Tuesday, October 12, 2010

O'Connor and Rowling: A Very Brief Comparison


Last spring I gave a talk on Flannery O’Connor and, in the middle, made a short comment on the Harry Potter series that generated more questions and misunderstanding than O’Connor’s work. In retrospect, I was unprepared for the reaction of my audience that sought to defend Rowling from any possible criticism. As an author who has now become the richest woman in England, her life is the opposite of the Catholic short story writer from Savannah and Milledgeville who gained a very limited following when she was alive. Everyone seems to understand Rowling and not even the professional reviewers understand O’Connor. One went on to riches and fame and the other to an early death caused by lupus at the age of 39. There is no comparison between the two author’s works. O’Connor’s work generates wonder and conversion while Rowling chronicles the adventures of a nihilistic boy. One is open to life, suffering, and transformation while the other is open to magic, revenge, and control. The danger of Rowling is that Harry Potter presents nihilism as something positive and attractive. The work should not be judged moralistically, but by the reality it portrays as normal. This means that criticism of Rowling’s works should originate from their defective understanding of the human person and reality (it has a faulty philosophic anthropology and ontology). The problem with most criticism of Rowling is that is examines her work moralistically and this misses the dimension where the weaknesses are present.

Michael O’Brien captures this missing dimension in Rowling’s work in several online essays that are available at the following links:

Harry Potter and the Death of God
Harry vs Frodo
Fantasy and the Family
Zenit Interview: The Next Stage in De-Christianization of Fairy Tales?
"No" to Harry Potter Doesn´t Mean "Yes" to Fundamentalism
Why Harry Potter Goes Awry
II. Why Harry Potter Goes Awry

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