place to hear this conversation with their Extendable Ears. It's ludicrously absurd and unlikely, and then in the parallel chapter we get to hear about all of those characters that we met in the chapter parallel to it. It's comically unlikely that that was happenstance, that she wasn't trying to draw the line across the turtleback between those two things. But seriously, because we don't have the author's testimony on it and all we have is the text, Steve's question is really the best one. It's the skeptical one to say, "Really?" And I think the only answer to it is if this were one or two or three instances, even only three or four inside a book, you could say, "Well maybe, maybe not." But when it's every single chapter has an arguable link, that's a person who is writing intentionally on that structure.
SL: And I would agree with that, yes. It is the sheer volume of the parallel structures. I remember when I was initially writing my chapter on this, I went over a hundred different parallels from book to book, the parallels from Book 1 to 7 and so forth, and I just got tired of going through them.
SL: I would sit down with my students, I'm a high school teacher so I would sit down with my students who have read the book, and I said, "Think of some parallels," and they loved doing this...
JG: That's right.
SL: ...because it's something they love to read and it's something I would encourage our listeners to do as well, not just read our chapters and read the books that we publish; sit down and think about it yourselves because I think that's part of the alchemical structure, it actually does something to you as you think about it and ponder it as you think about these parallel structures. It is the sheer number that is quite convincing.
JG: Steve's point is really important here that... I've written a very short book, just my notes talk that I gave to the Group That Shall Not Be Named way back when. But there's no way I've exhausted this, as Steve was saying. Steve and I both made lists of the connections between Stone and Hallows, and we both had like ten different ones the other guy didn't get. This is a work - an exegesis, if you will - which has not been finished. It's really just begun. And really, Will and Rochelle's work is evidence of that, that Rowling spent five years... and this is obviously a very intelligent woman and a woman who has said that all of her success is due to her planning that we have not yet really begun to plum the depths of her planning and these structures. Another thing Steve said, to bring us back to the beginning and draw this as a ring as well, how do these structures bring us to Pottermania? I've argued for more than ten years now that the success of Harry Potter is due to the artistry and meaning of the work. Now, the meaning of the work in academic studies tends to be divorced from the artistry of it. I'd suggest - and I really want to hear all four of you, your blowback on this one - that the artistry is complimentary with the meaning, that one doesn't exist without the other, that this ring structure scaffolding is having an effect on us which is something like the effect inside the story. What do you make of that?
RD: If you don't mind if I start...
JG: Jump. Jump, Rochelle.
RD: All right. Like I said, I'm really relatively new to all of the ring structure and all of the studying, but I do remember when I was a kid at my youth group, my youth pastor had said that if anything in the Bible is repeated three times then it's important, and that really is a way of the artistry and the meaning being interconnected in a way that the person who repeats it three times doesn't have to say, "This is my main point," because you know it.
RD:[laughs] And I feel that in a way, that kind of works with this ring composition structure. I ended up writing a 50,000 word Harry Potter fan fiction that takes place a thousand years from now.
RD: Kind of my own reaction to the story and the fandom. But I ended up trying to put into it some ring composition, some alchemy, and some of the responses that I've been getting from people who have no idea what this stuff is but they talk about it being complete, the way that the story comes about, that it finishes itself very well, they say I use Rowling's plot devices nicely and I'm like, "You have no idea."
[JG and RD laugh]
RD: But when I was reading these comments, and knowing myself what I put into the story, you could have my authorial intent. I did, I put alchemy and ring composition into the story. I don't know how well I did it but I did. [laughs] And I had people responding to that in a way that the meaning and that are kind of tied together almost, I guess. That I could find where... okay, if I have fifteen chapters then the eighth chapter is really important to me. What do I want the message of that chapter to be? And I decided on what the message would be in that chapter and I put it there.
JG: There you go. I think that's... I'm doing the Chronicles of Narnia now in talks I'm giving here in Oklahoma City, and that's largely what you do. You find the center and work your way out and see if there are parallels, and really it's fun but it's also mind-boggling when you see the parallels. Anybody else? I want to jump in and let you interrupt me but I think it's largely about the center, that this parallelistic structure is to bring us to the center. And not so much the center as in the turning point of the chiasmus, but to the... if something is written as a circle, then when you're done with the circle, where you really arrive is not at the end point on the circle, where you really arrive is the center which defines the circle. Because you can't recognize something as a circle except you see the center, even if the center isn't drawn as a little dot, because what a circle is, of course, is a set of points equidistant from the center. When you see a circle or experience a circle, you know the center intuitively, right? Or noetically. So... and sure enough, in each one of the books, Harry travels to a secret place where he learns everything. Be it in front of the Mirror of Erised, which has its own illusion of subject and object in the mirror, or the Chamber of Secrets, in which he gets to learn everything from Tom Riddle, or the Shrieking Shack, the Little Hangleton graveyard, the Ministry of Magic and the Department of [Mysteries], the... I mean, you can go all the way through this, right? You have the cave of the Inferi, and then you have, of course, Harry at King's Cross, where King's Cross is literally the definition of the center, is the cross, where Harry has the plot point where he arrives at that secret space. I think what Rowling is doing with the structure is bringing us to that secret space by letting us complete the circle. And we don't understand that with our cranial intelligence, but we experience that with our cardiac intelligence, that part of us which is reading, where we suspend disbelief and we really read. That's what I'm thinking that she's after, that not only is the surface of the story about arriving at that center place, that secret place, but the structure of the story is to bring us to that place too, where we really understand something like that. Any one of you jump in here, I'm sorry to... obviously I've given this talk quite a few times. What... I mean, what do you think? Is that what she's after with the structure, or is it just kind of an OCD exercise where she wants to make sure everything lines up?
SL: I don't think she's just OCD about it. I think she's very intentional about trying to focus the reader into the meaning, through the artistry itself. And of course, as academics ourselves but also through the heart. As you were saying, John, we can debate this as academics. But I mean, one thing... what is that thing she's pointing at? I mean, she talks about death a lot, the death of Harry's parents, the death of all of Harry's friends. But with the ring, and through love, that death is not the end. And even as Dumbledore said, death is just the next great adventure to the well-organized mind. And of course, this is a very well-organized work itself, so I think she's really pointing at something much more significant than just, "Hey, here's a neat literary structure that I want to test out."
JG: I love that, Steve, the love point, because what is love but the resolution of contraries? The I in thou, that love itself or love himself, [laughs] depending on your beliefs, is where she brings us in this structure, as well as in the story. We come to the center to that sanctuary, that hidden reserve point, and we experience the knowledge of what's really been going on. And we only come to that point through sacrificial love, where Harry really dies to himself, his saving people thing. That saving people thing is really Harry's great strength, as Dumbledore... it's his love. And so we experience that love inside the story, not only through the plot points but through the structure itself, which is that resolution of contraries. Does that make sense?
SL: Yeah, absolutely.
KK: Yeah, one thought I just had, listening to Will and Rochelle, you get these positive characters - Harry, Ron, Hermione - but also having these warnings of here's what happens when you go through the reverse alchemal process, what can happen...
JG: Huh. [laughs]
KK: What happens with Voldemort. So we're not just given positive examples, we're not just given blessings, we're also given warnings. In this wide world, there's monsters and there's also great heroes, and we have to be beware of both. And one other additional thing...
JG: That's great.
KK: Oh, it's actually... and this is going to probably sound strange. I've actually started to think of my day in terms of chiastic structures. I get up, I go to bed, I get ready, I brush my teeth, all that, I do that at night, I eat breakfast...
KK: ...I eat supper, I go to work, I have lunch... or I go to work, work, eat lunch, work some more, come home. So it's starting to get me thinking in terms of history and how God moves things along through divine providence and all those sorts of things.
JG: That's great. I hope your day doesn't have a nigredo, an albedo, and a rubedo, though.
KK: Well, yeah. If you look over the whole span of your life, you can certainly see where...
JG: Oh, boy. [laughs]
KK: ...things came up and where you did poorly in one instance or you did great in another instance. You had your ups and your downs and all that sort of thing. So it helps to put the whole thing in perspective.
KH: How about when you're a baby and you need all the care, the caretaking, and all that stuff, and then when you're an old person, you need all the caretaking, too?
KK: Yeah, yeah.
JG: Second childhood.
WS: It's interesting because it's almost like when we talk about ring structure and chiasm and alchemy, I think that there's a tendency to think of them all in kind of like a vacuum. And, of course, chiasm has a very specific literary meaning and so you don't want to go too much with chiasm. When you say ring structure in the way that it's been presented by Mary Douglas or whatever, you see that basically it's almost like everyone is getting somehow revealing the center, but the center is not drawn in for you.
JG: That's right.
WS: In general, right? It's kind of like a natural revelation thing.
JG: Oh, that's great!
WS: When you talk about alchemy and being in all the different cultures, and you got CS Lewis using the dow, you've got this kind of... this center, which everyone is kind of pointing towards to some... to one degree or another, but it expresses itself in a lot of different ways and I think that alchemy, even though it's very clearly a three-stage process, it's relatively linear, I think it's also trying to get to the center. You said the resolution of opposites is bringing the circle inward to that point.
JG: That's right. Because even though it has that three-stage process, it's a seven-cycle journey. We're going to do it seven times, again and again and again, and if Will and Rochelle are right we're seeing this inverted inside the seven chapter story, the seven event story, of the Hogwarts saga. Really fascinating. I'm still loving that point about the day being, in a way, a chiasmic structure about... if you took a siesta, it would be the sleeping part, but I think it's really more the meals; it's how we eat and how we think about food that really define who we are and what we really believe because we have our breakfast, lunch, and dinner segments or whatever, that define, in a way, the day. That this book, our experience, our imaginative experience inside the books, brings that... not so much to the surface, but to the core of us, we experience that cycle again without all of the extra, all the artificial and superficial individual stuff. We experience that with our hearts as we read. And hence, I think, Pottermania, is that we have some sort of transcendent experience of this center, which is as what's transcended, it's creative, that we have a... you can call it recreation if you want, but it's a re-creative experience as we enter into that noetic center.
Wow. We could talk all night, Keith, but we're already way over an hour here. First of all, I want to thank all of you guys for coming. This has been wonderful, wonderful stuff. I want to thank you for writing to me. It's been a real blessing to me to have all of you write and share your insights to this stuff, which I never could have come up with on my own. Steve and I were working in parallel way back when, and all the stuff that Will and Kelly and Rochelle have come up with, this is great, great stuff. And I hope that fandom will see what you all have done, really, independently. Rochelle saying, "Oh, I'm not qualified to do all this," and yet, Rochelle, you've moved the ball forward significantly in the study when professional academics haven't even picked up the ball yet. You don't have anything to blush about. You've really done magnificent work here. So thank you all for that and for joining us tonight.
I want to get to our final question, though, which is my favorite part of this whole show. All four of you here, imagine your life without Harry Potter, okay? The boy who lived, he died, you know? It never got published. How are you a different person? Do you think you'd still be charting books' circular or chiastic structures and thinking about alchemical imagery? Is your life better, not so good, whatever? How are we going to do this? Rochelle, I'm going to let you start off again.
RD: All right. Well, like I said before, I was... oh gosh, I was nine when the first book came out. I didn't read it then, but that's... I honestly do not remember reading Harry Potter for the first time.
RD: The first book, at least. I mean, I remember my experience with the seventh book very clearly. I remember my experience with the fifth book very clearly. But the first and second books, I do not remember reading them. But I was actually trying to think about this the other day, about where I would be if I hadn't gotten into Harry Potter, if I hadn't found your website and started studying it because of Hunger Games. I mean, I recently joined up with the Harry Potter fandom and I found it, really, a fascinating place.
RD: I mean, there's great people there and great friends that I've made. But I just wrote my own response to Harry Potter, basically, with my own characters in her world, that goes through all of this alchemical stuff, the chiasm, looking at it in other books... I mean, it really... I almost literally cannot imagine what I would be like if I hadn't read Harry Potter.
RD:[laughs] I really can't.
JG: That's fascinating because my own children... I mean, I have several children your age, Rochelle, and they're almost at the same school where they remember a time before Harry Potter, the older ones.
RD: Mhm. I definitely remember before Harry Potter.
JG: But they can't imagine their life as mature people, as adolescents and then mature people, without Harry Potter having been a part of it.
RD: Oh no, definitely not. I mean, I remember coming home from Deathly Hallows: Part 2 at the movie theater and I was 22, I think, and feeling like, "Okay, my childhood has officially ended."
RD: I would literally point to that day as my adulthood because it's the end of this time that I spent, growing up with Harry Potter.
JG: I love it. I love it.
RD: Yeah. I mean, I can definitely remember my life before Harry Potter, but I can't remember what it was like to read before Harry Potter, even though I was already an avid reader at the time.
JG: Now, Kelly, you've got a different story. I mean, you were an adult, this was not your advent into imaginative literature. Tell us about how you imagine your life without Harry Potter.
KK: Well, that's a really good question. I can think of a whole host of conversations I've had with people that I wouldn't have had that's helped me understand literature better. But I think probably the most interesting thing, since I teach younger kids - fifth, sixth grade - and interact with students of even younger than that and high school students, just listening to them ask questions and them see things - either that I've pointed out or that they figured out on their own or that they've gleaned from other people - has just been great to see that, kids who 1) love to read because of it, and 2) when you can start to point out all these other connections to all the things she's drawing from. I mean, you can take it anywhere. So I'm thankful for those things and just the way that she's been able to capture so many imaginations just through a lot of hard work and I'm sure a lot of trials and things she's gone through her own life, Rowling that is.
JG: That's great. And you said you were a sixth grade teacher in a classic Christian school. I think you read Little Women and you read Kidnapped and you read Around the World in Eighty Days, all of which are ring novels. And we didn't mention [unintelligible]. I mean, Jo calls herself Jo because of the character in Little Women, and Little Women is a ring novel. It's everywhere, and I can imagine that just informing your life. Will, back to you!
WS: Yeah, it's hard to imagine what the world would be like without Harry Potter.
JG: Yeah. [laughs]
WS: I mean, so many books that I read, that I love, like you say Hunger Games, Twilight fandom would never have happened.
JG: That's right.
WS: I don't partake with that particular manifestation.
WS: But yeah, kind of children's literature - which is something that I just love to go back and read - I mean, it just wouldn't exist in the way that we conceive it right now, without something like Harry Potter kind of blowing the publishing world up. And so, yeah, I don't know what my life would be like because I spent most of my childhood reading Harry Potter, [laughs] and most of my young adulthood - well, college years - thinking about it hard. And because of Harry Potter, obviously, I'm now reading the Bible and other literature in a way that's actually more edifying for myself and just helps to really grasp the world properly, to think in a narrative form.
JG: Yeah, and really, in a kind of logical form, this is the contranominalism approach and that's a hard thing to get. Rowling has largely... and Pottermania in general, has remade the publishing and writing world. I mean, I've written my book on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books and writing one right now on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series. You know those authors use the literary magic that Rowling did, in their own genres, in a very creative and individual way, but still harnessing what made Harry Potter so special. They harness that to their own ends in a spectacular fashion. It's hard to imagine the world now because writers and publishers are looking for that effect. That's where the bar has been moved. So we're going to see soul triptychs, we're going to see literary alchemy, we're going to see ring composition. It's almost as if that's the new standard. Steve, we started off with you defining chiasmus. Do you want to close this off here, with how you imagine the world without Harry Potter? Or just how your world would be different.
SL: Well, I remember a world without Harry Potter. I mean, I started reading it...
SL: It was published when I was in my thirties...
SL: ...and I was in my mid-thirties when I started reading it, so I do remember a world without it and I enjoyed reading. I didn't take literature quite as seriously. I was much more of a reader of history, philosophy, and theology. And I liked literature, and I think, "Well, you know, I want to read the heavy stuff."
SL: But with Harry Potter, and as I began... it's what we call, sometimes, a difficult pleasure, is sometimes how it's termed, where you read it and you can read it for pleasure, but as we delve into it, as a serious reader, it can be difficult, at times, to read, but it's a difficult pleasure and it gives such completion and satisfaction when you read these things. Harry Potter, in my own life, the different facets of my life, it just... personally, just enjoyed the reading, talking with my students, it's just been really dynamic with my students to open up topics. But probably the most personable thing that Harry Potter has done for me is just... it's given me an avenue into my two boys' lives, where we can read it and discuss it and just have great life conversations through these books. And I think that's what the Harry Potter series can do, is you can have great life conversations just like we did today in this hour or so that we've had together.
JG: Boy, you put your finger right on it. It's not only about the experience we have as individual readers in our hearts, but how it informs our relationships afterwards, especially with other readers who have been to that same King's Cross point. Boy, Steve, I think you've taken us to that center yourself. Keith, are we pretty much done with this magnificent show?
KH: I think we are. It was a great show, and thank you very much to everybody that came on the show. Your inputs were amazing and your papers that you sent to me were great. I'm going to ask two of our special guests to perform a little homework. It's the first time on Academia that I'm actually going to assign homework.
KH: I want Rochelle and Will to make their own discussion on Skype and record it as a bonus feature of MuggleNet Academia because during the email crossover, they had a battle going on regarding alchemy. And I'd really like to hear them go about it...
KH: ...and dive their avenues up piece by piece. Is that okay with you guys? Would you guys be willing to do that?
RD: We're even in the same timezone. That never happens to me when I'm interacting with Harry Potter fans.
KH: That's awesome. So that's something that I'm going to say is going to be Bonus Feature 6.
[Show music begins]
KH: When they finish that up and send it to me, we're going to make that a special bonus, with two of our special guests battling it out on the alchemy of the Harry Potter books. But, for this show, that's about it. Thank you very much for listening. I hope you enjoyed the show. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
RD: I'm Rochelle Deans, a Hogwarts Professor adjunct.
WS: I'm Will Sprague, a Japanophile and Potterphile mixed into one person.
KK: I'm Kelly Kerr, from Franklin Classical School.
SL: And I'm Steve Lee, instructor of Theology and Philosophy at Prestwick Christian Academy.