Saturday, 25 July 2009

Harry Potter, Jesus and Freudian literary criticism

Here's a rather strange perspective on the Harry Potter franchise from Bidisha, a freelance arts critic who roams the highbrow circuit and is a constant reminder that , to go by one name, you really do need a certain level of name recognition. This doesnt have to be at the level of a Madonna or an Ataturk, but at least somewhere around the Cher mark.

Here, she attempts to explore the darker side of Harry Potter, starting off promisingly by examining the prominence of damaged children in the novels and the notion of the absued becoming abusers (Voldemort), but then flies off the handle by claiming J.K. Rowling's boy wizard is "one sick puppy...Hamlet meets Jesus."

This illustrates just how easy it can be for a Freudian view of literature to accelerate into a world of twisted absurdity. It can certainly be a useful tool in the hands of someone expert in psychology and literature, but in my experience as a student of literature, all too often ends up as the application of identikit theories to anything that remotely resembles them in the text.

It's very easy to do, as my own one-minute Freudian reading of Harry Potter shows:

1. Harry Potter usually prefers to disarm his opponents rather than harm them.
2. Wands are phallic instruments of power (anything longer than it is wide can be phallic).
3. Harry Potter is all about a boy wizard's castration fantasy.

Or it could just be that having your kid hero disarming his opponents rather than killing them is rather more publisher- and parent-friendly. Make your own mind.

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