On Reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Books

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I read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books over the winter break. All of them: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1997), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007). I couldn’t stop there. Then, I read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), Quidditch Through the Ages (2002), and of course, The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2008). Luckily, there were more stories to be read in the Pottermore Presents series: Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies (2016), Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists (2016), and Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide (2016). There’s more to be read on Pottermore, I think, but I haven’t yet fully explored the site.

Why did I voraciously read all of these stories about Harry Potter and the magical world he inhabits in parallel to our muggle world? Rowling’s books and stories filled me with delight and joy! They transported me across time (I’m almost 40 years old), place (back to the United Kingdom), and imagination (the self-consistent fantastic elements of magic, magical creatures, and magical history).

Rowling guides readers to her magical world through Harry and his two closest friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Then, the world widens through the development of Harry’s nemesis Draco Malfoy, and his widening circle of friends, including Luna Lovegood, Neville Longbottom, Fred and George Weasley, and Ginny Weasley. We discover more about Harry’s past through his godfather Sirius Black and his favorite defense against the dark arts teacher Professor Remus Lupin. We learn about different forms of evil from the controlling Delores Umbridge to the megalomaniacal Tom Marvolo Riddle/Lord Voldemort. We witness tragedy through terrible loss–from Harry’s parents’ sacrifice and the sacrifices Harry’s closest friends and secret ally.

Through the lives of these characters, Rowling weaves struggle and triumph; mundane and wonder; bravery and fear; happiness and angst; courage and uncertainty; kindness and cruelty; and love and hatred. These themes explored and experienced by Harry and his friends drew me into the books unlike anything that I have read in a very long time. I felt the things that Rowling wrote her characters experiencing.

I felt an affinity with Harry and his friends as they confronted the challenges presented by youth, school, and Lord Voldemort. I encouragingly agreed with some of their choices, and I steadfastly disagreed with others. This tension between their choosing the path that I would choose and choosing the path that I would not choose endeared them to me as would real friends. Their youthful humanity made their world as alive and real to me–if not more so in some respects–as anything considered mainstream fiction.

Besides reading about Harry Potter, I consider myself very lucky that I can return to his adventures with LEGO. For those of you who know me, I enjoy building with LEGO. Even though Y and I had not read Harry Potter before, she bought some of the last LEGO Harry Potter sets when we lived in Ohio–4867 Hogwarts, 4841 Hogwarts Express, 4842 Hogwarts Castle. We had left these with my parents in Georgia, who I visited before school started back. I made a point of filling my checked bag with all of the LEGO that I could hold, including those Harry Potter sets and some LEGO train gear (motor, battery pack, IR receiver, IR controller, and track).

During the snow day last week, I assembled all of our Harry Potter LEGO sets and recorded a short video of the Hogwarts Express (with the Weasley’s car flying overhead) traveling past Hogwarts. Over the weekend, I modified Hogwarts to be three bricks higher and the buildings rearranged to be slightly closer to their film arrangement (I have only seen the first three films and those many years ago, so I have all eight films to see in order now, too!). I also made a LEGO vignette of the final duel between Harry and Lord Voldemort. Unfortunately, the aftermarket for Harry Potter LEGO sets is through the roof! I hope that I can get some of the other sets such as Hagrid’s Hut (4738), Graveyard Duel (4766) and Snape’s Class (4706)–I’ll have to save my galleons!

If you have never read any of the Harry Potter books, do yourself a favor and pick up the first one. After you begin reading, you won’t want to stop until you find out how it works out for The Boy Who Lived! In the meantime, you can watch the Hogwarts Express make its way to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry below.

 

I am a professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on 20th/21st-century American culture, science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology.

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Posted in Fantasy, Personal
Who is Dynamic Subspace?

Dr. Jason W. Ellis shares his interdisciplinary research and pedagogy on DynamicSubspace.net. Its focus includes the exploration of science, technology, and cultural issues through science fiction and neuroscientific approaches. It includes vintage computing, LEGO, and other wonderful things, too.

He is an Assistant Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY (City Tech) where he teaches college writing, technical communication, and science fiction.

He holds a Ph.D. in English from Kent State University, M.A. in Science Fiction Studies from the University of Liverpool, and B.S. in Science, Technology, and Culture from Georgia Tech.

He welcomes questions, comments, and inquiries for collaboration via email at jellis at citytech dot cuny dot edu or Twitter @dynamicsubspace.

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