Canonical Plausibility and Reading Practice Archives

Posts about different ways of reading (academic, fannish, etc.) and of evaluating canonical plausibility, or the "spirit of canon." Also, posts about reader resistance or subversion, and about the "fault lines" in the text—those areas of thematic inconsistency or seeming authorial ambivalence which encourage such readings.

RE: Where's the Canon? (Part One) -- Canonical "suggestion" and plausibility

Canonical plausibility and reading practice. How do readers form a mental map of the "Spirit of Canon" from which they evaluate a speculation's plausibility? What factors contribute to that model? Uses Redeemable Draco and the "Heir of Gryffindor" theory as illustrative examples. Part one of two.

Posted February 06, 2002 at 3:32 pm
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RE: Where's the Canon? (Part Two) -- Fans, Subversion, Snape & the DEs

Subversive readings and what drives them. "Fault lines" in the text which lead to reader anxiety. The question of why the fandom does not tend to subversion when contemplating the relationship between Snape and his old Slytherin housemates and DE colleagues. Part two of two.


RE: Where's the Canon (Part One) -- Canonical "suggestion" and plausibility

What constitutes a "canon-based" speculation?

Posted February 09, 2002 at 12:55 pm
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RE: Fan Readings & Subversion

Potential causes for reader anxiety in the HP books: lack of adult content, "genre soup," and poor craftsmanship in the writing itself, with particular emphasis on Draco's depiction. Discussion of "fannish" reading practice in general, and the extent to which it can be said to lead inevitably to subversion.

Posted February 12, 2002 at 6:01 pm
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RE: Snape & the DEs, Reprise (With Bits of Where's the Canon?)

Snape and his narrative function: his indeterminacy, his subverting role in the text. His character: the tension between his instincts and proclivites and his moral principles. His relationship to House Slytherin and specifically to the Malfoy family. Also contains some discussion of House Slytherin in general, and passing questions as to the nature of the Dark Arts.


RE: Pranks & Pranksters, Bullies, and Guilt By Association

Pranks, pranksters and the Twins. Charismatic bullies and Ex-Victims-Turned-Bully. Reader identification with these character types and how it affects interpretations of the Twins, Sirius and Snape.


RE: SHIP: Cupid's Snitch and Cupid's Quaffle

Correction to error made in previous post.


RE: Fic vs. Spec, Lucius, backstories

Discussion of fanfic, fanspec, and fanspec parody. Also contains a brief exchange about Lucius Malfoy.


RE: Neville and the Canary Creams

Explanation of my reasons for believing that Neville may well feel resentful at others' condescension. While acknowledging the possibility that my reading could be unduly autobiographically influenced, I also give textual evidence for the supposition that What You See with Neville is not always All That's There, and suggest that there might indeed be conscious authorial misdirection going on with Neville's character in the series to date.


RE: Neville, with or without the Canary Creams

An explanation of character indeterminacy, canonical plausibility and reading practice, all in the context of an ongoing thread about Neville's role in the series. Coins the term "Indeterminate Neville," describing the character as a kind of Schroedinger's Cat, simultaneously existing in a number of different states until the continuation of canon will collapse those states by making his canonical status determinable.

Posted March 17, 2002 at 7:31 pm
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RE: Still-Life With Memory Charm

Discussion of the Memory Charmed Neville theory, and of Neville's character and memory charms in general. Lays forth evidence that Neville's magical problems stem not from a lack of magical power, but from a lack of control over that power. Argues that Neville deliberately downplays his own magical competence, encouraging others to view him as less powerful than he really is, and hypothesizes as to why he might choose to do so. Also touches on his relationship with Snape.


RE: TBAY: Memory Charm Symposium (2 of 3)

Part Two of the Memory Charm Symposium, this one examines the "Wizarding Witness Protection Program," "Wizards In Black," "Hidden Source" and "Reverse Memory Charm" theories of Neville's purported memory charm.


RE: TBAY: Memory Charm Symposium (3 of 3)

Third and last part of the Memory Charm Symposium. Covers the "Cover Up At the Ministry," "DEPRECIATION" and "Memory Charm Most Foul" theories of Neville's purported Memory Charm.


RE: FF/SHIP: Authorial Intent, Canonical Plausibility, Draco/Hermione

An attempt to explain the dynamic whereby all popular readings derive in essence from the canonical text itself. Argues against the notion that the Draco/Hermione ship could only come about through the ingestion of fanfic. Also contains an explanation of why I am not terribly impressed with authorial intent used as "evidence" when discussing a work of fiction.

Posted May 24, 2002 at 1:59 pm
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RE: Draco Malfoy Is Ever So Lame. Yet Sympathetic. And Dead, Too.

Draco's inadequacies as Harry's peer rival, and other ways in which the text encourages a Redeemable!Draco reading, such as JKR's refusal to combat either Sympathy For the Devil or Hurt-Comfort when she writes the character of Draco Malfoy.


RE: Authorial Intent, Fan Readings and "Canon"

On the difference between academic and fannish reading practice, and its significance for what we choose to designate as "canon."

Posted May 30, 2002 at 10:39 am
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RE: SHIP: Authorial Intent, Canonical Plausibility, Draco/Hermione; Draco Is Ever So Evil

On the difference between "subversive" and "instinctive" readings of the text and the use of literary analysis to defend ones reading as authorially-sancioned.

Posted May 30, 2002 at 10:56 am
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Rather irritable rebuke to a listmember's objecting to what he perceived as a proliferation of "totally implausible" speculations on the list.

Posted June 03, 2002 at 1:18 pm
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RE: "Malfoy Is Mabel" and Genre Expectation

Discussion of the boarding school genre and its implications for Draco Malfoy's fated role in the story. Also, a discussion of the series' "genre soup" aspect, and how this affects the wide range and variety of speculations readers consider canonically suggested or plausible.


RE: Official Philip Nel Question #10: Class

In which I offend nearly everyone by tackling the issue of class (and of real world politics) in HP. Had the moderators not been so overwhelmingly American, I suspect that this post would not have been allowed on the list, as it is not only provocatively political, but also really quite insulting towards English conservatives. Argues that JKR's overt progressive message is subverted by the unconscious conservativism of the world-view underlying her novels, a la Richard Adams' essay, "Harry Potter and the Closet Conservative."


RE: Official Philip Nel Question #10: Class

On the "double-nostalgia" of JKR's world, the way in which not only the wizarding world, but the universe as a whole seems (in spite of the contemporary social markers of the Dursleys) to be faintly archaic. Suggests that Aunt Marge's connection with the Dursleys implies a link between the older English conservativism her archetype represents and the more recent Thatcherite conservativism represented by the Dursleys.


RE: Official Philip Nel Question #10: Class

More on social class as one of the HP series' "fault lines," those areas of ambiguity or inconsisstency which fuel reader anxiety with the text as a whole.


RE: The Politics of Nostalgia

Argues that the particular nostalgic tradition in which JKR has chosen to write sits uneasily with her own progressive values, and that this may be largely responsible for the ambiguities and inconsistencies evident in the series' approach to social class.


RE: Nel Question #10: Elitism

Calvinism in HP: the extent to which Harry is portrayed not only as a member of the "elite," but even perhaps as a member of the *Elect,* and the extent to which this aspect of the books may stand at the epicenter of reader anxiety with the series as a whole.


RE: Official Philip Nel Question #10: Class

More on class distinctions in the wizarding world, with a few asides regarding the designation of canon and other theoretical subjects.


RE: Historical Analogs to the WW -- "Quaintness" and Nostalgia

Historical analogues to the wizarding world, specifically in terms of the conflict between the values of House Gryffindor and those of House Slytherin. Also, an analysis of the specific nature of JKR's nostalgia, and an argument that it is not so much focused upon the Middle Ages as it is upon the aesthetic of the Quaint, a generalized sense of "past-ness," which has more to do with the nineteenth century than it does with the Medieval period.


RE: Bully!Sirius, "Coach" Twins, Snape's Grudge, and Stoned!Harry

Defense of the (now canonically-established) theory that MWPP really *did* bully Snape back in their school days, followed by a thematic analysis of Snape's Grudge, the Train Stomp, and the end game of PoA.


RE: Why I Dislike The Twins/Toon Talk

A bit more on the Twins as bullies and the Twins' relationship to Percy, followed by a discussion of humor and its relationship to character analysis: aren't the characters' actions revelatory of their character regardless of whether or not said actions are *funny?* And why on earth would someone cease to find something funny merely because they have come to believe that it is cruel? Have none of these people ever heard of black humour?!


RE: TBAY: Canon College: DEs and Aurors 101

A rather complicated TBAY post, mainly about the Wizarding World under Crouch and the extent to which it might have resembled Stalinist Soviet Russia, but also touching on the debate over whether or not the Twins are bullies, on the issues of netiquette, reader response and humour that had been raised in the course of that debate, on the various ad hominem arguments that had been circulating nastily around the list that entire summer, on an old SYCOPHANTS/Evil Overlords discussion, and--oh yes--incorporating a tiny bit from the Snape's Grudge thread as well. Apparently it was a bit *too* complicated for HPfGU, though, as very few people seemed to get the subsidiary points I was trying to make with it at all.


RE: TBAY: Weasley Predisposition To Imperius?

Some thoughts about the possibility of a Weasley vulnerability to mental domination (To what extent would it violate the series' thematic emphasis on choice? Could it have been the reason that Lucius Malfoy targetted Ginny as the victim of Riddle's Diary? Could it have been the reason that Crouch/Moody did not think that Ron would make a good Auror?) Also, speculation that Harry was actually the intended recipient of Riddle's Diary, and some commentary on Crouch Jr. and Sr's respective degrees of Imperius-resistance (as well as on their physical dissimilarities).


RE: TBAY: Crouch -- The H Word (3 of 9)

Part three of nine. Crouch's multiple narrative functions in the text, and the extent to which his hypocrisy enables JKR to use him to serve somewhat contradictory functions. Challenges the reading of Crouch as Tragic Hero on grounds that Crouch's degree of self-interest and hypocrisy prevents him from exhibiting the nobility of stature requisite in a classically-defined tragic hero. Also touches on the Crouch-Brutus parallel, suggesting that its use is ironic in intent.


RE: TBAY: Crouch -- Midnight In the Golden Wood (4 of 9)

Part four of nine. Evaluates the motives underlying Crouch's political decisions and how these relate to his narrative function. "Thematically hedgehogs" Barty Crouch Sr.


RE: TBAY: Crouch -- Through A Glass, Darkly (7 of 9)

Part seven of nine. Crouch's mirror relationship with his son, his redemption scene, and his thematic function within the context of the series as a bildungsroman. Also, some discussion of the relevance of mirrors not only to the Crouch subplot, but also to the series as a whole and to reading practice itself. Includes a rather snarky Lacan reference.


RE: TBAY: Crouch - Sympathy For the Devil (8 of 9)

Part eight of nine. The nature of Crouch's madness and death, and his possibilities as a future canonical ghost. Some discussion of ghosts in the Potterverse. Textual evidence that Barty Jr. did not really want to kill his father. And a bit of sympathy, for a change, for poor old Crouch Sr.


RE: TBAY/SHIP: Crouch - Winky As Wife and Mother (9 of 9)

Defends the proposition that Crouch Sr. and Winky's relationship was sexual and discusses that 'ship's thematic relevance to the series as a whole. Also discusses JKR's seemingly conflicted attitude towards femininity and motherhood.


RE: Polemic, real characters, and real *people*

*Exceptionally* testy explanation of the various valid forms literary criticism can and does take - polemic being one of these - followed by a plea for listmembers to keep dat ole factional/fictional divide in mind and not draw conclusions about other listmembers' character or intellectual honesty from how they talk about the fictional characters, or from which critical styles they favor. This is what I sound like when I'm about to snap.


RE: Polemic, "cannibalism," and Common Wisdom

Has the use of polemic really risen within the fandom as the wait for OotP has dragged on? And if so, then why might this be the case?


RE: SHIP: Reading With Hindsight, D/H, Hermione's role in Draco's future development

Discussion of whether people noticed SHIPping "evidence" in the early volumes on first read, or only through hindsight. Evidence for Draco having a "nasty twisted little crush" on Hermione. Suggests that the Malfoy family has been established as both Ron's and Hermione's nemesis, and that this may indicate that Hermione will have some role to play in Draco's future development in canon.


RE: You're reading the wrong book

"If you don't want to be exposed to other people's readings of the text, then why on earth are you HERE?" Phrased only marginally more politely than that.


RE: House points and Dumbledore, Authorial Intent, and A Question

More discussion of the PS/SS point award scene and the likelihood that it taught a bad lesson to the Slyth kids. Argues that since Dumbledore has been shown in canon to be fallible, a reading of this scene as one in which he chooses the wrong tactic in regard to House Slytherin is perfectly canonically defensible, followed by an explanation of why such a reading can still have value even if it is not believed to be the author's intent. Concludes by drawing a parallel between the PS/SS point award scene and the "Train Stomp" at the end of GoF, and asks how reader response to these two scenes differs - and if it does, then what this might say about the series' maturing perspective.


RE: House points and Dumbledore - in context of school stories

Reader response to the series in the context of various genre expectations


RE: The Train Stomp vs. Dissin' the Slyths

Suggests that by presenting events filtered through an ever-maturing moral perspective, the series is structured to actively encourage revisionist readings of the earlier volumes. Uses as example the "triumph over Slytherin enemies" scenes at the end of PS/SS ("Dissing the Slyths") and GoF ("Train Stomp").


RE: TBAY (Mild): Slytherin and the Reader -- Sympathy for the Devil vs SYCOPHANTS

House Slytherin and Reader Response. Draws a distinction between Sympathy For the Devil and the sort of 'rooting for the underdog' that leads people to identify with or like minion characters like Pettigrew, Avery and Gollum (SYCOPHANTS). Suggests that the built-in personality test of the Sorting Hat (practically an invitation to reader self-insertion!) might have contributed to the HP books' mass appeal.


RE: FF: Evil!Cho: Cho Chang and Reader Response

Analysis of the popularity of Evil!Cho in the fandom.