Thursday, June 29, 2006

Thoughts on JKR

(1) Rowling said recently that two characters will die in the final Harry Potter novel. All fine and good. I want to know if any of them will come back to life.

(2) While reading Plato's Phaedrus to prepare to lead some discussions on it, I came across this passage:

For the prophetess in Delphi and the priestesses in Dodona when mad have accomplished many beautiful things for Greece both in private and in public, but little, or rather nothing, when of sound mind. And if we should speak of the Sibyl and others, who used divinely inspired prophesy to foretell in the future many things to many people and guide them aright, we would draw it [our speech] out at length, saying things that are clear to everyone. (244a-b, trans. Nichols)

Is this description not a deadringer for Trelawny? What was her first name again? Sibyl? I also wonder if Trelawny's penchant for sherry is based on her desire to lose herself in something other than herself so that she may prophesy. For she does not prophesy under her own power, but only when influenced by . . . ? What? God?

I've thought for a while now that the only thing in Harry Potter's world that is truly supernatural is prophecy. What about the magic, you say? Two things about the magic make it not so easily supernatural: it has to be learned by great study (that is why the students are at Hogwarts) and a fully developed natural science would be indistinguishable from magic. (Here I could throw in some quotation from Lewis's Abolition of Man about how magic and science both spring from the same desire, but you already know all that. But consider anyway this article describing how scientists will probably make something like Harry's invisibility cloak.)

John Granger has written a wonderful article on Harry Potter. Everyone should read it, especially critics. Among other things, the article points out in various places the tenuous nature of our understanding of the distinction between natural and supernatural. What is it to be supernatural? Is alchemy natural or not?

One thing I would add to his article is a mention of the existence of prophecy in the books. I think it is one of the clearest indicators Rowling's world is supernatural. And immersing ourselves in that world is indeed a powerful ally in helping us to live "fully human, which is to say 'spiritual,' lives" (Granger, last para.).

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