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Happy birthday to one of my favorite authors, the late, great Daphne du Maurier!

* 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


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 13th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
Any chance you could post a text version of your presentation? I'd rather read than listen to an audio presentation (sorry).

The upcoming event sounds interesting. I took a class on Ford back in college. Liberty Valance is a favorite film of mine... I love Jimmy Stewart and I know you'll understand the h/c appeal of that film, heh. Volunteering at the Egyptian tonight and will stay to see Vertigo in 70mm, by the way.
May. 13th, 2009 04:11 pm (UTC)
No problem! I don't have a separate transcript for the presentation, but 95% of what I said is here. I hope this is useful!

Oh, Vertigo! That's great stuff. I bet the Egyptian lends it even more atmosphere, as well. You're so right about the h/c in Liberty Valance. (Every time I hear that title, I think of the Gene Pitney song and it gets stuck in my head! Ha.) I quite like Victor Mature's slowly dying, oh-so-tragic, Shakespeare-quoting Doc Holliday in My Darling Clementine, too, even if Henry Fonda tunes in and out of his accent randomly throughout the film. LOL.
May. 15th, 2009 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the link to the article; I found it very interesting! A few random thoughts: 1. As a parent of two grown (intelligent, critical-thinking) children, my advice to parents is to stop censoring what their children read or see or hear and the children will self-censor themselves to what's appropriate or feels right. As a child I read quite a few books that scared the beejeebers (is that a word?) out of me, but that just taught me to be a little more careful of what I read (and not to read scary stuff at night in bed). But, seriously, those who are upset about dark content in HP - or dark/sexual/violent content in general - need to chill. That's not to say parents should let their kids sit in front of a TV or play videogames for hours and hours on end, but IMO reading is the last place a parent should be looking to censor. 2. I stopped reading the HP series partway through because I felt it lost the "through a child's eyes" aspect that was there in the earlier books. I enjoyed the HP books I read, having the "childlike" feeling that I was revisiting books I'd read in childhood, similar to how I feel when I pull an old favorite off the shelf. Without that sense, as an adult the books did not sustain my interest. 3. I see a big difference between HP and LOTR. HP is through the eyes of a child and we experience the HP universe that way. LOTR has never struck me as a children's tale.

Enjoyed Vertigo the other night although some aspects felt a bit dated. Clementine... good film. Haven't seen it in decades, however. LIberty Valance - heh, I have Gene Pitney's Greatest Hits CD. LV and also Town Without Pity. Gene!
May. 16th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading the article and for your kind and thought-provoking words

1. Oh, fantastic point! Now that you mention it, I can remember examples from my own childhood of how I self-censored my reading, either skipping over sections I somehow knew I couldn't handle, or setting aside entire works until I knew I was ready to read them. And I love your point about how books are the last place parents should be censoring children. I'd think, if anything, that challenging reading creates an opportunity for parents and children to talk together about important issues, and surely that's a good thing. Thanks for getting my gears turning in this direction.

2. I'm so sorry you didn't finish the series (though I'm glad you enjoyed the ones you read)! I think Rowling's goal was to have Harry's point of view grow with him until, by the end, his voice is truly that of an adult. The final books were my favorites, but then again, I was particularly fascinated by the Marauder generation (Black, Lupin, Snape, etc.), and the final books brought resolution and clarification to those storylines. I also enjoyed the "darkening" of the tone as well as the growing complexity of the plots and allusions.

3. I agree that Lord of the Rings isn't a children's tale, although children can get a greal deal of enjoyment out of it on one level (while missing many others, I suspect), and I'm not convinced that the Harry Potter series is any more appropriate for children than for adults. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and several other of his works (The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, etc.) expressly for children, of course, so his Middle-Earth cycle sort of runs the gamut of readership, I'd say. In the larger issue of what is "Inklings" literature, I think there's precedent for both writings meant specifically for children (The Chronicles of Narnia, for example) and for adults (Till We Have Faces, etc.), and stories that are not easily classified as either. So I think Rowling still fits the model in form as well as theme, even though I definitely agree with you that The Lord of the Rings stands apart as a very unique work.

I need to watch Vertigo again. I'm glad you enjoyed it, despite certain dated aspects (the disembodied Jimmy Stewart head, maybe?). And now you're making me crave Gene Pitney. It makes me laugh to think of how that particular song is compulsively dance friendly and sing-along-able, while its narrative is really rather serious and dark, if you think about it.
May. 26th, 2009 05:17 am (UTC)
I'm planning to read the final HP book to see the wrap-up (having read spoilers online already) and maybe I'll go back and read 5 (I think I stopped halfway through) and 6 some day. My daughter told me last week she is enjoying the books more as they grow darker and more adult. Ironically, the opposite of my experience.

Can't remember too many of the "dated" specifics of Vertigo. There is one scene where he's making over Kim Novak's appearance and the audience was laughing where no laughs were intended, for example. And the vertigo special effect is umlike "real" vertigo. Vertigo is a sensation of spinning but instead they have the landscape recede (similar to the effect in LOTR/FOTR when Frodo tells the hobbits to get off the road).

Actually, to stray off topic, I've always been intrigued by vertigo, because it's actually considered a hallucination. How fascinating! I get short/quick bouts of it from time to time when laying down in bed or getting up too fast... not really a problem (although for one short period in my life somethng was off kilter and it was really bad).
May. 13th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on another published article! I love how you so creatively cross-reference fandoms and bring that knowledge together. Have a wonderful time in Tucson! How fun to think of you a bit closer to me, even though it's not within driving distance. ;)

Thanks for the du Maurier quote; I do believe back in my youth I read Rebecca, or read part of it. I might have been too young, lol. Beautiful paragraph! So many wonderful authors out there.
May. 15th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. I'm glad to get my old article back out there in a new form, more thorough and updated. It's hard for me to believe that, when it was first came out, the last two Harry Potter books hadn't even been published!

Alas, my Tucson plans got derailed at the last possible minute. (The spirit is willing...) But there's always next time!

I think you'd really like Du Maurier's The House on the Strand. It's a fantastic book. Rebecca is always a favorite, too - I just love that passage, and I'm glad you liked it, too.
May. 13th, 2009 07:19 pm (UTC)
I hope you don't mind if I forward your presentation to a LOTR/Harry Potter friend of mine; it sounds like a fascinating discussion. The conference sounds like it'll be a blast; I'd love to hear how it Goes!
May. 15th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much - I'd be delighted if you passed it along to your friend. Thank you!

Unfortunately, I didn't make the conference as planned. Seriously disappointing. I do hope I find out how it went!
May. 13th, 2009 10:38 pm (UTC)
Where on earth do you find the time to do all the cool stuff you do?
May. 15th, 2009 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I do love my job, which makes work seem a lot like play. :) Unfortunately, my plans for this event got hijacked at the last possible minute. Very disappointing.
(Deleted comment)
May. 15th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow! I didn't. I'm so glad you passed along the link. Thank you!
May. 14th, 2009 08:28 pm (UTC)
I listened your part of the podcast! It was fascinating. Thanks for posting it.
May. 15th, 2009 08:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks a million for listening to it! I'm so happy that you found it of interest.
May. 25th, 2009 12:13 am (UTC)
Thanks for making your "When Harry Met Faerie" presentation available on the great Sofa. I think it's wonderful that you are allowing your academic work in the genre to reach a wider interested audience -- please don't stop!
May. 27th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
Oh, thank you so much for your kind words! I'm so happy that the presentation is of interest. I was thrilled that Tony was interested in it for SSS, but I think we've both been waiting to see the reaction and learn if this kind of thing works for the podcast's audience. So I'm really grateful for your feedback!
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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