* My recent presentation "When Harry Met Faërie: The Tolkien Solution to the Rowling Problem" (which is based on my article "Harry Potter is a Hobbit: Rowling, Tolkien, and the Question of Readership" and my book chapter "When Harry Met Faërie: Rowling's Hogwart's, Tolkien's Fairy-Stories, and the Question of Readership" in Hog's Head Conversations: Fantastic Essays on Harry Potter, forthcoming from Zossima Press) is now available on the latest episode of StarShipSofa: The Audio Science Fiction Magazine. You can listen to it streaming or download it here.
Here is a synopsis of the talk: Who is the proper audience for the Harry Potter series? Critics can't agree. Some say the subject matter is too dark for children, while others argue that its fantasy trappings are too immature for adults. By applying Tolkien's literary theory to "the Rowling problem," however, we discover that the problem isn't with Rowling's fiction, but instead with mainstream categories of readership. Using Rowling to illustrate Tolkien's ideas, we can answer an important question: how do we put the so-called adult reader back into the so-called children's genre?
* I am off tomorrow to one of my favorite places to participate in a scholarly colloquium on "Liberty, Individualism, and Rebellion in Westerns and Samurai Films." On the schedule for our roundtable discussions are a series of comparisons between the works of John Ford and Akira Kurosawa, specifically Fort Apache and Throne of Blood, My Darling Clementine and Yojimbo, and The Man Who Shot Libert Valance and Sanjuro, as well as two texts, Frederick Jackson Turner's essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" and the Bushido Shoshinshu. It should be a fascinating event. I should be online to a limited degree while I'm away. I look forward to catching up with everyone soon!
"He belonged to a walled city of the fifteenth century, a city of narrow, cobbled streets, and thin spires, where the inhabitants wore pointed shoes and worsted hose. His face was arresting, sensitive, medieval in some strange inexplicable way, and I was reminded of a portrait seen in a gallery I had forgotten where, of a certain Gentleman Unknown. Could one but rob him of his English tweeds, and put him in black, with lace at his throat and wrists, he would stare down at us in our new world from a long distant past — a past where men walked cloaked at night, and stood in the shadow of old doorways, a past of narrow stairways and dim dungeons, a past of whispers in the dark, of shimmering rapier blades, of silent, exquisite courtesy."
— Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca