Harry Potter seguing to magical universities

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Wed Aug 9 18:53:28 EDT 2000

On Wed, 09 Aug 2000 12:35:10 +0200, liril at gmx.net wrote:

>Melissa Proffitt schrieb:
>> That's just the *perceived* Renaissance and medieval cultures, by the way.
>> If the reality was different from the perception, that's irrelevant. ...
>Exactly. And I suppose the reality *was* different! Just think of the Law School
>of Bologna, "founded" 1088, of the Universities in Spain, of the way people
>started to learn and to teach at that time.

Ooh, another good point.  It's not just pseudo-medievalism, it's
pseudo-British-Isles-medievalism.  :)

>Before I start to babble, I'd better mention again that I'm working on a thesis
>in History of Law about the Jurisdiction of the University of Freiburg (founded
>1457) in the late middle ages and the early modern time.

That sounds very interesting!  (Not that I would want to do the background

> So I've read quite a
>lot about medieval Universities and know quite a lot about the "universitas
>friburgenis" in the 15. and 16. century. And the funny thing is, it does
>sometimes reminds me of the Unseen University, with feisty professors very
>concerned about the food that will be served at the annual celebration if their
>faculty. With the citizens' tolerance or lack therof with students' pranks. And
>there actually is a lawsuit concerning the Bursar: in my mind I shrieked
>"Buuuuursaaar!" and thought about dried frog pills!

I need a new Terry Pratchett novel.  It's readin' weather outside.

> I think it's very refreshing to read something that differs from the sterotyped
>"fantasy middle ages". Not that I want everybody to write "historically" correct
>novels, it's fantasy after all, and the invented worlds should be new and
>exciting and different, and the author is free to create the world she/he wants.
>It's just that people seem to be prejudiced about the "dark" pseudo middle ages
>and think these time were actually as one-dimensional as  they are often
>potrayed. And they were much more complex than that.

Well, how much of that prejudice arises from never having read any other
portrayal of that era?  And when we're talking about prejudiced fantasy
readers, I think the blame is pretty much equal--those writers wouldn't get
published nearly so much if there weren't ravening hordes of readers to
consume their books.

On the other hand, Michael Crichton's latest novel _Timeline_ tried to set
the record straight and backfired miserably.  I usually like his scientific
thrillers because he does so much research and it's like getting a bunch of
technical abstracts woven into a story.  In this case, he was writing about
time travel and the late Middle Ages in France, and although he based it on
tons of research by people "debunking" the popular conceptions of that time
period, it read a lot like "ha ha ha, you are so stupid to have ever
believed in the backwardness of the Dark Ages, look how smart I am" which I
really hate in a novel.

One of the reasons I wish DWJ would write more straight fantasy is that hers
are always so original.  I had a friend who had only ever read _Cart and
Cwidder_ and disliked it because at the end, the warriors had guns and he
thought it was sloppy writing.  I read it again (my first time as an adult)
and realized, This isn't medieval fantasy! It's the eighteenth century!
Sort of--I'm bad about dates.  But you know what I mean--Dumas bleeding into
Victor Hugo only set in England.  And once I realized that I was suddenly
aware that the Dalemark series was actually a fantastic alternate history
story.  The common wisdom is that Harry Turtledove is the king of alternate
history fiction.  That's just because no one reads DWJ.  :)

But she's only ever written a few novels that I would call "straight
fantasy" (which means I don't know what it's officially called)--the kind
that is usually pseudo-medieval, but is fundamentally pre-modern and usually
magical as well.  The Dalemark books, _Howl's Moving Castle_, and _Dark Lord
of Derkholm_, which qualifies because the novel focuses on the "medieval"
world and not ours.  Bummer.  So I'm *really* looking forward to _YotG_.

Melissa Proffitt
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