Here’s to You Ms. Rowling – April 11

Today in class we had a presentation on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and we discussed many themes that are illustrated throughout J.K Rowling’s masterpiece novel.

The presentation covered many aspects of the wizarding world of Harry Potter. They began discussing Harry’s character development, and how each book pertains to one year in Harry’s life. Harry discovers his identity and becomes better acquainted with the wizarding world as his story progresses. Harry is locked in a constant struggle with his mortal enemy, Voldemort. (Until the end of the series). He has a squad of two best friend named Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley who help Harry with the burden of being “The Chosen One” and discover themselves just as Harry discovers himself. Harry, being an orphan has many wizards who attempt to influence him. Some of his positive influences are Dumbledore, a wise old fatherly figure; Hagrid, who is a jolly uncle figure  wants Harry to enjoy himself; and Professor Mcgonagall, who serves as a pillar of discipline to Harry and his classmates. Harry also has deceptive agents who appear to be helping him but are actually trying to hurt him, like Professor Quirrell who is actually a death eater and is hiding Voldemort under his turban. The presentation group also discussed the immense fame that Harry Potter has gained. There is candy, theme park rides, and a multitude of consumer items that are associated with the Harry Potter franchise. Harry Potter has even generated enough momentum to go beyond the seven book series and create movies like Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. 

At the end of the presentation the group was asked if there are any problems with a child  watching the Harry Potter series. The class responded no because Harry Potter helps expand the imagination of kids and teaches good lessons about friendship, deception, and discipline. However, J.K. Rowling created such an entertaining world that it is possible for children to become to immersed in the wizarding world and experience a disconnect from the real world. Kids that do this could start casting spells on people, and for someone who is spiritual, that is not acceptable and could be seen as strange by anyone.

The class proceeded to discuss the important themes throughout Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. An overwhelming majority of people put friendship, or something along those lines as the theme.  Harry, being an abused orphan, goes to Hogwarts and finds acceptance, love, and friendship for the first time in his life. As soon as the sorting hat shouted, “Griffendoor!” Harry’s life changed. Though he is very confused, he finds happiness in the wizarding world, an emotion that he has never truly experienced. His means of finding that happiness is finally being able to be surrounded by people who support him.

Another theme we discussed was identity. Harry, who has essentially been made a slave his whole life and lied to about his parents identity, had been robbed of his identity before he entered Hogwarts. As Harry learns more about being a wizard, he learns more about himself. The secondary characters also discover their identities, such as Hermione realizing her potential as the smartest student at Hogwarts.

Though characters find their identity throughout the book, I thought that deception played a large part in the procession of the plot. Harry is deceived by his guardians, the Dursleys, when they lie to him about how his parents die and attempt to get rid of the letters coming from Hogwarts. Harry never truly has control as he is trying out his new world, and figures throughout the book try to push Harry down a certain path. The main deception comes from Professor Quirrell who is housing Voldemort on the back of his head and attempts to lead Harry to his demise and gain the Sorcerer’s Stone for his master.

We also discussed how competition creates opposite forces in the book. Competition between Griffendoor and Slytherin kids reflect the struggle between the benign and evil adults in the series. As Harry grows older, he becomes more involved in the adult struggle and eventually becomes the means to end that struggle.

Another interesting concept we discussed as a class was if Hogwarts is comparable to any school system. Many classmates agreed that Hogwarts is comparable to a boarding school system because the only people present are teachers and kids and everyone stays overnight. When someone goes to boarding school and are stuck in the same place for extended periods of time, they are going to try to discover a way to enjoy themselves and possibly get into some mischief. This is very comparable with the Harry Potter series, except their world is more magical. Curiosity is at an extremely high level when one is eleven years old, so if eleven year olds are in a magical world with only their friends, one would imagine that they would get into all sorts of mischief.

The Harry Potter series is truly masterful and has taught kids valuable lessons about growing up. As the books and movies came out, time passed and people aged. Most of our classmates aged with Harry Potter, so our generation can probably relate to him the best. The invaluable things Harry Potter taught everyone about growing up, friendship, fun, lying, and responsibility are something my generation should thank Ms. Rowling for.

Literature vs Folklore 1/17/17

The subject of the Children’s Literature class on January 17, 2017 was a discussion about the similarities and differences of literature and folklore. Before class, we read the introduction of The Classic Fairy Tales. The introduction established that fairy tales come in many different versions. We also read pages three hundred and seventy eight to three hundred and eighty seven. This portion of the book was Vladimir Propp’s interpretation of the irregularities between folklore and literature. As a class we divided into two to three person groups and wrote out what we believed to be the difference between folklore and literature. We established many distinctions between the two forms of artistic language. We concluded that folklore and literature differ in the way that they are preserved, passed down, and derived.

Folklore is preserved by story tellers. The fact that folklore is orally passed down gives the genre a certain dynamic. The presenter can change the story to his or her liking. Literature on the other hand is written down by an author. This does not allow for a changing story. This also means that the ownership of literature is defined by a specific author at a specific time. On the contrary, the ownership of folklore is difficult to determine because of the ever changing version of the same story that is told over long periods of time.

Furthermore, the relationship between the giver and receiver of folklore and literature are quite different indeed. The dynamic in literature is between author and reader. The relationship in folklore is between the presenter and the listener. The relationship between author and reader allows the reader to make different interpretations of the text than the author may have intended but the reader cannot change the story themselves. Also, the reader cannot have any objections to the work of literature because there are likely not any alternative versions of the literary work. In folklore, the listener may object to the presentation of the tale because they may not agree with or prefer the way the current presenter is telling the story.

Folklore and literature also differ in their morphology. The book defines morphology as, “The description of a tale according to its component parts and the relationship of these components to each other and to the whole.” I prefer to think of morphology as simply the study of various forms that stories can take. Literature has no defined forms and can cover a vast array of story structures. Folklore tends to follow a more strict, rigid morphology.

The various morphology of folklore and literature alters the characters that are present in each form of literary art. Literature can contain characters with deep complexities and varying desires, lifestyles, and motivations. Literary characters can undergo subtle or drastic forms of change over the course of the story. On the other hand, folklore characters tend to be more archetypical. Archetypes are very typical examples of a person or thing. For example, Propp’s “Dramatis Personae” includes the villain, donor, helper, princess and her father, dispatcher, false hero, and hero. These characters tend to be simple and unchanged throughout the story unless some outside power acts upon that specific character. Even the settings of folklore are archetypical. For example, the forest represents danger. Dangerous things will occur in the forest and not in the king’s castle that represents protection.

The morphology present in folklore also alters the functions of those archetypical characters. These functions are very limited and propel the story’s plot. Vladimir Propp comes up with thirty one functions of the characters and story that are present in folklore. I will not include the descriptions of the functions but the functions are abstention, interdiction, violation, recon, delivery, trickery, complicity, villainy, lack, mediation, beginning counteraction, departure, first function of the donor, hero’s reaction, provision, guidance, struggle, branding, victory, liquidation, return, pursuit, rescue, unrecognized arrival, unfounded claims, difficult task, solution, recognition, exposure, transfiguration, punishment, and wedding.

Our class has not delved deep into a fairy tale quite yet. The first few days of class have been spent on teaching us students how to read and interpret Children’s Literature. It is key to accomplish this task before diving into any Children’s Literature so that our class can have more intelligent discussions on the topic of Children’s Literature. Learning the difference between folklore and literature is paramount in determining one’s view on Children’s Literature.