Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Harry Potter and History
People spend much time dissecting, arguing over and interpreting the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. It has always been an open secret that this author draws from myth and fairytale; now readers can discover what parts of Harry Potter’s world is drawn from reality.
Harry Potter and History is a new book in the Wiley Pop Culture and History Series edited by Nancy R. Reagin. The book tries to bring historical essays and social issues to the eyes of people who might otherwise remain blind. Many problems the students face at Hogwarts affect people in real life too; topics like fascism, class struggle, discrimination and aristocracy. Readers will sometimes make these connections by themselves, want further details on the subject and not know where to go. This is a great book to steer a voracious Harry Potter fan in the right direction. Contributions to this nonfiction page turner are written by a variety of authors from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.
The only issue with the book is the structure of its contents. Some of the scholars write about Hogwarts and the wizarding world in a confusing manner; it is treated as if Hogwarts, and the magicians who resided there, were real. Major characters and plot points are viewed in a mostly anthropological manner and then juxtaposed against real-life events in European history.
Using pop culture is an excellent way to disseminate facts to a larger audience. Each essay is careful to remind the reader that history is not merely facts. It is cultural and celebratory and reminds us that our modern civilization stands on the bones of a previous one. This book can be recommended to bright middle school students and inquisitive adults. Though it will not answer all of your questions for J.K. Rowling and may exacerbate House Cup related brawls, Harry Potter and History is an enjoyable read.