It’s true I did hope a little that this class was going to be all about Harry Potter. But I’d been fooled before by a previous rhetoric 309K class about pirates, so I knew a little bit of what I was getting into when I signed up for the class. By the way, I happen to be notorious among my friends for picking classes that sound way cool but end up being something completely different. Not that I didn’t enjoy this class though. I did. But I started to get burned out towards the end, if you can’t already tell by my obvious lack of blog posts. This was my last semester, and all I have to do is pass and then I get a diploma mailed to me in January. I’ve already started a real job, so it feels really weird to still have things to work on for school. I’ve been writing non-stop all semester. Every single one of my classes was a writing flag. It was also the same the semester before that. And even when English classes say they’re not writing components, they still make you write a lot, but without the credit. So my essay-writing has really gone downhill the past few weeks. Big time. I’m tired of writing things I don’t want to write about. Sorry to whine, but I feel like I need to justify the fact that I’m a slacker right now.
I do like rhetoric though. I don’t always like writing about, but I do like to discuss it, and I do like to evaluate the ways other people manipulate rhetoric to make their own arguments and make others believe those arguments. I liked rhetorical analysis, and I think that’s a skill everybody should have. It might keep people from blindly following anybody who can make a emphatic speech. It might teach us to think critically about the way our government, advertisers, and our own peers try to get us to do something or believe their arguments. Rhetoric is all about how to change people’s minds, and learning how rhetoric works would be like working the system, or having insider knowledge.
When I started at UT three and a half years ago, I was a government major with political aspirations. At the end of my sophomore year, however, I realized that my biggest strength is reading—so I switched my major to English. I started my first real-world job this week as a proofreader for a romance novel publisher here in Austin. That’s right. I sit there all day and do nothing by what we did as peer reviewers. Not many people like peer reviews, either doing them or being on the receiving end of one. But I just wanted to say thank you to the rhetoric department for giving me some skills I could actually apply to a job.
As for future Rhetoric of Harry Potter students, I would tell them to not be daunted by the amount of writing they will have to do. As an English major, all I do is write essays. All the time. So having one class with a heavy emphasis on writing isn’t really all that bad, unless you’re like me and all of you classes are major writing components. God, I miss multiple choice exams.
The hardest part of writing in a rhetoric class is trying to keep away from literary criticism, especially when the subject your writing about is a book series. The second hardest part is revising. When I write a paper, I want to turn it in and never have to look at it again. I rarely do rewrites unless they are required, regardless of the grades I receive. But you just suck it up and do it, because otherwise you’ll never learn how to write better.
Most likely I will be writing about Harry Potter and homosexuality, because I already have a lot of research about it from previous papers. I am also considering writing about Harry Potter rhetoric, just because that sounds like more fun.
Once you get past the introduction, this article isn’t quite so ridiculous. She starts using more academic language and might actually have something more to say than her own opinion on the Harry Potter novels.
Just looking at the first page hurts my eyes. There’s a table of contents and half the page is nothing but footnotes. Also published in the Michigan Law Review which sounds important and scholarly. Although it is not particularly relevant to my topics, the language and structure would be good to learn from.
I am considering writing about Hermione and feminism or Harry Potter and improving literacy. Looking at all the blogs that are out there, I think I want to emulate blogs The Daily Dish on the Atlantic, kind of funny, but still serious. I would like to combine that style with more satire like Stuff White People Like. Jezebel would work too, especially if I choose to do the feminism topic. I think “Don’t read Harry Potter because of witchcraft” would be a super fun devil’s advocate sort of topic to use a satirical style with. There’s also the Geeks of Doom bog that talks about non-serious subjects in a very serious way, which can be very funny in its own way.
The Huffington Post would be out of the question. It is simply too serious to have any fun with. Pretty much anything that isn’t funny or lacking in curse words is out of the question.
This is clearly the use of an ethical fallacy—ad hominem. Christine O’Donnell once let it slip that she dabbled in witchcraft, and since then her political opponents have been using it to attack her credibility as a serious GOP candidate. Less emphasis is put on debating O’Donnell’s policies and ideas, and more weight is put upon the fact that she may have faulty morals that are not in line with core conservatives. If she is a witch, how can she be expected to have a leadership role in our government?
I hate writing essays. Which is probably a popular sentiment among college students, but it isn’t a great feeling to have when you’re an English major. I think I’m a decent writer, but I can have trouble making my writing coherent to another reader. With my major, I’m forever being asked to write differently based on the professor’s prefered style of writing. Since grades are more important than maintaining my own individual writing voice, I’ve had to conform to a lot of different expectations. Some of my professors are the grammar police, some hate flowery language, some are obsessed with thesis statements, and some want as many multisyllabic words in the paper as humanly possible. I write one paper for a class and the professor loves it, but I write a similar paper for another class and that professor hates it. I am constantly have to conform my own style to that of a teacher in order to pass the class, and that has definitly taken a toll on the way I write and the clarity of my papers.
As fun as writing this blog may be, I have another super exciting English essay to go work on.
I believe in using correct punctuation. I also believe in using proper capitalization and correct spelling. I don’t mean to be a stickler, and I know I’m not exactly the shining example of good grammar (since I have a tendency to write in a way that sounds right versus the way I know it is supposed to be). However, without a certain amount of effort to use basic grammar rules, the meaning of what is written could be completely changed. For example, the their, there, they’re problem. Most people could continue reading a sentence that abuses the usage of one of these words, but someone reading the text more closely might misconstrue the meaning, or at least wonder a little at the effort the writer put into their work. The same principle applies to your and you’re. To a certain extent, to use poor grammar implies laziness. For instance, text messages and e-mails have become increasingly rife with chat speak, blatant spelling errors, no capitalization, and little punctuation (except the occasional exclamation point when one is conveying a very excited “omg” or “lol”). I agree that to use full sentences and high brow grammar would be quite silly when I can get my point across in less than 140 characters, but even that kind of grammar has its place.
I think the most important thing about grammar is that the writer conveys thier message in a clear and understandable way. I don’t think quality of content can entirely eclipse the fact that there shouldn’t be spelling errors, capitalization, and at least a decent amount of punctuation. Sure, looking for errors in a piece of writing does greatly increase the probability of me finding them, but the perfectionist in me can only read over a certain amount typos before it becomes unbearable. I can read Harry Potter because not only is the content good, but Rowling writes coherently and has wonderful editors that help her with the little stuff. I can’t read Grapes of Wrath because I don’t care if people talked that way in the 1930’s, I simply cannot resist the urge to pick up a red pen and start making corrections. People wouldn’t be able to take her seriously if there were misspellings on every page or she was constantly putting “your” when she meant to use “you’re.” Grammar can be a credibility issue.
What I find most interesting about all the contoversy of Harry Potter is that people are still arguing about the appropriatness of childen’s books when their children may have been exposed to far worse things on television, films, and the internet. In the digital age, it’s gotten a lot harder for parents to control what their kids encounter. With shows like Jersey Shore and Gossip Girl on the air, film ratings becoming more and more lax, and the emergence of websites like Chatroulette, Harry Potter hardly seems controversial. And some kids are perfectly capable of getting their hands on things they’re not allowed to have. In fact, telling a child (or an adult) that they’re not allowed to read something is like telling them their not allowed to eat a certain piece of candy—it just makes it more appealing. I grew up reading fiction books, many of which would not in any way be considered “children’s books,” and I was able to understand the difference between reality and fantasy. Kids are rarely given enough credit.
I also noticed that some conservatives assumed that Dumbledore being gay was in some way a plot to indoctrinate children with the homosexual agenda. This fact was never addressed until after the books were published, and after many had become attached to his character. Not once, in all the years people have read and enjoyed Harry Potter, has there been a problem with Dumbledore’s character or his actions. People loved his character, and many were very upset with his death in the books. Does making him gay negate that he was a good person who was trying to do what was right?
Interesting topics I would like to explore further:
Banning books and how much influence should kids have in choosing what they read
Feminism or anti-feminism in Harry Potter
Education or the right to an education (for example: Hagrid’s expulsion for school, the Death Eaters wanting to exclude muggle-borns from attending wizarding school, the interference of the ministry in the running of Hogwarts or just general government involvement in education)