HP review

Anna Clare McDuff amcduff at math.sunysb.edu
Thu Jul 3 12:23:39 EDT 2003

On Thu, 3 Jul 2003, Charles Butler wrote:

> I haven't read enough Harry Potter to comment pitch into the HP debate
> itself, but I did wonder about the Rod Liddle piece. It was funny, but
> afterwards I started thinking (in perhaps too po-faced a way) what the point
> of it was. What did he find in the Richard Adams article that was so
> risible? Not the particular argument he was making well or badly, it
> seems(*), but the fact that he was mixing children's lit and ideology at
> all. Liddle seemed to find it hard to believe either that children's books
> can carry significant ideological baggage, or/and that children are capable
> of taking in ideological content, even if they are ill-equipped to
> articulate them.

	I read the Liddle article another way, I think he was accepting
the ideological baggage children's (and indeed, any) literature carries,
but poking fun at the idea that we should censor literature that does not
meet our own social agenda exactly*. So for example, one could be a
liberal but still enjoy the "grotesque upper-class supremacist,
stoataphobic document Wind in the Willows.". Because firstly, we might not
read the book that way, and even if we do it has other strengths, and a
lot to offer that is of value even if some of its ideology is distasteful
to many. Ideology is not the be-all and end-all of existence, most of the
time it's just a part of the general ebb and flow of information. And
singling ideology out and saying that only books that susbcribe to a
particular ideological mindset are acceptable is nonsensical, and I would
argue, dangerous. That way lies fascism, of whatever stripe. So when
people (as they have been in the Grauniad lately, and elsewhere too, but I
read the Grauniad every day so I notice it more there) start to criticise
something like Harry Potter because it hasn't directly fed whatever
ideological sacred cow they are milking I get nervous. There's a wide
culture gap between a Bible belt matron outraged that Harry doesn't ever
overtly refer to her religion practices of choice and a Birkenstock clad
escapee from a Posy Simmonds cartoon complaining about Hogwarts being a
Boarding School and not a comprehensive, but I suspect they might have
more in common on this issue than either would like to admit...


*Or as Liddle puts it ""We may only be children, but we're well aware that
- much as Plekhanov averred as early as 1921 - even our literature should
serve the needs of society."

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