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14th May, 2009

One expert's resignation

As public interest in the HP-books has considerably waned, and as a publication of JKR's Scottish Encyclopaedia seems not exactly imminent for one of the next days, and as I'm no expert concerning the HP-films (no Disney, nor Lego, etc.): a few minutes ago I resigned from my university's HP experts group (and the resignation already got accepted [:-)] ).

Constant owl

On 2009-03-30 Cornelia Rémi (aka Viola Owlfeather) once again did update her Harry Potter Bibliography.
It does include "Vander Ark, Steve: In search of Harry Potter. London: Methuen, 2008", but not (yet?) his more recent title The Lexicon.

3rd Feb, 2009

They say: HP not suited as an academic subject for times of crisis

At http://www.dailytitan.com/opinion/csuf_should_spend_money_on_classes_other_than_harry_potter_101-1.1330564 there is an article (from 2009-02-02) by Austen Montero & Crysania Salcido: CSUF should spend money on classes other than "Harry Potter 101" : In times of a crunched budget, the school should be spending more efficiently.

Well, first of all: I never thought that the aptitude of a subject for research was depending on the amount of money available to the institution were that subject is investigated. (When having something you want to research and you lack the money: do apply for more money ... [:-)] ...). Humanities research by definition is either luxury or it is not humanities research. Plus: I can't imagine how the aptitude of a subject for teaching was depending on the amount of money available to the institution were that subject is taught. And: the idea that there are first rate and second rate subjects/themes/documents for teaching humanities seems doubtful as well. Using a sorted canon without providing the reader with the reasons for selecting one's reasons for inclusion into the canon, exclusion from the canon, sorting the canon the way one sorts it: well, it might not be a good idea for anyone to get into application interviews with me as one of the interviewers if you decide to stick to such attitudes. Nuff said.

O.k.: on the other hand: this is a new theory explaining why some of the previous interest in the Potterverse is waning: it's just an epiphenomenon of a world wide financial crisis ... [:-)] ... . Only: such waning did pre-date the outbreak of the crisis. So perhaps we should consider using "changes in the amount of HP related discussions" as an early indicator of future changes in economic climate.
In this case: please do consider this posting here as a major contribution to future global economic growth. [:-)]
A type of divination AFAIK not taught by Ms Trewlaney.

15th Jan, 2009

Muggles land flying car

At http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/01/14/flying.car/index.html you can find a report on a flying car (though it's not a Ford Anglia).

Its design gives it the performance of a motorbike while also allowing it to fly over impassable terrain and the sand seas of the Sahara, the designers said. They hope to fly over the Straits of Gibraltar.

In propeller mode, the engine makes a lot of noise. The two-person seat is a tight fit with room for a driver and a passenger who controls the car in flight.

Experienced adventurer Neil Laughton is the designated pilot of the craft on its epic journey.

"I'm a bit nervous, but that's what adventure and exploration's all about," Laughton told CNN. Video Watch as flying car takes off »

Although some eccentric-looking flying cars have been attempted before, Cardozo and his team of engineers say advances in flexible wing technology have made their car more practical, with more precise handling and increased safety over traditional rigid wings.

The flexible wing is folded and packed in the back of the car when driving on the road and can deploy immediately when it is ready to fly.

The car, which runs on biofuel, has a takeoff speed of 73 km/h (45 mph) and requires a distance of less than 200 meters (220 yards), meaning it can take off on a beach or in a park.

He admits the Skycar has trouble in high wind or turbulence, but it has some safety measures.

9th Jan, 2009

Love potions

An Italian report on recent British results of research concerning 21st century love potions can be found at http://www.repubblica.it/2009/01/sezioni/scienze/pillola-sentimenti/pillola-sentimenti/pillola-sentimenti.html?ref=hpspr1.

As far as I can see they just say it's a paper by some Larry Young published in Nature. I didn't have time to check. And won't find time to check in the near future.


8th Dec, 2008

BtB: pensieve entries and more

O.k.: First of alle: here are my entries in my pensieve for BtB:

  • De veritate : :DD quoted by JKR on parsimony with truth : It is a beautiful and terrible thing, and should therefore be treated with great caution. (p.XVI)

  • Historia magiae : Potterverse: rinascimentalis: witchhunts :DD writing. : The persecution of witches and wizards was gathering pace all over Europe in the early fifteenth century. (p.13)

  • Observationes variae : :JKR reporting about a conversation/correspondence with Minerva McGonnagall : (p.80n2)

  • Theoria magiae : :DD writing. Nice citation of "the eminent wizarding philosopher Bertrand de Pensées-Profondes". : not found a way of reuniting body and soul once death has occured. (p.79)

  • Theoria magiae : Leges :DD writing. : he is falling foul of the first of Adalbert Waffling's Fundamental Laws of Magic:
    Tamper with the deepest mysteries - the source of life, the ssence of self - only if prepared for consequences of the most extreme and dangerous kind.

These are not very many entries, but that's in the line with the other companion books (QttA: 13, FB: 5).

P. 80n2 (JKR/McG) is AFAIK a new way in this series of the interaction between the author and one of her characters.

I called the book a strange book in my previous posting.

One of the reasons is the style: It is my impression that either the author was more attend to style or was better edited in all of the previous 7+2 books of this series.

The next aspect of strangeness might be connected to my being German, and thus having grown up with German Märchen instead of English fairy tales.
Thus I'd not say that magic in such Muggle texts "tends to lie at the root of the hero or heroine's troubles" (p. XI): The world of at least part of the Märchen is magic in a matter of fact way.
And: The tales of Beedle the bard are moral tales, but Märchen essentially are not moral tales (as already stated by Heinrich Heine in the French version of his Erdgeister): have a look at the two versions of KHM 38 (the wedding of the she-fox), and you'll probably see what I mean.) And: - and you may use KHM 38.1 as an example again - many of the German Märchen do talk about a world in which not only gender but also sex does exist, whereas Beedle might have been as prudish as I assume Ms Bloxam to have been. And: females in Märchen (at least in the KHM) are not as passive as assumed by JKR on p. XII for "fairy-tale heroines". So: the second aspect of strangeness is probably due to my having grown up with an other type of magic tales for children than JKR's intended audience did grow up with.

The next aspect of strangeness is that the language of the tales (in Ms Granger's translation) does not preserve any trace of being the translation of 15th century texts.

Next and last aspect: do these stories stand on their own? Would anybody not having read HP1 through HP7 find them worth reading?

O.k.. That's it for now.

EUR 7.49 well spent. But any cent EUR which went into HP1 through HP7 IMO was better spent.

This brings a lot of things to something like an end.

And not too far in the future this blog here might end too.

And I look forward to reading all of the books again, but this time just for fun and entertainment. (I might still owe you pensieve entries for part of the books, but I'm not sure whether I do, no whether you'd want to have them in case some should indeed have remained unposted here.)

That's it for now.

Strange books (BtB, ISOH)

Strange books. Strange books both, IMO.

You'll have to wait a bit longer for commentary on BtB (I'll first have to fill my pensieve).

As for Steve Vander Ark's In search of Harry Potter:
No, it's no "scholarly book" (as anybody can see it does not have footnotes and does not have longish Latin quotations, nor any untranslated Ancient Greek, nor does it cite lots of current articles from journals which are accessible only via international interlibrary loan, ...).

I read it with interest, and I one of the aspects which made me think was that most of "my" England (and especially "my" London) is informed by 1980s England/London, and Harry Potter's England/London is 1990s England/London, SVA's England/London is England/London from the second half of the first decennium of the 21st century. Change and distance and experience do inform our ways of reading. My Potterverse England is far more old-fashioned, far less modern than SVA's (and probably also JKR's). I guess: no two Potterverses are the same. We are monadic readers. And glimpses into a neighbouring monad can be fascinating. I don't regret reading ISOH.

Then: there is the question a book for whom this book is intended? Who are the readers who might benefit most from it? Obviously not persons who haven't read the HP books (because they should search for HP in their next bookshop, and not travelling with SVA). And obviously not person's who do know the HP books by heart either (as they wouldn't need the grey information boxes in the book like the one on p. 38 to learn or to be reminded that No 12 Grimauld Place, London has been inherited by Harry). So it seems to be a book for the, well, casual/occasional/intermediate readers of the HP books.
Not a book probably addressed primarily at the readers of this blog here.
But I'm thinking about having it sent to my sister and to our daughter's godmother as a present for christmas.
And, as I have written elsewhere: As the number of people who know the HP books more or less by heart seems to be shrinking: when writing about HP (if we want to write about HP) we will have to seek ways of writing about HP which address this situation and cope with that problem. And also in this respect ISOH IMO does a good job. (I have reservations concerning its style; but asI also have reservations concerning the style of BtB, SVA might be in good company there, and the fault may lie with me.)

And now: off to the pensieve, to fill it with BtB entries.
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5th Dec, 2008

Books arrived (BtB, BtB-de, ISOH)

The books have arrived!

Both the tales of Beedle the bard (both "Translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger by J.K. Rowling" and "Joanne K. Rowling ... Aus den ursprünglichen Runen übertragen von Hermione Granger und aus dem Englischen übersetzt von Klaus Fritz) and Steve Vander Ark's In search of Harry Potter arrived a few minutes ago.

I'll report back once I have read them.

Now I know what I'll read this weekend ... :-) ... .

But before starting to read: I'll have to have some lunch, and to finish preparing for teaching next Monday ... .

And, yes, well: To have the rumours about an accord between JKR/WB and RDR/SVA and a rumour about a press conference concerning such accord on the same day that these 3 books did arrive: This stresses the concept of Aristotelian chance to the point where it almost becomes Humean causality ... .

4th Dec, 2008

Waiting for Beedle the bard

My own copies (English, plus German to see how much use the translator made of the language invented by the Grimm brothers to tell their fairy tales) have not yet arrived, but there is at least one (favourable) German review of the book: here.
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19th Nov, 2008

Continuous owl

Once again (on November 13th) Viola Owlfeather (a.k.a. Cornelia Rémi) did update her marvellous bibliography of arguably scholarly publications on HP.

12th Nov, 2008

Coincidences: Aristotelian chance, HP, and Muggles' courts

The coincidence type of chance/unforeseen crossing of two lines of (probably) deterministic processes, i.e. the "Aristotelian" type of chance/(pseudo-)contingent happenings (like e.g. Snape being nearby when Draco attacks Harry and Harry answers with Sectumsempra) seems to infect HPish happenings even outside the Potterverse: The original complaint by WB/JKR against RDR's version of the HPL was filed on Halloween 2007, and now, when the publication of the Tales of Beedle the Bard is about to happen RDR appeals against Judge Robert P. Patterson's decision.

And this might lead to an 18th incarnation of that thread with 17 incarnations.

And I hope against hope that it will not detract attention and discussions from that new book. (Yes, I admit to prefer reading JKR's prose over the reading of most lawyers' texts (and generally speaking: the lawyers who are the exception to this rule have been dead for quite some centuries ... ).)

And, it seems that we don't know for sure whether Chaucer did or didn't ever study law: So intersections etc. between his texts and the Tales of Beedle the Bard are coincidences of their own, and do not belong to the coincidences of the type this post is about ... .

20th Oct, 2008

Muggles' Shrinking Potterverse

One of the few remaining places I went to for harrypotterish discussions was Harry's Request; but as discussions there have moved away from HP today I said "Good Bye" (although there are nice people there!)

(LL's "Obscurus Books" doesn't feature many discussions I'd love to take part in these days either, and even the 17th incarnation of a thread which IMO might have done without that many incarnations seems to have gone somewhat stale ... .)

What you get via HPANA's Daily Prophet is mainly about the author, the films, the actors, etc., but not about the content, meta-content, style, etc. of the books.

But Viola Owlfeather (Cornelia Rémi's) great Harry Potter Bibliography remains alife ([last updated 2008-10-10] and I probably should try to read: Regazzoni, Simone: Harry Potter e la filosofia. Fenomenologia di un mito pop. Genova: Il melangolo, 2008).

But, I guess: whosoever now writes on HP should probably think twice whether to write for those who know the HP books more or less by heart (up to a few months ago: most probably the most probable readers for many a text on HP) or for people who just heard about the books or read them once or twice, or for a public for whom the HP books are as present - or not - as e.g. Lindgren's Karlsson på taket. In such a case: illustrations from HP would have to be treated as any other literature used for illustration.
Writing about a philosophical subject for the sake of the subject, and using examples from HP; not using examples from HP to write about a philosophical subject.
Both approaches of course are o.k.. But I had fun using examples from HP to teach about a philosophical subjects. And I doubt whether I'll have the chance to do so again sometime in the foreseeable future ... .

8th Oct, 2008

HP as an academic catchphrase

At http://idw-online.de/pages/de/news281786 you can find a press release by a neighbouring university (Hochschule München (university of applied sciences)), which seems to use the words "Harry Potter" to lure people to read its press release not very much connected to HP.

24th Sep, 2008

NLM exhibition on HP and Renaissance science

Fullquote from a posting to Web4Ren Forum (W4RF) (yes, the holder of the IP rights on said posting, i.e. me, has no problems with that ... [:-)] ...):

From 2008-09-15 to 2008-12-31 the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) displays an exhibition with the title "Harry Potter's World : Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine".
The website for this exhibition is at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/harrypottersworld/index.html .

Although a fantasy story, the magic in the Harry Potter books is partially based on Renaissance traditions that played an important role in the development of Western science, including alchemy, astrology, and natural philosophy. Incorporating the work of several 15th- and 16th-century thinkers, the seven-part series examines important ethical topics such as the desire for knowledge, the effects of prejudice, and the responsibility that comes with power.

Found thanks to http://www.the-leaky-cauldron.org/2008/9/24/harry-potter-display-at-national-lib rary-of-medicine .

9th Sep, 2008

Judge Patterson decides against RDR's version of HPL

Most of the reader of this blog here will probably have already read the 2008-09-08 decision in that NYC lawsuit. In my present opinion (having read the text only once, and even that only superficially) it is a rather balanced text, and it does not express any opinion seriously threatening the publication of "normal" more or less scholarly works on HP within the jurisdiction of that court - though it forbids the publication of the text this lawsuit was about.

And it has one rather important opinion: that no author has a monopoly on commentaries to her/his own works. Those who know me know that this is an aspect I really care about, as I do not believe that the author is always the best interpreter of his/her own texts (or, well, at least I myself found out that other people can and did provide valid interpretations of some of my texts which I myself would not have been able to provide).

8th Sep, 2008

Bloomsbury goes academic

The HP publishers Bloomsbury now go beyond HP, chilledres' books, belles lettres etc.: they go into academic publishing. See https://arl.org/lists/sparc-oaforum/Message/4554.html.

4th Sep, 2008

HPL at new address

The online version of the Harry Potter Lexicon by Steve Vander Ark et al. can now be accessed at http://www.hplex.org/.

31st Jul, 2008

Printing presocratic potterverse tales

Some time ago I posted about The tales of Beedle the bard being a text like some of the presocratic ones which we know only by second hand information.
Now this situation will change: There will be a second edition, this time by means of print, and with more than 7 copies: cf. http://www.jkrowling.com/textonly/en/news_view.cfm?id=107.

Up to now the The tales of Beedle the bard have drawn less attention than I'd expected. I'll not make any predictions as to whether this (more or less imminent) publication will change anything about that.
Though I'd definitely tend to say that discussing them would should be more worthwhile than discussing some NYC law suit ... .

24th Jul, 2008

Ferule & Fescue goes HP

At http://feruleandfescue.blogspot.com/2008/07/please-dont-make-me-hate-you.html#comments there are comments in the entries which demonstrate once again that early modern/renaissance studies and HP-studies are, well, somewhat akin indeed.

19th Jun, 2008

Bloomsbury's timeturner

After quite some time today I revisited Bloomsbury's ((probably) main) HP page. And there I read:

Bloomsbury is delighted to announce that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the final book in the Harry Potter series, will be published on 10th July 2008.
(bolding mine, here and below).
Clicking on the anouncement link then took me to this page, where I read:

Bloomsbury Publishing is delighted to announce that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be published in paperback priced at £8.99 on Saturday 5th July 2008. The book will be published with two covers, one for children and one for the adult market.

The only explanation which comes to my mind is that once again the Daily Prophet (with its report mentioned when the trio explains to Hagrid why they couldn't take care of magical creatures at NEWT level) has been wrong ... .
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12th Jun, 2008

Once again the Owl delivers

Viola Owlfeather (Cornelia Rémi) on 2008-05-15 updated the bibliography. (No changes to the entry for the print version of the Harry Potter Lexicon BTW.)

But i.a. there's now:

  • Brown, Karen A.: Prejudice in Harry Potter's World. College Station, Tex.: Virtualbookworm.com Publishing, 2008.
  • Bunčić, Daniel: "Hari Poter und die Gefangenen vom Westbalkan oder: Die Magie in den serbischen und kroatischen Harry-Potter-Übersetzungen." In: Tilman Berger, Biljana Golubović (Eds.): Morphologie - Mündlichkeit - Medien: Festschrift für Jochen Raecke. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač, 2008, 41-50.
  • Glanzer, Perry L.: "Harry Potter's Provocative Moral World: Is There a Place for Good and Evil in Moral Education? Moral Education and Harry Potter: Why do young readers find Harry Potter so compelling and moral education so often deadly dull?" In: Phi Delta Kappan 89:7 (2008), 525-528 (When I have time to do so: I'll probably try to get and read this one!)

9th Jun, 2008

JKR and the Classics

In her Harvard speach The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination Ms Rowling said/writes i.a.:

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

(Highlighting mine)


And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom: As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

(Highlighting again mine).

And now I'm looking for the sources of both of these quotations.
Yes, I am aware, that the first quotation quite often also is ascribed to Otto Rank (and in the German version ("Was wir innerlich erreichen, verändert die äußerliche Wirklichkeit") only to Rank, and I know that there is this website it is ascribed to Rank with a quote from Plutarch immediately above). And, yes, I am aware that the quotation ascribed to Seneca comes in several flavours, and that there seems to be some consensus that it's not just due to my stupidity that I don't succeed to find it in his works.
Anyway: I failed to find reliable and basic sources for any of these quotations.

So: what I'm looking for is any indication of any printed text where these phrases can be found in their original context. And more or less "as is": e.g. I'm not interested in any other quotations where life and comedy are compared. I'm not interested in any pointers to books where, perhaps, any of these quotes might be found.
But if you have any information ready as to where these quotations can indeed be found in their context: please let me know!
Thanks in advance!

(Finding such books might provide some knowledge about JKR's "basic library": Not finding them might permit some speculation about the genesis of her Harvard speech - but that would be far less interesting than finding out about her "basic library".)

And, yes, pointers to the Greek and/or Latin sources are almost as welcome as are pointers to the English translations she used.

26th May, 2008

Prinzi to speak on 'Quills, Queries, and Quests'

I guess in a few weeks (days?) time I'll post some a bit longer musings of mine on the type of "academic" texts to write on HPish subjects when and where, and on changes which I expect to happen over the next ca. 5 years in the way literary scholars, historians of philosophy, theologians, etc. etc. pp. qwill write about Harry Potter and the Potterverse. I guess this will change quite a lot from "catering for fans" to writing for people who perhaps didn't even read the books.
Today I found in my inbox an information concerning Convention Alley 2008 which provides information about a talk which IMO might bbe a good example that "the old way" of dealing with HP is still alive, and that it can provide us with texts which might very well worth to be read (or listened to):

Travis Prinzi will be adding two presentations to our line-up,
bringing our total of keynote presentations up to 5. Mr. Prinzi has
an M.A. in Theological Studies and is currently working on his
M.S.Ed. in Secondary English Education.


The first presentation will be:

"Quills, Queries, and Quests: Literacy Learning in the Wizarding

When the term "literacy" is used in popular discourse, it most
frequently refers simply to "the ability to read and write," and in
education, it follows that becoming "literate" involves a process of
rote repetition in order to get down basic "facts" and "skills" in
order to become "literate." Literacy, however, is far more complex
than that simple definition, and more than that, all constructions of
literacy are inherently political. This presentation examines
literacy in the Harry Potter series. Defining literacy as "changing
participation" in a sociocultural setting, we will examine Harry and
Muggleborns as outsiders to the dominant discourse; the way education
is framed by Hogwarts teachers; the "Ministry-approved, theory-
centered" curriculum of Delores Umbridge; the student subversion in
the form of Dumbledore's Army; and finally, Albus Dumbledore's
lessons with Harry as an example of an Apprenticeship model of
literacy learning.


8th May, 2008

Ohio State: English HP

Thanks to HPANA's "Dayly Prophet" I found this: Heather Dodds: English department offers Harry Potter class, which probably is about Ohio State University.

The article has some bits, which probably are true about almost all academic courses on HP in about any field:

Professor Susie Kneedler said she is very enthusiastic about the material, structuring the course to include textual analysis and a review of clips from the Potter movies.

"I'm hoping for students to look at the books from as many different angles as they wouldn't have otherwise," Kneedler said.



Cassie Chenault, a senior in English, is taking the course not only to fulfill a major requirement but because she loves the Potter books and wanted to take a fun course.

"You are only in college for four years," Chenault said. "You should take classes that are fun, not that just meet a requirement."


However, on the other side: The course is open to anyone interested in Harry Potter, even those who have not yet read the books. (my bolding).

6th May, 2008

Changes of perception and the role of the author

No, still no comments of mine on that law suit, no comments on the splits in fandom it has caused, etc. here on this blog.

But: John Granger has an (IMO) interesting posting on his blog: "How Does an Author’s Celebrity Affect Reader Response?". In this he muses that that law suit affects our ways of reading JKR's books.

As for me: I'm doubtful. For me JKR's post-DH pronouncements and additions etc. (and I'm not talking about the one related to DD, which IMO was a fair answer to a question) changed my reading: not because I was (and am) irritated by the amount of control over the ways to read the books the author wants to have/get/retain, but because these pronouncements etc. seemed to indicated something like an attempt at blurring the line between which factual information belongs into the books and which doesn't belong into the books. Of course authors have (probably) always changed their texts from manuscript to manuscript, from edition to edition. And in many cases we are facing situations where there is no "definitive" iron cast text. No problem with that. Because we still have things like e.g. "the text according to manuscript A with the changes by hand B".
But in the case of the HP books: we have the books plus the background information plus an author who sometimes gives the impression that there is no clear border and wall between the text (the books) and the background information provided by the author. And, as what we can read are texts: and as in this case we have a situation where the boundaries between what is part of the text and what is not part of it get, well, a bit blurred: to me it seems that we have use more effort than usual to keep text and commentary apart when reading the text (or the commentaries by the author on this text).
The case would be different if the commentary had been published with the text: then it would be part of the text. But that was (and is) not the way the commentaries were/are published.

So: IMO: it's not the lawsuit which alerted us to be careful how to read the books. At least for this the lawsuit is irrelevant. Which IMO is a good thing.

(BTW: I found Granger's posting thanks to davidenglish's post #69 here.)

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