Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shira Wolosky on Harry Potter

This from Alice Nuttall on the CLYCC talk which took place on February 14th:

In our second talk of the term, Professor Shira Wolosky discussed the ethical principles and paradigms in the Harry Potter series which are the subject of her recent book The Riddles of Harry Potter: Secret Passages and Interpretive Quests. Beginning by noting the series’ use of political allegory, such as its references to the Second World War and modern conflicts, Shira then went on to explore how the series’ central focus is the dichotomy of love (represented by Harry and his allies) and power (represented by Voldemort). Shira noted that the characters in Harry Potter either seek power, which makes them dominant but leaves them isolated, or love, which brings strength in the form of friends and family. She read the prophecy ‘Neither can live while the other survives’ as suggesting that no-one can pursue both love and power, and that characters who try, such as Snape, must ultimately commit to one or the other. Shira also spoke of the series’ secondary ethical paradigms: that people should be treated as an end, not a means, and that one’s moral choices are more important than one’s abilities. Judging by the questions and discussion following the talk, Shira’s presentation inspired many readers to go back to the series on interpretative quests of their own.

For more information on Shira's book, published last year by Palgrave Macmillan, visit Our thanks to Shira for presenting this term while at Oxford as the Rothermere Institute's Drue Heinz Visiting Professor.

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