Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy ed by Gregory Bassham

The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles ed by Gregory Bassham is a book in the ongoing Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series and one I’ve been anticipating for a while, having read the first book of Harry Potter and Philosophy when it came out years ago.  At the time, there were only four books in the series published so there was still a lot of information about the characters and their stories left to be told.

This will very likely go down in my short list of books I enjoy from this series.  I wish I could find the first volume but I apparently am not getting any wiser from reading these books as I keep lending things to my children who, because they don’t have the same drive to read things in a timely manner, tend to misplace my books rather than actually read them.

But I digress.  The essays run the gamut from Plato to Heidegger, from feminist interpretation to political orientation.  I was especially looking forward to certain essays, including one on authorial authority, and another on identity and what determines the self.

I confess, there is one essay that has a concluding sentence I found so incredibly offensive as to make me put the book down altogether for an entire day.  I am genuinely disappointed that the editor did not ask that the conclusion of this one essay be modified to at least remove this one sentence and I would be surprised if I were the only reader who didn’t take offense.  I am choosing not to identify the essay in question to allow other readers to approach the collection with an open mind.

Where this book soars is in its ability to address deep philosophical issues in light of Harry Potter.  This is not a philosophy book for philosophers so much as it is a philosophy book for Harry Potter fans nor is it a fanbook about Harry Potter.  Other literary resources are mentioned in relationship to Harry Potter and/or the philosophical idea being addressed.  There are frequent quotes not only from Rowling’s writings but from the usual people one would expect to find in one of these books: Plato, William James, Aristotle, et al.  I learned a few surprising tidbits along the way about the series and Rowling’s intentions while having the supreme pleasure of seeing Harry Potter from slightly different perspectives.

Highly recommended to any Harry Potter fans who want to dip slightly into philosophy as well.

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