Jump to content

Recommended Posts

[Obligatory note: Ayn Rand, as a stylist and a philosopher, is utterly worthless. "Breezy"?? Maybe in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sense: "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." And why the hell are people talking seriously about Libertarianism? OR NOZICK???]

 

Over the last couple of years, I've read a number of books I think I could have skipped. None more than Ian Bogost's Alien Phenomenology, which was wholly terrible and began my quick exit from the Speculative Realism/OOO fad. The second one I'll mention is one I had such high expectations for after the introduction: Mel Chen's Animacies. I really wanted to like that book, but it was as disconnected as libertarian thought is from philosophy (sorry...). 

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 254
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

What's it like to be illiterate and pursuing an English PhD?

To throw my two cents into the ring, when we studied Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Michigan, we explored and/or deconstucted:   - the trope of the Boy Hero - the duality of good and e

Not to be the diplomatic waffling person, but I think we're talking about conflicting values, not objective literary worth. Some of us will never understand each others' respective fields, but that do

[Obligatory note: Ayn Rand, as a stylist and a philosopher, is utterly worthless. "Breezy"?? Maybe in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy sense: "The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't." And why the hell are people talking seriously about Libertarianism? OR NOZICK???]

 

 

Well, on a most basic level, because it is one of the natural philosophical developments of Adam Smith's ethics, which we all live by, by the way. Onward, because it illuminates the study of the opposite side of the coin, socialism, liberalism, Keynesianism, all that. Because it has lots of implications for Game Theory. Because its logical tenets are useful for studying the controversies in utilitarianism and neoclassical economic theory, to name a couple. Because Nozick says a couple fascinating things about epistemology, which we all as scholars are implicitly interested in.

 

But aside from that, I am frankly surprised that you, as presumably a future scholar or whatever, can just dismiss a whole discourse like that. I doubt you are knowledgeable enough about libertarianism to speak about it with such aplomb, since, if you were, you would at least admit that libertarianism is founded on analytically sound axioms and does point out a couple of controversies in center-field thinking, and hence you wouldn't be like, WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS DURRRR. I am surprised that you have enough passion to spend the rest of your life studying some arbitrary and not hugely relevant literary nonsense, and yet you wouldn't endorse the study of what is, according to you, similar arbitrary and irrelevant nonsense, if not on purely aesthetic grounds, then at least on grounds of figuring out why so many people are convinced by it.

 

I'm partial to Keynes myself because, in his vision, the economist is tasked with making the transition from one economy to another easier for societies, rather than with just studying those transitions, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the relevance and complexity of arguments from the other side.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't read Beloved. Ever.

Kidding, but it's probably not a good idea to read it at Christmas, or to read five Toni Morrison books in a row, and, if you have a choice, read Song of Soloman and not Beloved.

Anything we post on here is going to be someone's favorite, so no hard feelings...right?

 

 

I understand your post isn't a hard knock at Beloved, but I have to say it: I love Beloved. I equate it to watching something like Breaking Bad. It is emotionally draining, and you can't watch too many episodes in a row (or at least I can't) because it is just too heavy. That's Beloved. It needs to be read slowly and carefully. It is gruesome and grotesque, but it also beautiful and addicting in its own way. I could go on and on about the minute complexities that make it a work of genius . . . but I won’t. With all that said, it is definitely not a book for some people – it is unabashed and raw in its portrayal of the horrors of slavery, and therefore not for the faint of heart.

 

Side note: when Beloved was assigned to me as a special project, the professor assigning it told me her own history with the novel.  She first read it upon its publication, and absolutely hated it to the point she only read half of it. At the urging of some of her colleagues (and I think a student or two as well) she finally picked up the book again about five to ten years ago . . . and instantly fell in love. She could not believe that she had hated this book the first time she read it, and felt that she probably just was not capable of fully understanding it that first attempt.

 

Not to get too cliché here, but I think that little anecdote holds an important lesson for us inspiring literary scholars – never completely turn your back on a piece of revered literature – its true beauty might unexpectedly surprise you one day. I know personally I respected The Great Gatsby, but never really enjoyed it as a book . . . that is, until the same professor from the above story explained that it should not be viewed as a novel, but as a poem disguised as a work of prose. It was with that understanding that I could finally see the beauty of The Great Gatsby

 

 

Edit - Also, I like that there was a lot of Clarissa  and Pamela shaming early in this thread. I attempted both for some research I was doing two summers ago, and couldn't get through either. Between Samuel Richardson and Eliza Haywood, it was a major snoozefest. I finally ended up writing about the works of Aphra Behn, which were fascinating in comparison to those two.

Edited by DyslexicBibliophile
Link to post
Share on other sites

exponentialdecay, on 13 March 2014 - 2:22 PM, said:

 

That said, I think that if George Eliot were never taught to read and had 12 children instead of writing Silas Marner [sic] and Daniel Deronda and shit, society would be better off.

 

This dismissal of Eliot as both author and woman is, quite frankly, disgusting.

Edited by mkumar
Link to post
Share on other sites

This dismissal of Eliot as both author and woman is, quite frankly, disgusting.

Agreed. The amount of raging sexism in that statement was gross. Essentially it boils down to, I don't like her writing so I wish she'd just chosen to stay within the oppressive gender roles of her time period.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't read Beloved. Ever.

Kidding, but it's probably not a good idea to read it at Christmas, or to read five Toni Morrison books in a row, and, if you have a choice, read Song of Soloman and not Beloved.

Anything we post on here is going to be someone's favorite, so no hard feelings...right?

 

Here's why you shouldn't read Beloved: there are three different characters with the first name Paul. Three! 

 

I'm not really into the whole obfuscation thing.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, on a most basic level, because it is one of the natural philosophical developments of Adam Smith's ethics, which we all live by, by the way. Onward, because it illuminates the study of the opposite side of the coin, socialism, liberalism, Keynesianism, all that. Because it has lots of implications for Game Theory. Because its logical tenets are useful for studying the controversies in utilitarianism and neoclassical economic theory, to name a couple. Because Nozick says a couple fascinating things about epistemology, which we all as scholars are implicitly interested in.

 

But aside from that, I am frankly surprised that you, as presumably a future scholar or whatever, can just dismiss a whole discourse like that. I doubt you are knowledgeable enough about libertarianism to speak about it with such aplomb, since, if you were, you would at least admit that libertarianism is founded on analytically sound axioms and does point out a couple of controversies in center-field thinking, and hence you wouldn't be like, WHY ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THIS DURRRR. I am surprised that you have enough passion to spend the rest of your life studying some arbitrary and not hugely relevant literary nonsense, and yet you wouldn't endorse the study of what is, according to you, similar arbitrary and irrelevant nonsense, if not on purely aesthetic grounds, then at least on grounds of figuring out why so many people are convinced by it.

 

I'm partial to Keynes myself because, in his vision, the economist is tasked with making the transition from one economy to another easier for societies, rather than with just studying those transitions, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the relevance and complexity of arguments from the other side.

 

Why, exponential, my apologies! Had I known I would elicit such a response, questioning my very personhood and interests and knowledge, I would never have so glibly compared Ayn Rand to a pile of bricks floating in the air, or written Nozick in all-caps.

 

I'll be a bit more clear and non-jokey, because Libertarianism is serious!

 

Ayn Rand: Just a terrible writer, but she doesn't deserve to be on this list, so I apologize. Future TAs and instructors should definitely read her; she's really useful for teaching writing.

 

NozickI don't want to be a bad scholar! I never meant to dismiss Nozick: I just didn't realize people still took that book seriously after the critical theory debates of the 80s when we started to realize that when white people talk about minimizing state control and "entitled liberties," a good bit of a particular reading of history is perpetuated. Or that after theories of late capital people could ever imagine Nozick's abstracted system could actually impact our economic or political realities.

 

(Just calm down sometimes? If one happens to dislike a writer, and makes a joke out of it, it may not mean s/he discounts the entire discourse! [Though with Libertarianism, I do, 'cause it's dumb] Still there is no need to make such elaborate personal comments about one's future academic career! If you are aghast to learn some proto-scholars aren't moved by what you are moved by, I can't imagine what might occur when this happens, as it does, in a classroom, even by a professor... I had a prof tell me she can't stand Wallace Stevens or understand why people read/studied him and my heart exploded, but I did not reply by telling her " I am surprised that you have enough passion to spend the rest of your life studying some arbitrary and not hugely relevant literary nonsense, and yet you wouldn't endorse the study of what is, according to you, similar arbitrary and irrelevant nonsense, if not on purely aesthetic grounds, then at least on grounds of figuring out why so many people are convinced by it.")

Edited by TDazzle
Link to post
Share on other sites

I will never understand my generation’s proclivity toward online douchery.

 

One a more topic-related note: I would recommend not reading the Divergent series. I tried and thought it was absolutely terrible. I don’t know if someone has already mentioned it, but I thought I would throw it out there. And, of course, Twilight is a given. 

 

When I read Life of Pi as a teenager, I absolutely hated it. However, we used it in a poststructuralist critical theory class when I was an undergrad and I grew to appreciate it a lot more. It’s definitely not one of my favorites though. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Luckily, I was reading this for fun so I had the option to put it down halfway through and sell it off on Amazon.

 

Oh my GOD this. I came on this thread to list this one. Just...just an awful experience.

Edited by igetstuffdunn
Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, man. Everyone in here needs to calm down! Let's get back to books not to read.....Okay, I'll start. On the Road. There, I've said it. I've read it at LEAST four times and I just don't get the allure.

Now, your turn!

 

I KNEW someone would mention Kerouac on this as well. He always elicits either love or hate in my experience. I'm on the love side of things on this one. I'd spend spend my whole literary career studying the Beats if I could.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Will I get tarred and feathered if my response is "any novel written in the 19th century"?

:ph34r:

Just kidding. I love me some Victorian hand-wringing prose. :D

As long as you don't meant Victorian! I hate American lit (minus steinbeck, hemingway, and fitzgerald...also baldwin. He is good. Yes).

Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't discount the discourse on George Eliot. I don't want to engage in it, which is fortunate, because it's not my field.

But I wouldn't call George Eliot dumb. Just poorly written and boring.

The problem wasn't with you not wanting to engage in George Eliot. I don't engage in Eliot either unless reading Lee Edelmann. The problem was you said you would rather she had had 12 kids instead of writing, which is a pretty awful thing to say about any woman and particularly one who worked so hard to escape rigid gender roles. I understand you were trying to phrase your dislike amusingly, but damning someone to being barefoot and pregnant isn't a nice way to do it.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I dislike Octavia Butler because she is an abysmal writer. Kindred was part of the curriculum for a majorlevel* course I took, and it did not belong there. She is a YA writer, which is fine, but the writing is subpar even for that world. She took a complex historial/racial/science fiction premise and made it facile. I do not, and will never, understand why so many college professors believe her work belongs at the college level.

Both Faulkner and Joyce's masterful use of language and narrative structure is what makes them as famous as they are. They only way I understand not appreciating their work is because it was not approached or taught well. I am not saying anyone is stupid or "reading it wrong," but I know that if I had not read both of these authors in the context of a classroom and with great teachers, I would not have liked or appreciated them.

*My dash key is broken argh.

 

Octavia Butler's work is not YA, except for, perhaps, Parable of the SowerXenogenesis is most definitely not YA. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

To throw my two cents into the ring, when we studied Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Michigan, we explored and/or deconstucted:

 

- the trope of the Boy Hero

- the duality of good and evil

- the banality of evil

- Neo-Medievalism and Neo-Victorianism

- Dickensian influence on Rowling's work

- parallels to true life examples of genocide and racial hatred

- questions about children's autonomy

- questions about what defines humanity and monstrosity

- the dangers of inefficient bureaucracy

- the dangers of a Draconian and biased justice system

- the dangers inherent in believing everything you read/everything adults tell you

- the dangers inherent in keeping children uninformed in order to protect them

- The Sorting and tribalism

- the nature of forgiveness

- gender

- queer narratives

- disability narratives and ableist prejudice (Remus Lupin)

- child soldier narratives

- animal symbolism

- Jungian archetypes

- Biblical symbolism

- censorship, both within the world of text itself and the real-life drama surrounding the publication of Rowling's work

- the reemergence of children's lit and YA as a powerful commercial force

- adaptation and simulacrum

- the history of children's publishing since the Edwardian period

 

I can go on and on and on and that was only for one book out of a series of seven. At this point I'm convinced that if you find nothing worth discussing when it comes to Harry Potter, you either have only seen the films (or just trailers for the films) or you're being the worst kind of canonical fanatic or both. 

 

Also, it's worth noting that when we studied Potter, everyone in the class had read it before. Everyone. In fact, during many of my classes at Michigan, Potter was often used as a touchstone to better explain themes and theories because, again, 9 out of every 10 students had read it. Explain to me how exploring the themes of one of the most widespread literary phenomena ever is not worthwhile or at least of some interest to us folks who plan on studying literature for a living.

 

Stop assuming everything popular is inferior. Stop assuming works written for younger audiences are inferior. You want to bash Twilight? Fine. But don't do it because it's a YA novel. Do it because it's an irredeemably bad YA novel.

Edited by chaucerettescs
Link to post
Share on other sites

To throw my two cents into the ring, when we studied Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Michigan, we explored and/or deconstucted:

 

- the trope of the Boy Hero

- the duality of good and evil

- the banality of evil

- Neo-Medievalism and Neo-Victorianism

- Dickensian influence on Rowling's work

- parallels to true life examples of genocide and racial hatred

- questions about children's autonomy

- questions about what defines humanity and monstrosity

- the dangers of inefficient bureaucracy

- the dangers of a Draconian and biased justice system

- the dangers inherent in believing everything you read/everything adults tell you

- the dangers inherent in keeping children uninformed in order to protect them

- The Sorting and tribalism

- the nature of forgiveness

- gender

- queer narratives

- disability narratives and ableist prejudice (Remus Lupin)

- child soldier narratives

- animal symbolism

- Jungian archetypes

- Biblical symbolism

- censorship, both within the world of text itself and the real-life drama surrounding the publication of Rowling's work

- the reemergence of children's lit and YA as a powerful commercial force

- adaptation and simulacrum

- the history of children's publishing since the Edwardian period

 

I can go on and on and on and that was only for one book out of a series of seven. At this point I'm convinced that if you find nothing worth discussing when it comes to Harry Potter, you either have only seen the films (or just trailers for the films) or you're being the worst kind of canonical fanatic or both. 

 

Also, it's worth noting that when we studied Potter, everyone in the class had read it before. Everyone. In fact, during many of my classes at Michigan, Potter was often used as a touchstone to better explain themes and theories because, again, 9 out of every 10 students had read it. Explain to me how exploring the themes of one of the most widespread literary phenomena ever is not worthwhile or at least of some interest to us folks who plan on studying literature for a living.

 

Stop assuming everything popular is inferior. Stop assuming works written for younger audiences are inferior. You want to bash Twilight? Fine. But don't it because it's a YA novel. Do it because it's an irredeemably bad YA novel.

*drop mic

"boom"

Link to post
Share on other sites

One can't help but notice that this list does not reference anything that might be thought of as a "literary" quality or merit.

 

Is it possible for a work of literature to have value where the words themselves have none?

 

---Yes, I read a hundred pages.

Link to post
Share on other sites

One can't help but notice that this list does not reference anything that might be thought of as a "literary" quality or merit.

 

Is it possible for a work of literature to have value where the words themselves have none?

 

---Yes, I read a hundred pages.

 

We'll have to agree to disagree on what defines "literary" merit, as I found the lectures and discussions on each of the bullets in that list to have plenty of both intellectual and literary merit. 

 

The literary merit of the series admittedly isn't found in Rowling's prose (which is not stellar, but is not as bad as everyone seems determined to make it out to be), but in the series' themes, characters, and the maturity with which the series (especially from Book 3 onwards) handles topics like war, personal autonomy, and racism.

 

It has literary merit in that both expands on and plays with tropes, imagery, and themes from Dickens, Carroll, and centuries of folklore. Rowling may not have fabulous prose, but she isn't a bad storyteller. She knows her folklore, she knows her children's lit, she understands fantasy. She understands form. Does she make mistakes? Holy shit, yes, and those failings are worth discussion, too, if not more so.

 

The series has literary merit in that it doesn't talk down to it's young audience, which is something that is far too frequent in a lot of children's literature and YA since the 1980s. It has literary merit in that it has ignited many discussions about both the censorship of literature and the representation of women, the LGBT community, and disabled community in popular fiction, something that does tie into the form and language of the work, not just its characterizations, as something as subtle as poor word choice can easily make positive representations fall apart.

 

I don't separate any of this from the series' literary merit and am puzzled about where you're drawing the line between literary merit and value. Is it form? Because I don't see how many of the things I mentioned in my list aren't inextricably linked to form.

 

It's a 4100 page series. You read 100 pages. That's less than a third of the first book and less than 2.5% of the full series. You are certainly entitled to your opinion if you didn't like those 100 pages, but that doesn't mean the series is without literary merit. 

 

I'm not trying to be snarky, but this distinction between value and merit bewilders the hell out of me.

Edited by chaucerettescs
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Stop assuming everything popular is inferior. Stop assuming works written for younger audiences are inferior. You want to bash Twilight? Fine. But don't do it because it's a YA novel. Do it because it's an irredeemably bad YA novel.

 

 

THIS. RIGHT. HERE.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I have to say that I agree with much of what you've said.

 

She's a very effective storyteller.  Rather than stepping back and providing background in more or less prosaic terms, she has the ability to start and keep every chapter in the action, providing details along the way in a manner that fully catches the reader up without ever interrupting the story's advance.  The pages turn themselves.  This is hard to do, and she seems to do it effortlessly.

 

There is also no mistaking her commitment to the range of ideas expressed, and I wouldn't begin to disagree about their merits or importance.  And she has the rare ability to express ideas in a popular form, accessible to everyone.

 

I just found nothing of particular interest in the prose or in the form.  She seems to view the novel as a congenial delivery mechanism for her ideas, the words as mere instrumentalities.  Each chapter has a set of ideas she wants to convey, and once they have been, the chapter ends, and she moves on to the next chapter's ideas.  The work is a contribution to the history and discussion of ideas, but my question is whether there is anything specifically literary about this.  

 

The same ideas can equally well have been raised in many other forms (magazine articles; letters to the editor; cocktail party conversation; documentary films; scholarly symposia).  We would normally classify the ideas as primarily of sociological or political or anthropological or philosophical interest.  It seems more or less accidental that here they take the outward form of a novel, other than the fact that this form, in her hands, is a lot more interesting to a far broader audience.

 

IMO specifically literary merit, value and interest lies in the way a writer uses words and raises ideas in a way that simultaneously explores and questions the possibility of the form of writing itself.  ideally, there is no separation of the form from the content; this particular work can only have found expression in the particular form it took; the best writing has a trajectory that aims at something beyond ideas, themes, etc.  ---This perspective is sometimes referred to as "modernism," but I would argue that it applies to great writing of (all) other eras as well.

 

This is likewise true of other arts.  For example, a jazz piece may begin with a theme, but the interest in the music, and of the musician, is in exploring the possibilities of music that arise out of the theme, seeking through changes the perfect "blue" note, the seemingly "wrong" or out of place note that is nonetheless right.  This becomes the perspective from which the rest of the piece is then understood, in purely musical terms, transcending its starting place in the theme, ultimately communicating something more than could otherwise have been found in the theme alone.

 

Others may, of course, have other viewpoints.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I have to say that I agree with much of what you've said.

 

She's a very effective storyteller.  Rather than stepping back and providing background in more or less prosaic terms, she has the ability to start and keep every chapter in the action, providing details along the way in a manner that fully catches the reader up without ever interrupting the story's advance.  The pages turn themselves.  This is hard to do, and she seems to do it effortlessly.

 

There is also no mistaking her commitment to the range of ideas expressed, and I wouldn't begin to disagree about their merits or importance.  And she has the rare ability to express ideas in a popular form, accessible to everyone.

 

I just found nothing of particular interest in the prose or in the form.  She seems to view the novel as a congenial delivery mechanism for her ideas, the words as mere instrumentalities.  Each chapter has a set of ideas she wants to convey, and once they have been, the chapter ends, and she moves on to the next chapter's ideas.  The work is a contribution to the history and discussion of ideas, but my question is whether there is anything specifically literary about this.  

 

The same ideas can equally well have been raised in many other forms (magazine articles; letters to the editor; cocktail party conversation; documentary films; scholarly symposia).  We would normally classify the ideas as primarily of sociological or political or anthropological or philosophical interest.  It seems more or less accidental that here they take the outward form of a novel, other than the fact that this form, in her hands, is a lot more interesting to a far broader audience.

 

IMO specifically literary merit, value and interest lies in the way a writer uses words and raises ideas in a way that simultaneously explores and questions the possibility of the form of writing itself.  ideally, there is no separation of the form from the content; this particular work can only have found expression in the particular form it took; the best writing has a trajectory that aims at something beyond ideas, themes, etc.  ---This perspective is sometimes referred to as "modernism," but I would argue that it applies to great writing of (all) other eras as well.

 

This is likewise true of other arts.  For example, a jazz piece may begin with a theme, but the interest in the music, and of the musician, is in exploring the possibilities of music that arise out of the theme, seeking through changes the perfect "blue" note, the seemingly "wrong" or out of place note that is nonetheless right.  This becomes the perspective from which the rest of the piece is then understood, in purely musical terms, transcending its starting place in the theme, ultimately communicating something more than could otherwise have been found in the theme alone.

 

Others may, of course, have other viewpoints.

 

I think that's a solid perspective, it just isn't one I subscribe to. Form and prose matter, but, to me, they are not all that matter and certainly not the ultimate gauge of literary merit.

 

Yes, the ideas in the books could have been presented in another form, but they weren't. They were presented in a novel. Rowling chose to present them to a broad audience (and to a young audience) in the form of fiction and that choice makes 

 

Novels are used as vehicles for ideas and to discuss the Novel while stripping it of that function is strange to me, especially when novels are one of the most effective means of delivering ideas because of the exercise in empathy that they present to the reader. To me, a discussion of literature is not complete without taking all of literature's functions into consideration. Transmission of ideas is still one of the main reasons why writers write and readers read and is, to me, every bit as important as form and art for the sake of itself.

 

"IMO specifically literary merit, value and interest lies in the way a writer uses words and raises ideas in a way that simultaneously explores and questions the possibility of the form of writing itself."

 

See, but, to me, Rowling does do this. She loves playing with the limitations of the form. One of the most obvious examples I can think of her choice to stick with a single third person perspective (Harry) throughout nearly the entire duration of a series filled with hundreds of characters. The limitations of Harry's perspective (and thus our perspective as readers) work to her advantage when it comes to plotting, but, more importantly, play a major role in the text and often serve to reinforce many of themes threaded through the series. 
 
Example: one of the messages in the series that I noted above is "the are dangers inherent in keeping children ignorant in order to protect them". Many adults in the series lie to Harry and/or keep him uninformed of the danger unfolding around him in order to protect him. Because we, the reader, know only what Harry knows, we are also kept in the dark. When Harry's ignorance has disastrous consequences, it's a gut punch for the reader because chances are we, given our limited perspective, have jumped to many of the same conclusions that Harry has. We make the same mistakes. When Harry realizes he's been lied to, the reader feels equally betrayed because we have also been lied to - not just by the characters, but by the form of the novel itself. The limited third person perspective gives the message about lying to children much more impact because it provokes an emotional response out of us. It makes us live through that injustice and hypocrisy ourselves, even if only in a small way. 
 
The same applies for many of the other themes of the work. The way the series handles prejudice is especially tied up in the limited perspective. The series deals with prejudice both explicitly and implicitly. We see the world through Harry's sometimes prejudiced perspective and, more often than not, discover in the end that he was wrong, forcing the reader to 1) face up to their own prejudices and expectations (because, again, readers often finds themselves siding with Harry), 2) points out the insufficiency of any one single perspective on any situation, which 3) points out the limitations of a single perspective in a work of fiction, and 4) reinforces the series' explicit messages about prejudice. 
 
And when you take into consideration that one of the most major themes of the work is the encouragement of children's skepticism, the fact that characters/the text regularly withhold crucial information from Harry/the reader only to reveal it later is pretty damn smart.
 
If Rowling had chosen an omniscient narrator or alternating POVs, not only would the structure of the series be very different, but many of its themes would not be as impactful. Rowling choice of a limited third person POV is ostensibly a simple one, but it is a literary one. 
 
And I could literally rant and ramble about all the ways form and content do mesh in these books, but that's just going to end up being unpleasant for everyone involved because I just.have.so.many.feelings.
Edited by chaucerettescs
Link to post
Share on other sites

Whoops, part of that entry got deleted. Don't know why GC won't let me edit.

 

Meant to say: "Rowling chose to present them [her ideas] to a broad audience (and to a young audience) in the form of fiction and that choice to use the form of fiction as a vehicle for her ideas automatically makes this matter a literary one for me. The conscious decision to convey ideas through fiction is always a literary decision."

Link to post
Share on other sites

To throw my two cents into the ring, when we studied Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban at Michigan, we explored and/or deconstucted:

 

- the trope of the Boy Hero

- the duality of good and evil

- the banality of evil

- Neo-Medievalism and Neo-Victorianism

- Dickensian influence on Rowling's work

- parallels to true life examples of genocide and racial hatred

- questions about children's autonomy

- questions about what defines humanity and monstrosity

- the dangers of inefficient bureaucracy

- the dangers of a Draconian and biased justice system

- the dangers inherent in believing everything you read/everything adults tell you

- the dangers inherent in keeping children uninformed in order to protect them

- The Sorting and tribalism

- the nature of forgiveness

- gender

- queer narratives

- disability narratives and ableist prejudice (Remus Lupin)

- child soldier narratives

- animal symbolism

- Jungian archetypes

- Biblical symbolism

- censorship, both within the world of text itself and the real-life drama surrounding the publication of Rowling's work

- the reemergence of children's lit and YA as a powerful commercial force

- adaptation and simulacrum

- the history of children's publishing since the Edwardian period

 

I can go on and on and on and that was only for one book out of a series of seven. At this point I'm convinced that if you find nothing worth discussing when it comes to Harry Potter, you either have only seen the films (or just trailers for the films) or you're being the worst kind of canonical fanatic or both. 

 

Also, it's worth noting that when we studied Potter, everyone in the class had read it before. Everyone. In fact, during many of my classes at Michigan, Potter was often used as a touchstone to better explain themes and theories because, again, 9 out of every 10 students had read it. Explain to me how exploring the themes of one of the most widespread literary phenomena ever is not worthwhile or at least of some interest to us folks who plan on studying literature for a living.

 

Stop assuming everything popular is inferior. Stop assuming works written for younger audiences are inferior. You want to bash Twilight? Fine. But don't do it because it's a YA novel. Do it because it's an irredeemably bad YA novel.

 

Thread. Over.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now



×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.