22 July 2011

"Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic."

Harry Potter & Deathly Hallows Part 2DMP and I went today to see Harry Potter:  The Deadly Hallows, Part 2.  We read/loved/lived the books and were very pleased with the movies.  To quote DMP:  DHpt1 was  "confusing, meandering, dark and just really not a very good movie but I thought the same thing about the first part of the  book."  This final episode redeemed Part 1 and was a very satisfying conclusion to the story.  In some ways, Part 2 wins the rare accolade:  It was better than the book. 

It's always interesting to see the changes that are made in going from print to screen. Spoiler alert here:  perhaps my favorite moment in the movie is when Neville Longbottom pulls out the sword of Gryffindor and the movie gave that bit a much better heroic frame than the book.  But then, the actor who played Neville has developed quite satisfactorily; at least in my view.  I have an ingrained attraction to the nerd as romantic lead.   
I also thought the conversation at King's Cross was better in the movie than the book and I wonder if Rowling didn't write it with the movie visuals in mind. My favorite line from the movie--"Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic."--do not appear in the book; at least not that I remember and I didn't find them when I re-read that last couple of chapters of the book.
 A similar line from the book (page 209):  "And his knowledge is incomplete...  That which Valdemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend.  Of house-elves and children's tales, of love, loyalty, and innoncence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing.  Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he has never grasped."

The Collected Works of Frances Hodgson Burnett: 35 Books and Short Stories in One Volume (Unexpurgated Edition) (Halcyon Classics)That reference to "children's tales" is a good point to turn this blog to the final installment of ChLA 2011.  Since it relates to the movie I'll begin with Friday's session on Reading, Education, and Girl's Development.  Caroline McAlister presented a paper on "Bookworm as Heroine from Frances Hodgson Burnett to J.K. Rowling."  McAlister cited Shakespeare's McBeth:  "a woman's story at a winter's fire, authorized by her granddam."  She discussed a Burnett heroine: "if reading is the source of her isolation, it is also her way back into the public world."  She traces an arc from the "passive habit of reading" which leads to empathy which leads to active citizenship, a sympathetic responsiveness to others.  She explains this as "the training of the imagination."  This arc is in fact the goal of all didactic writers whether Harriet Beecher Stower, C. S. Lewis, George McDonald, or my dearly beloved Evelyn Whitaker.

Hermione Granger is another example of one whose passive reading leads to active citizenship, in particular her concern for the house elves. Q&A was dyanmic:   Are Hermione's concerns due to her reading, her inherently sympathetic nature as female, or her humanity?  Hermione is a muggle and one presumes attended muggle schools and knows muggle history.  There are also some concerns that in the Rowling books "there is no literature--no one reads anything but text books" or books in search of information. This observation is quite disturbing, given that the Harry Potter books are credited with saving books and promoting literacy.   Literacy is not necessarily literature; literature is part of what makes us human.   We live a world that increasingly values "knowledge.. incomplete... takes no trouble to comprehend... children's tales... which have... power."

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