This would actually be more compelling if they didn’t try so hard to make it compelling.

How Harry Cast His Spell – by John Granger, published in 2008

This is a 270 page book (not counting the notes) entirely about the Christian themes and symbolism in Harry Potter and how that contributes to the series immense popularity. John Granger is a Christian, and very open about it in all of his books, (I’ve not bothered to mention this before because it wasn’t relevant to my reviews). So he is writing this book from a motivated perspective, and he says as much in the introduction.

So I was less than enthused starting this book. I was worried it would amount to 270 pages of irritating proselytizing.

First off, its not. Its very politely written. Its clear Granger is writing with an agenda in mind because he says as much but the arguments it makes are clear, and well supported.

I think the case he makes is one of many elements of what makes Harry Potter popular rather than the key element, but that’s the extent of my disagreement with the major points of the argument. Overall I really enjoyed it.

I struggled a little with the book, not because of the content in and of itself but because having read Unlocking Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows Lectures there was a lot of repetition of content and I was, by the end of it, getting a little tired of that. But as I mentioned before, these books weren’t intended to be read back to back so that’s on me.

This book is incredibly well organized, and clearly written. I haven’t touched a Bible in over a decade but I had no trouble following even the relatively scripture heavy arguments. I really respect that both in that it reflects the quality of John Granger’s writing, but also in that its clearly written to respect the knowledge, but also the intelligence of a non-Christian audience.

The crisp, academic writing style that Granger uses was both a strength and a weakness. On one hand, it helped maintain the respectful tone of the book. A more personal style might have risked coming across as far more badgering. But on the other hand, Granger’s intense personal enthusiasm for the topic needed somewhere to go because its very apparent and somewhat jarring in the context of such an academically written book.

I approached this book from the perspective of an atheist raised in a Christian culture and for me, the most interesting parts of this book were the bits that explained how Harry Potter draws on the history of British literature (which, as a body of work largely written by Christian authors who assumed a Christian audience, makes a degree of Christian content inevitable). The question of whether or not the overall theme of Harry Potter is Christian is not especially interesting to me, but the way that Harry Potter draws on practically the entirety of the British literary canon, and huge swathes of British culture fascinates me.

But I would love to hear how this comes across to both actual practicing Christians, and to people of other religious and cultural backgrounds.


One thought on “Criticizing Harry Potter Criticism… Part 7

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