(8/3/04 2:04 pm)
Be careful: People may think you're a cakesniffing goathuggerphobe.
I found this article today, not your average goathuggerphobic article. There is some sense in it. I like the whole concept of light-twilight-darkness the author proposes.
(8/3/04 3:14 pm)
Re: Some Potterbashing|
Impressionable child readers, who whether they like it or not, are Muggles, may get confused and tempted to relinquishing touch with reality or normality by closing themselves in, in their minds, in an unreal, illusionary magical world. The boundary between the Muggle world and the Magical world is so fluid, that the child reader may believe that she could move in and out of these worlds with the same ease as Harry. The result of all this might lead to alienation from reality, a reality which could become increasingly difficult to cope with. We are in danger of producing a whole generation of useless dreamers, unfit to function in today’s world.
Let me relinquish my scholarly side to respond by saying: "Puh-leeze." As an impressionable child reader, I read almost nothing but fantasy. All kinds of fantasy: fairy tales, good fantasy, crap fantasy. And yet, surrounded as I was by the real world, I had no problem figuring out what was real and what was not, or at least no more trouble than anyone else. I wanted to go through a secret door and end up in a magical land, but day-to-day experience confirmed that this was not going to happen. Has the writer studied psychology at all? Losing touch with reality has to do with individual psychopathology, not reading.
(8/3/04 10:44 pm)
Re: Some Potterbashing|
Couldn't agree more. Having said that, people have been trying to blame fantasy for a role in people's losing of reality for some time--anyone remember the Dungeons and Dragons issue several years back? I had relatives who didn't even want my little brother and I to watch the cartoon version. So this sort of thinking is not only maddening and ridiculous, but hugely un-original. Silly people.
(8/4/04 8:11 am)
Re: Some Potterbashing|
Oh, I do remember that! Thank goodness my parents thought all that was nonsense. I would like to see similar arguments made against Santa Claus: "Impressionable children could be encouraged to think that the laws of physics can be suspended to allow a fat man to fit down a chimney unharmed, as well as to visit all Christian homes in one night. Thus they will lose their ability to understand science and lose touch with the real world, preferring to spend their time in the fantasy of a stranger who brings them toys."
(8/4/04 11:22 am)
Potterbashing and "REALITY"|
Of course, this is complete nonsense. I remember that parents were scared that children would jump off buildings after watching Superman. Children have a good sense of what is real and what is not.
Or do they? Do adults for that matter? Who defines what is "real"? Is your religious experience real or fantasy? If you don't believe it is real, what is the point?
Here are some real facts:
-For millenia people believed in antropomorphic gods that were more
like soap opera characters than masters of the universe. For us
this is pure fantasy and escapism. Or is it? Have a look at this:
-Fairies are, of course, pure fantasy. Yet the master of reason,
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle staked his reputation on the fairy photographs
of two girls: www.chriswillis.freeserve...ttfair.htm
There are people on this list who believe in the reality of fairies! (and not as some jungian psychological thingamabob)
-UFO's are the fodder of science fiction authors. No one really
believes in them: www.ufoabduction.com/
-The idea that the creator of the world could become a man to reconcile the world with him is completely outrageous. Yet the Bible still remains the world's bestselling book of non fiction.
" Losing touch with reality has to do with individual psychopathology, not reading."
Russian people who believed in something (in this case God) were thrown into psychiatric institutions because the goverment held exactly this view. And according to them god was not part of reality.
So my question is: Who has the responsibility to define reality? Are people who live in a different reality suffering from some psycopathological condition? Should they be treated?
Here is another fact: Harry Potter creates interest in Wicca: www.hpana.com/news.17528.html
Wether this is a good or bad thing depends on your version of reality.
(8/4/04 11:58 am)
Re: Potterbashing and "REALITY"|
One of the tenets of psychiatry is that a trait is not a pathology unless it severely hampers the individual's happines and functioning in everyday life or makes him or her a danger to him/herself or others. Most people suffering from psychosis--having lost grip on reality--are doing just that: suffering. If an individual is happy, no danger to anyone including him or herself, and able to function well in the world, they would not even come to the attention of a psychiatrist, much less be diagnosed as mentally ill. Clearly Stalinist "psychologists" were not operating in good faith as regards their diagnoses.
People who believe in fairies or in the Christian God have not, by and large and except in extreme cases, lost the ability to understand and function in the world around them, which is what this author is positing the effect of the Harry Potter books may be. Reading fantasy does not have that effect either.
It's not a question of who or what defines reality. It's a question of whether reading fantasy has a deleterious effect on a person's ability to understand reality. Which is why I said of myself that I have no more trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality than anyone else.
Edited to add that I actually know someone who as a child jumped off a building in order to try and fly like Superman. It didn't work. The point isn't that kids don't do stupid things. The point is that this author is suggesting that kids will be so upset by the idea of being muggles that they will actually become psychotic, that they may lose "touch with reality or normality by closing themselves in, in their minds, in an unreal, illusionary magical world....The result of all this might lead to alienation from reality, a reality which could become increasingly difficult to cope with. We are in danger of producing a whole generation of useless dreamers, unfit to function in today’s world." That's quite a leap from "kids might wish they were wizards." My friend is fine, has a master's degree and job offers from many hardheaded corporations.
And a year or so after he tried to jump off the roof? He broke his foot by dropping a cinder block on it. Why? Because he wanted to see if he could kick it like a soccer ball. Does that mean soccer is a dangerous influence on children? No. It means that kids have lousy judgment and need adult supervision. That's not the same as "Harry Potter will ruin children for life!" nonsense.
Edited by: Veronica Schanoes at: 8/4/04 12:10 pm
(8/4/04 1:15 pm)
"The result of all this might lead to alienation from reality, a reality which could become increasingly difficult to cope with. We are in danger of producing a whole generation of useless dreamers, unfit to function in today’s world."
This is a statement rooted in this person's reality. For about eight years (1982 to 1990 when I got married) I spent more time in the Dungeons and Dragons universe than in the real world. I only surfaced to study, (eg memorising half of the "Baby" DSM 3 for psych finals). As far as this lady is concerned I would be a "useless dreamer, unfit to function". As far as I am concerned it was one of the best times of my life, and one of the results of that time is my first book that was published two weeks ago. I think CS Lewis would put this woman in the same category as the infamous authors of the Green Book in the "Abolition of man".
When I first posted the link to this article, it was not because of this specific paragraph, but because I found her interpretation of the hero's journey in HP interesting.
I do agree with her on this point: Reading can have a profound effect on worldview, especially in young adults. (Most people choose their religious affinities in their late teens or early twenties). Reading fantasy can have an even greater effect on worldview, since the metaphysics is in your face. Of my friends in the Dungeons and Dragons group one became a Christian, and when I asked him about it, he said D&D "made him think about stuff". Of the other people at least two became/were heavily involved in the occult. Was it because of the fantasy? I don't know. But it sure makes for a good anecdote.
The worldview battle is fought fiercely on the fantasy front: CS
Lewis wrote Narnia
to promote the Christian worldview. Philip Pullman launches a rabid
attack on Christianity in his Magnum
Opus. Homosexual angels? It resonates of the child molesting
scandal in the Catholic Church. But Pullman aims wide: In his world
the Pope is John Calvin. All of Christianity is evil. GP Taylor
with one aim: To present a Christian alternative to the likes of
I do not believe Rowling is a preacher like Pullman or Lewis. But I think she wandered into a battlefield and was bound to get some flak.
"It's a question of whether reading fantasy has a deleterious effect on a person's ability to understand reality."
I completely agree with you, otherwise I would not be a fantasy maniac. Fantasy does not limit our ability to understand reality.
But it can have a profound effect on our definition of reality.
"Which is why I said of myself that I have no more trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality than anyone else"
Your fantasy may be my reality, and vice versa. What are you distinguishing from what?
(8/4/04 2:09 pm)
Of course reading can have a profound effect on worldview. So can watching TV, or going to the movies, or gardening, or any other of the numerous activities people engage in for recreation. I would never argue against that statement. I am arguing against the simplistic, one-to-one effect that this author seems to assuming. Fantasy makes you think about things; so do mystery novels; so does most art.
As for that statement being rooted in that person's reality, all I can say is that like specious textual readings, I don't see any evidence for that statement besides the phrase "impressionable children." Evidence? Do children raised on fantasy turn out to be useless? What, then, is constituting the genre of fantasy? Any evidence at all for that connection? Hence it is completely unconvincing and I will mock it in my spare time. It may be rooted in that person's reality, but so what?
The part of my statement I should be emphasizing is that I have
no more difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy than
anybody else. Not that I have no trouble at all, but that my
trouble is no greater than the next functional, happy person's.
(8/5/04 6:57 am)
I think I agree completely with your last post.
I would like to add: I don't think I am more useless than anybody else!
(8/5/04 7:28 am)
Re: I agree|
This conversation reminds me of Bruno Bettleheim's The
Uses of Enchantment. The book has been somewhat discredited
in the years since its original publication because Bettleheim's
interpretations of fairy tales were so narrow, and lacked an understanding
of the history of the tales; but I'm reminded that what was important
about the book -- and which he still deserves to be commended for
-- was that it was a rousing defense of the value of fantasy for
children, during a time when fairy tales, fantasy, etc. were widely
considered to be harmful for children's tender minds. Books, many
educators insisted at the time, should prepare children for the
real world, not Never-never Land. And Bettleheim argued that fairy
tales did prepare children for the real world.
One theory he had was that it might actually be harmful to children to deprive them of fantasy, wonder, and magical flights of the imagination. He theorized that some of the young adults who sought magic and wonder through drugs or extreme religious cults may have been prematurely deprived of wonder and fantasy in their childhoods.
Bettleheim's book was enormous influential in its day, and caused a real shift in the thinking of many educators, psychologists, and therapists about fairy tales in particular, fantasy in general.
The "fantasy is bad for kids" argument is an old one, however. It also raged during the Victorian era, during the years when the children's book industry, as we know it, first came into being, and when fairy tales and fantasy were proving enormously popular with young readers. In my view, the anti-Harry-Potter crowd could use a little historical perspective.
Edited by: Terri Windling at: 8/5/04 7:34 am
(8/5/04 3:17 pm)
Wow, you get away for a few days, and everyone keeps chatting about
interesting stuff without you...sheesh. Anyway... to Erica: It's
funny you mention recommending books to library patrons; I, too,
am beginning school to gain a library science degree. As a librarian,
I hope to encourage subversive reading habits.(smile) And you are
entirely correct that as a librarian, one has an enormous responsibility
to the patrons to guide them appropriately. I guess I regard my
opinions highly because I've been a reader of fantasy, in all its
forms, for many years. I think my vast exposure to material, good,
bad, and ugly, gives me a strong platform to expound from. To Veronica:
Yes, I would love to sit in one of your classes. It seems to me
that you would be demanding, but fair. Plus, I would probably learn
something. And I'm a woman, by the way. And now on to the fascinating
idea that fantasy reading makes one crazy... which is, of course,
what all those muckety mucks who don't like it would have the rest
of the world believe. I was a young teenager during the "D&D
will make your kids suicidal" craze. My friends who played,
all guys, and I thought this was utter rubbish. Our theory was that
you already had to be pretty flaky if a poor turn of events in a
game made you kill yourself. And people teetering on that kind of
edge didn't need much of a push to do something drastic. As an adult,
I don't think we were too far off the mark. People who seek fantasy
because they already feel alienated from "reality" have
other problems. To put it another way, fantasy merely provides a
backdrop to their already flawed thinking- it doesn't create the
flaw. Saying the fantasy element made them do anything is like saying
the neighbor's dog really talked to Son of Sam. Just because he
used the dog as an excuse doesn't actually mean the dog is responsible.
As a lover of fantasy and science fiction, I take it as a personal
affront when anyone tries to "prove" that this kind of
work is inherently evil or bad for children. My friends and I groaned
when the Harry Potter books were greeted with such animosity by
the religious right. I live in the South, and sometimes I think
we have far more than our fair share of Christian zealots ready
to protect the innocent from Satan. It is their choice to restrict
their own kids reading material, but they seldom seem content to
do only that. It appears they also want to save me from myself,
and that's offensive. I've been told many times that my reading
choices will send me to hell. That what I read jeopardizes my immortal
soul. They're entitled to their opinions, so I don't worry too much.
From my perspective, fantasy saved my soul. I had a rough go of
it as a child and teenager; I needed good things to believe in,
because there weren't any in my reality. Fantasy provided a desperately
necessary faith that perseverence paid off in the end, no matter
how long or difficult the road. I think it's easier to confront
the truly monstrous in metaphor; easier and safer to slay the dragon
on paper than the one that lives with you. Terri Windling wrote
a stunningly intimate afterword in The Armless Maiden about her
childhood. I felt she addressed the subtle power of belief, the
power of fantasy to aid young people who have no power yet, to give
them hope. I felt like she was writing about me, she WAS writing
about me; it doesn't matter that she was also writing about herself.
I think she did the best job of conveying to the uninitiated the
hope that lives in all great works of fantasy; how the human spirit
can derive sustenance from the stangest places. The pity of it is
that she was preaching to the choir- the people who already believe
don't need to be told again, and the people who could perhaps learn
something from what she said...well, where are they going to see
it? I wish that more people were willing to try to see. Instead
of decrying the horrible effects of fantasy, I wish they could know
what I know. That too much stark raving reality is much more likely
to drive a child crazy than fantasy stories ever could.
(8/5/04 6:50 pm)
Re: functional fantasy|
I agree with everything you just wrote, redtriskell!
Especially with the admiration for Terri's essay in The
Armless Maiden. I was so moved by the story, and by your
bravery and strength in writing and publishing it, Terri.
(8/6/04 8:02 am)
Re: functional fantasy|
Redtriskell and Veronica, thank you. It was, and is, somewhat embarrassing
to have published something as intimate as that essay in The
Armless Maiden. I published it because, as an activist
in the cause of protecting children, I felt it was important to
be upfront and speak the truth (Adrienne Rich once said: "When
a woman speaks the truth, she makes room for more truth around her")
-- yet I'm also a fairly private person, so it wasn't an easy thing
to do. I've written a couple of essays since--like the one in Kate's
Mirror--that touch on the same theme, but are a bit more...circumspect.
Maiden essay was pretty raw and up front by comparison.
I confess it was almost a relief when the book eventually went out
of print. So thank you for reminding me that the book and the essay
had an audience who appreciated it. That's always really good to
(8/6/04 11:22 pm)
to Terri Windling about gratitude|
I hesitate to say too much for fear of sounding like a sycophant,
but I was profoundly touched by that essay. It was proof (that I
didn't really need) to me that there is significant power in truthful
words. I know how dark the woods can be, so to speak, and I learned
early on that words posessed the power to banish the darkness. It's
why I started writing. I still write because it still gets really
dark sometimes. The deep truths of fantasy, the ones hidden underneath
the story, were the things I found along the road out of hell to
keep me sane. They were charms, if you will, against the monster
lurking around the corner. I cried when I read your essay; it was
so eloquent. And, yes, raw. I think sometimes we, as a society,
could do with a little more raw. The news is sanitized to such a
degree that most people cannot or will not relate the horrors to
actual people. Your essay (which seems too small a word to quantify
what you shared) made it impossible to remain detached. I think
this is the most important function of an author- to speak truth,
no matter how difficult, in order to shake the complacent. Fantasy
fiction, in its broadest definition, is the best format for rattling
the cage because the author can disguise the truth as just a story.
Like all the stories in The
Armless Maiden appeared to be fairy tale adaptations, but they
were really huge truths- truths too big to be confronted straight
on. One had to sidle up to those tales and read them with one eye
shut so as not to be completely blown away. I cherish that book-
I suggest it to everyone I talk to about books, stories, writing,
etc. As I said in the beginning, I don't want to sound gushy, so
I'll close now. I'm grateful for the chance to tell you how much
your bravery with the pen means to me. I hope to become so brave
(8/7/04 1:48 am)
Re: to Terri Windling about gratitude|
When I first read Terri's essay (in manuscript) I was stunned, moved, wept buckets. I told her so. One needn't have suffered as she and others here have suffered, to be moved to tears by what she wrote. It was a powerful reaffirmation of life, not a poor-me piece of writing.
(8/10/04 6:37 am)
Back to school...|
My most recent favourite school for witches is in Terry Pratchett's
Free Men": close your eyes, open your eyes, and then open
I'm happy to see kids reading Potter (or anything) although I have _my_ doubts about adults who read Rowling for pleasure (waits for hate mail...). I read the first three Potters out of curiosity and then the next two for work <sigh> and azkerthingummy is Rowling's best so far IMO (i.e. just above average).
Apart from Rowling's inventiveness (especially of consumer items and things-for-boys-to-make-lists-about) I personally can't see anything particularly entertaining or edifying about the stories. Each to their own however. I'm glad many readers enjoy them.
I'll duck the already well discussed cultural analyses of Potter (whether of Potter/Rowling's culture, diacultures, or idioculture) except to say that I see these stories very much in terms of English/Scottish boarding school literature (which I don't recall anyone analysing yet?).
For example: am I the only person who's noticed a hem, hem similarity between the toad-faced Dolores Umbridge "hem, hem" in Potter 5/Phoenix and the squished-tomato faced nigel molesworth esq. the curs of st. custurd's "hem, hem"?
Links for the uninitiated...
Down With Skool:
n. molesworth esq. meets Hogwarts:
Although perhaps molesworth is straying too far from this board's
fairy tale remit?
Edited by: Black Sheep at: 8/10/04 7:47 am
(8/10/04 3:57 pm)
Re: Back to school...|
Well, doubt all you want, of course. I feel compelled to add (and please don't consider this hate mail) that there are far worse things for adults to read for fun than HPs. I'm also curious as to why you have said doubts--do you think that adults who read children's lit are indulging in regression, or are you mainly doubtful because of how you perceive the quality of the books?
Redtriskell, welcome to the wild and wacky world of librarianship and good luck in upcoming classes! It's a great place to be if you're a bookworm. And thanks for your recent comments. They hit home, and Terri's essay is indeed wonderful.
(8/10/04 8:57 pm)
Re: Back to school...|
I agree the books are firmly in that boarding school tradition, and perhaps the reason they are so popular is because school is an experience common to just about everybody. They can be read as an entertaining take on how school could be sooo much more fun, as well as the familiar horrors (mean teachers, punishments etc.)
I do think that making HP a boarding school series has put some tough limits around the books tho. For most of them, the actual plot could be resolved in a couple of weeks, but she has to make it stretch over a year ... doesn't really work.
Looking forward to cheking out that Moleworth link!
(8/11/04 3:38 am)
Re: Back to school...|
The HP books may be firmly in the boarding school tradition, but name one bs book in which the kids are routinely being killed or tortured or badly hurt and the teachers/head of school keep the bloody place open. Instead of sending them all home to be safe while the adults sort things out.
I mean there are trolls and murderous wizards etc. on the loose and Dumbledore--who is meant to be such a good leader--keeps the children there?
Give me a break!
Or at least a scene where the teachers get together and say, "If we do not keep the children here, Voldemort will have at them one at a time in their unprotected homes." Or some such.
(8/11/04 8:17 am)
Re: Back to school...|
I know! What I find amazing is that apparently none of the kids ever mentions this sort of thing to their parents, either, because parents never arrive to pull their kids out of school!
Ah, well, it's all for the sake of an interesting story.