Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘#nodads

Reading and Teaching Harry Potter after THE CURSED CHILD (No Spoilers, Just a Few Instant Reactions)

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Zoey slept in this morning, so I was able to read the entirety of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on my Kindle app under the covers, racing both an iPad battery that was very rapidly heading to zero and a four-year-old whose every tiny twitch and movement suggested the end of my project was drawing near. I think it’s good. It’s definitely strange. As a revisionary work, it throws some very odd wrinkles into the interior logic of the Harry Potter universe, and as a result I suspect it will always have a sort of quasi-authorative, even apocryphal status within the canon, even beyond what one would have suspected because of the unusual circumstances of its multi-author composition and its form as a play rather than a novel or even a film. It never feels quite real, never feels like the actual future of these people and these circumstances; it’s a tie-in book, oxymoronically authoritative fan fiction. Still, there are a few things here worth lingering on, and it’ll start a lot of conversations.

I know I’ve read the thing almost comically early, so perhaps I’ll do a follow-up post in a week or so with some actual spoiler-laden analysis about the events of the plot. But what struck me most as I was reading The Cursed Child is how directly it resonates with the way I’ve been teaching the series in my literature courses the last two years (a pedagogical focus undoubtedly driven by the fact that I’m a parent now myself). Like many other things in life, the original Harry Potter books look rather different after one becomes a parent, and living inside the franchise again I’ve really come to see it as in large part as a frustrated rumination on bad parents, and on bad fathers in particular.

The class I teach Harry Potter in is a foundations course for English majors, but the theme is “Magic and Literature”; we spend the last half on children’s literature and the last full month on Harry Potter, first talking about the franchise as a whole (with some exceptions, they nearly all know it by heart) and then (re-)reading the fifth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, together. I choose Order of the Phoenix deliberately: the first three books are all still a little childish, and the fourth is mostly so until the shocking events at the end, which (after Cursed Child) now looks even more like the fulcrum of the entire series. (A surprisingly high number of students in the current college-age cohort had younger siblings who were initially not allowed to read past book three, and only came back to the series later, if at all, after a year or more break.) The sixth and seventh books are really plot-driven, almost to the exclusion of the world-building; you can’t really read one without reading both, and at that point you’re completely excluding any students who don’t already know the series extremely well. But the fifth book is in the sweet spot: it’s adult, in a way the earlier ones aren’t, and it opens up on the larger, darker Wizarding World while still being a stand-alone adventure. It’s also, perhaps it goes without saying, my personal favorite of the five, and I think the actual best writing of all seven — and it brings up some fascinating issues about the Wizarding World and its internal politics that aren’t really developed anywhere else.

We spend two weeks on Phoenix, and afterwards we talk a little bit about the epilogue to the last book, which (as every child knows) flashes forward nineteen years to the day Harry Potter’s second son, Albus Severus, goes to Hogwarts. We need the epilogue in the class because, in my teaching, it’s the culmination of the various explorations of bad parenting that structure Phoenix.

The discussion for the first day inevitably focuses on the scene with Molly Weasley (chapter nine, “The Woes of Mrs. Weasley”). Mrs. Weasley is a fascinating character from the perspective of the Harry-Potter-rereader-as-a-parent, as she is one of only a handful of genuinely “good” parents anywhere in the series: good in the sense that she sees her children (and Harry) as pearls beyond price and simply wants to love, nurture, and protect them, rather than instrumentalize them either in the service of her own ego (as with, say, Lucius Malfoy) or in the service of some larger, supposedly greater cause (as with Dumbledore).

(The character most like Molly in the series is, weirdly, Narcissa Malfoy, as my students in the first iteration of the class pointed out to me: Narcissa is the version of Molly who doesn’t take the word of the men for an answer and who is therefore able to get what she wants and protect her child at any cost, the Higher Cause be damned. That’s a not-insignificant plot detail for reading The Cursed Child.)

In chapter nine of The Order of the Phoenix we see Molly Weasley get excoriated by every other member of the original Order of the Phoenix for being weak, and being unwilling to see that war has come to the children (especially Harry, who is 15) and that they now must grow up and be soldiers instead. Molly says no, leave them out of it, they’re children, and gets shouted down. (In case we miss the point, Molly is then humiliated by the narrative by being unable to defeat a boogeyman parademon that the children had been taught to defeat with a simple spell two years before.) The remainder of the book and really the series as a whole is an exercise in further proving that Molly and those who think like her, like Hermione, are wrong (even though from a strict plot perspective Molly is in fact completely right and if the children had done nothing but just be kids everything in Book Five would have turned out fine). But within the logic of the original series it’s Molly who has to change; she only gets her redemptive moment in Book Seven when she is finally able to reconcile love to violence when she tells Bellatrix Lestrange “Not my daughter, you bitch” before murdering her.

Dumbledore explains at the end of Book Five that, in fact, his problem is that he loves Harry too much, and has been unwilling to fully weaponize him as the circumstances demand, treating him too much like a child — but now he will, reluctantly and with regret, bring Harry completely into the fold as his full lieutenant. (It’s only in Book Seven that we find out Dumbledore is still lying to Harry, even here, and that Dumbledore has always known he was raising Harry for the slaughter; even Snape, who himself has barely any conscience or pity, is horrified when he finds this out.) Both years teaching the course I’ve said at the end of the first day that my overall take on Dumbledore is that he seems to be a brilliant general, a middling-to-poor teacher, and an absolutely terrible father; no one agrees with me on day one, but by the end of the full lesson about half the class or more does. Dumbledore, like Gandalf, and like the Doctor, and like Obi-Wan, and like any other number of mentor wizards in the history of science fiction and fantasy we could name, abuses his protege and everyone else as his instrument in the name of a higher, nobler purpose — and if that’s painful, if that hurts, well, please know he’s sorry, it’s only because he loves you so very much.

The Dumbledore pseudo-apology scene that comes at the end of Book Five is important enough, central enough to the Potter mythos that it plays out again with one of Dumbledore’s portraits in The Cursed Child — only this time, Harry gets to talk back, and this time Dumbledore turns out to be definitely and definitively wrong.

This is why the books always needed the nineteen-years-later epilogue, despite all the many reasons it was a tremendously bad idea compositionally: what we see in the epilogue is that while Harry continues to admire the many men around him who seek to deploy him as their child-soldier, and even names his two sons after his four bad dads (James, who at least was bad mostly because he was dead; Sirius; Severus Snape; and Albus Dumbledore), he actually parents them like Molly Weasley. In the scene Albus is scared that he’ll be sorted into Slytherin, and wants reassurance from his dad that it won’t happen:

“Albus Severus,” Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, “you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”

“But just say — ”

“– then Slytherin House will have gained an excellent student, won’t it? It doesn’t matter to us, Al. But if if it matters to you, you’ll be able to choose Gryffindor over Slytherin. The Sorting Hat takes your choice into account.”

“Really?”

“It did for me,” said Harry.

He had never told any of this children that before, and he saw the wonder in Albus’s face when he said it.

The punchline of the whole Hogwarts adventure, in my reading, is that Harry’s reward is that he gets to be a father, and/but that he isn’t a father like Dumbledore, Sirius, or Lucius. He just loves his kid unconditionally, whoever he is or isn’t, no matter what, forever.

The play’s retelling of the Deathly Hallows epilogue in Act I, Scene II truncates this scene crucially by eliminating the bolded dialogue. (I haven’t seen it performed so I can’t be sure how it plays on stage, but the stage directions don’t indicate any special reaction from Albus to this information either.) It has to retcon out Harry’s choice to love his children like Molly and Narcissa so that he can spend the play learning that lesson instead. So instead of Harry the Good Dad, we spend most of The Cursed Child with Harry as actually a pretty bad one, who fundamentally misunderstands his role in his son’s life, so at the end he can reform and be returned to the place where the original epilogue had always left him anyway.

In that sense, I suppose, the plot of The Cursed Child writ large is itself a little bit like the bubble timeline of any classic time-travel story, existing temporarily to dissipate in the face of reconciliation with the place we already were all along. But that reconciliation is an interesting thing; even reconciled, we can’t read the earlier books in quite the same way, because after The Cursed Child even Rowling won’t let Dumbledore off his hook. The story The Cursed Child tells in the foreground is ultimately the one the Harry Potter series was always telling in the background: how easy it is to be a bad parent, and how easy it would be to be a good one, if only you were stronger.

No, YOU’RE Procrastinating: Wednesday Afternoon Links!

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r_16-25-00_MZ7aAUNWN5* We just landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first time. Here’s why it matters.

* Capitalism and the space program.

This is no accident. The same contradictions that have divided human aspiration from human achievement, producing growing hunger and want in a world with the technological means to solve both, paralyze the reach of humanity into the solar system. The task to reclaim space as humanity’s birthright is inseparable from that necessary to oppose war and conquer want and deprivation. In other words, it is the fight for socialism.

* Theory and Event‘s special supplement on Ferguson and “Disposable Lives.”

* Interview with Sherryl Vint on science fiction and biopolitics.

* College Athletes of the World, Unite. Ladies and gentlemen, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

* This is a great TNI interview on California, “the carceral state.”

If we believe that the prison system is broken, then we must also believe in its ability to be fixed. Here we can see how the PIC keeps functioning through the rehearsal of the “broken system” narrative. As Angela Davis and many others have argued, it is precisely through reform that the ­prison-industrial complex expands. We can see the materiality of this expansion through the mandatory increase in police in schools through Proposition 47.

* Wisconsin woman said this week that she may have to file for bankruptcy because she was taken to an out-of-network hospital after having a heart attack, but now she owes more than $50,000 more than she would have if she had been taken to a hospital less than half a mile away.

* I was fired for sending a letter to the League for Innovation in the Community College, criticizing the Moraine Valley Community College administration for treating adjunct faculty as a “disposable resource” and the “chilling effect” on adjuncts who lack job security.

* Can White Teachers Be Taught How to Teach Our Children?

* America’s workers steal more than its shoplifters.

* Now we see the violence inherent in the system: Man Points Rifle At Teen Daughter After Game Of Battleship Goes Bad.

* And again. To limit divorce settlement, conservative billionaire argues that he got rich through luck.

* And again. Maryland School Board Asked To Recognize Muslim Holy Day, Strikes References To All Religious Holidays Instead.

* Pretty good fan pitch for what The Force Awakens should be about.

* The Handmaid’s Tale was a documentary: Domino’s founder turning FL town into unconstitutional contraception-free ‘Catholic enclave.’

* Bruuuuuuuuuuuuce.

* And Christoph Waltz has been stealing my bit.

Weekend Links!

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* C21 2015 call for papers: “After Extinction.”

* More 2014 postmortems: The Democrats Have Two Choices Now: Gridlock or Annihilation. And in Michigan: Democrats Get More Votes, Lose Anyway. Davis Campaign Marked by Failed Tactics, Muddled Messages. Stop denying the truth: The Democrats got walloped. What happened to that Democratic turnout machine? Game Change ’14. What Does It Mean for Hillary? Stop Whining About Young Voters, You Jerks. Shockingly, my call to abolish the Constitution altogether has received little traction.

* Thankfully, it’s not all bad news: I was about to hype up a Scott Walker 2016 run. Then I watched his victory speech.

* Elsewhere in the richest, most prosperous society ever to exist in human history: Ninety-year-old man faces jail for giving food to homeless people.

* The 85 richest people on the planet now have as much money as the poorest 3.5 billion.

* It’s Cheaper to Buy a Judge Than a State Senator.

* Uber Is Pushing Drivers Into Subprime Loans. If you want a vision of the future: Amazon Is Beta-Testing Uber to Deliver Packages.

What I’m not concerned with here is achieving some final and total harmony between the interests of each and the interests of all, or with cleansing humanity of conflict or egotism. I seek the shortest possible step from the society we have now to a society where most productive property is owned in common – not in order to rule out more radical change, but precisely in order to rule it in.

Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing. Flipping Schools: The Hidden Forces Behind New Jersey Education Reform. Massachusetts Committed to Chasing Teachers Away.

* Are We Forgiving Too Much Student-Loan Debt? CHE is ON IT.

* What could possibly go wrong? Obama Vows to Work With Republicans on College Costs.

* Oh, right, thatBanks Urge Investors To Buy For-Profit College Stocks Now That The GOP Is Taking Back Congress.

B1i4ZGTCMAAO3IW.jpg-large* Seems like a great bunch of guys: For-Profit Groups Sue to Block Gainful Employment Rules. The estimate is that 65% of for-profit students are enrolled in programs that wouldn’t pass.

* Six years after the crisis that cratered the global economy, it’s not exactly news that the country’s biggest banks stole on a grand scale. That’s why the more important part of Fleischmann’s story is in the pains Chase and the Justice Department took to silence her.

* R0y Lichtenstein’s “Whaam!” painting is based on one of my panels from an old DC war comic. Roy got four million dollars for it. I got zero.

Violence Is Currency: A Pacifist Ex-Con’s Guide To Prison Weaponry.

* How GamerGate Is Influencing MIT Video Game Teachers. I’m wrestling with how much this needs to take over the syllabus of my “Video Game Culture” seminar next semester.

* It’s hard to study Scientology.

“For those of us born in a post-Reagan America, having operated within this system our whole lives, there can be no doubt that Michel Foucault’s thinking describes our present.”

* In search of oil realism. I’ve just submitted an abstract for a chapter title “Peak Oil after Hydrofracking,” so this is definitely on my mind.

* NYC pastor: Starbucks is flavoured with the semen of sodomites. It’s called pumpkin spice, sir.

* My evil dad: Life as a serial killer’s daughter.

* Scenes from the class struggle in the legal industry.

* Star Wars 7 has a name.

I actually don’t think this sounds terrible. I like the hint of menace I hear in “The Force Awakens,” as if the Force itself could be the enemy in the new trilogy. Who put this unelected energy field in charge of everything, anyway? Abolish the Force.

* Abolish the CW: Physicists determine that being rescued by The Flash is worse than being hit by a car.

* If you want a vision of the future: Disney announces Toy Story 4. More below the hilarity.

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* I regret to inform you the ideology at its purest contest has closed. Thank you for your submission, but we have a winner.

* In a era without heroes, his website was our last hope: Meet the Mysterious Creator of Rumor-Debunking Site Snopes.com.

* The original version of Being John Malkovich, which I have fond memories of, would have been almost completely unwatchable.

The Slow Unveiling of James Tiptree Jr.

* About 200,000 years ago, it was determined that spaceships could be powered by ennui.

* The Innocence Project was the last thing I believed in. Now I’m finally purged of hope.

* And just in time.

* And they say this society can no longer achieve great things: Reality TV’s New Extreme: Being ‘Eaten Alive’ by a Giant Anaconda Snake.

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Written by gerrycanavan

November 7, 2014 at 8:37 am

Posted in Look at what I found on the Internet

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Weekend Links

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* Annals of so totally completely missing the point: Hunger Games’ producers working on ‘potential theme park opportunities.”

The Public Option for Higher Education.

Instructed at 4 p.m. Thursday to cut $55,000 — or 20 classes — by 5 p.m.

* How to Write a Lifeboater Manifesto.

‘You Can Sleep Here All Night’: Video Games and Labor.

* Socialize Social Media! A Manifesto.

* Postal Service Insolvent Since 2006 Law Requiring It to Be Insolvent. Better privatize it!

Humanities degrees at Marquette remain steady despite national statistics.

* Colorized historical photos. Secluded Cultures on the Brink of Extinction. Michael Galinsky’s Retro Photos of 1980s Shopping Malls Are, Like, Totally Rad.

* Senate passes ENDA 64-32, now the House will completely ignore it. Obama Backs $10 Minimum Wage Secure in the Knowledge It Will Never Be Passed.

* The Chris Christie Hegemony. I Can’t Believe Terry McAuliffe Is Going to Be Governor of Virginia. Here comes 2016.

No, Crime Is Not Going to Start Soaring Under Bill de Blasio.

Terrible Columnist Richard Cohen Shocked To Learn That Slavery Was Really, Really Bad.

upinarms-map* “A Very Dangerous Boy”: the ten-year-old boy who killed his neo-Nazi father.

Secret ‘Bay Bridge Troll’ Guarded the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge for 24 Years.

* Advanced Readings in D&D.

* The eleven nations of North America.

School Named For Former KKK Leader Reconsiders Its Legacy. Christ, Florida, why the rush? Let’s be sure we really think this thing through.

* Declaring a war on warrior culture in the wake of the Miami Dolphins bullying scandal. “The NFL’s Bully Problem”: Sports Columnist Dave Zirin Connects Violence in Sports to Rape Culture. Tony Dorsett Has CTE. More Living Football Players Show Signs Of CTE. Why It Matters That Tony Dorsett Is Showing Signs Of CTE. Why a Denver Broncos player suddenly walked away from the NFL and more than $1M.

* You can tell the human body was poorly designed by evolution. I mean, who puts sanitation next to recreation?

* Happens all the time: Super typhoon Haiyan just broke all scientific intensity scales.

Since 1890 every Wisconsin officer who took a life was cleared of any wrongdoing. Every single one.

Black students scored lower this year in every category of the nation’s benchmark reading and math test, which also showed that for all the dynamism in Wisconsin’s education scene, student achievement remains stagnant.

* Sweden formalizes the Bechdel Test.

* Pablo Neruda: Not Poisoned.

* The new normal: Black woman shot in head seeking help in white neighborhood.

This Is How Much Money Twitter Owes You.

* And at last some good news: That Saul Goodman Breaking Bad spinoff may be both prequel and sequel.

His Royal Highness Prince Monday the First

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When Nada Al-Ahdal discovered that her parents had sold her she ran away. She is 11 years old, and this is her message. Wow.

Obama, Trayvon and the Problem That Won’t Be Named.

A study finds the odds of rising to another income level are notably low in certain cities, like Atlanta and Charlotte, and much higher in New York and Boston. 5.6% in Milwaukee. According to this map, without the Dakota oil boom America would have essentially no class mobility at all.

American children raised at the top, and at the bottom, are more likely to land on the same rung of the income ladder as their fathers than their Canadian counterparts. More than one-quarter of sons raised by fathers in the top 10 percent stay in the top 10 percent as adults, and another quarter fall no further than the top third. Meanwhile, half of those raised by fathers in the bottom 10 percent remain at the bottom or rise no further than the bottom third. In Canada there is less stickiness at the top, and children raised in the bottom are more likely to rise to the top half in earnings.

The American dream: Survival is not an aspiration.

* Occupy nowhere: Obama signs anti-protest Trespass Bill.

* The sequester is gutting the public defender system too. More here.

* Faint praise watch: “The Newsroom,” Season 2: Not an Unpardonable Train Wreck Like Season 1.

* A new language emerges in Northern Australia.

MOOCs are a fundamental misperception of how teaching works. No! Gasp!

* Anthropocene art show at Duke.

Your ‘Distressed’ Jeans Are Wearing Out Workers’ Lungs.

* Dan Harmon! Dan Harmon! Dan Harmon!

* Republicans to gut the NEH.

* And everything in Iraq’s going juuuuuuuust fine.

Hundreds of convicts, including senior members of al Qaeda, broke out of Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail as comrades launched a military-style assault to free them, authorities said on Monday.

The deadly raid on the high-security jail happened as Sunni Muslim militants are gaining momentum in their insurgency against the Shi’ite-led government that came to power after the U.S. invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.

#NoSuperDads

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Written by gerrycanavan

April 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Wednesday Wednesday Wednesday

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* Read the article on professor-mothers that set Twitter aflame. Guaranteed to be the worst thing you read this week!

* No one can figure out how Borislav Ivanov is cheating in chess. Via Boing Boing.

* The rise and fall of the American arcade.

The Earwolf podcasting network (beloved home of Comedy Bang! Bang!) has added live mimages to its offerings.

* The intentional fallacy: Kathryn Bigelow says Zero Dark Thirty’s fine because she’s a lifelong pacifist.

* Single charts that explain everything.

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* #nodads: California convicts twelve-year-old boy for murdering his neo-Nazi father at ten-years-old.

Finally, proof that all movie trailers use the same color palette.

Todd Glass looks back on a year since “the Marc Maron thing.”

Here Are Obama’s 23 Executive Actions on Gun Violence. 11. Nominate an ATF director. That’ll solve it!

You can carry a loaded firearm into national parks and can tuck your rifle and ammunition into stowed luggage on Amtrak trains. Federal product-safety law subjects everything from toys to toasters to safety inspection and recalls, but exempts guns. Little-known laws shed light on NRA influence.

* I know people will believe anything, but I have to believe Sandy Hook Trutherism is almost entirely a media phenomenon.

* And when the GOP has lost the Koch brothers…