Lived theology through The Harry Potter serie

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Abstract

The Harry Potter series has been part of many kids’ socio-cultural context since 1997, and is a phenomenon that has had a huge impact on them (many of whom are now adults). It is argued that some kids’ identities and spiritualties may have been directly shaped, and may continue to be directly shaped, by the alternative sacred story presented by Rowling. As this has the Christ discourse woven into its narrative, there are kids who are using the Gospel values on a daily basis, whether they are aware of it or not. Rowling’s fantasy asks readers to question the impact that the dominant discourses of their ‘realities’ may be having on their identities and spiritualities, putting them in a position to question if that is indeed who they want to be.
This study was motivated by how kids, who live in a Western society where one of the sacred stories is power/materialism/consumerism, can not only appreciate, but also live out (in lived theology) values of the Harry Potter series which are in complete opposition to the Western sacred story of power/consumerism/materialism. Since the consumerist discourse places a heavy burden on people to keep up with their socio-world, if they do not live up to these demands they will simply not ‘fit in’. People, especially kids, do not want to be perceived as outcasts. Practical theology seeks to react to, and understand the shifts that have a direct implication on how people’s lives are lived out and affected daily, in response to their socio-cultural world. One such shift is how people are now seeking ultimate answers from alternative sources such as for example literature, and specifically in this thesis, the Harry Potter series.
Therefore, when a fantasy, such as Harry Potter, is published, it is important to question what kind of transformational and even transcendental impact it may be having on them. This is also an important question from a lived theology perspective as the Harry Potter series is lived religion. Lived theology seeks to understand how people practice and apply the sacred outside the Church and the four Gospels, while still using the Gospel message to live out their life on some level every day. These values include people’s practices, their actions towards others within their socio-cultural context and their personal sacred experiences that may allow them to transcend the way in which materialism affects their identity and spirituality.
Lived theology seeks to understand how these values may affect practical theology. While some people no longer feel comfortable with/drawn to the Church, and feel alienated from the Gospels that were written for a socio-cultural context that is very different from Western society today, this does not mean that human beings are no longer spiritual/religious/Christian. They continue to seek for answers to the ultimate question at different stages of their lives.

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Introduction

For well over a decade, Harry Potter has been a part of kids’ social context, first in book form, then in a film format and now as virtual reality. Playstation 3 has released the Wonderbook: Book of Spells, an ‘enchanted book’ that allows the reader to learn, practice and master the magic spells from the series by bringing the spells ‘to life’ around the player1. This is an actual book that the player opens up to encounter the magical world of the series in virtual reality. Therefore, the Harry Potter series has become part of many aspects of kids’ digital media and part of their socio-cultural context, making the series accessible on various levels (for instance, books, digital media, and even birthday parties). Miller-McLemore (2006: 68) uses the term kids, as the term ‘seems to stretch a bit further than children to cover teens and young adults.’ I will also be using the term in the same manner unless otherwise specified. Everyone has heard of Harry Potter, unless as Granger (2008:1) points out, you have been ‘living on the planet Zeno since 1997 or have recently come out of a coma.’ Harry, and the many other loved characters (even those that are despised) of the series, and their actions, may have been woven into some people’s personal narratives over the last sixteen years.

Contents :

  • Chapter 1: Positioning the study
    • 1.1 Introduction
    • 1.2 The problem field
    • 1.3 The research gap
    • 1.4 The research question
    • 1.5 Epistemology
    • 1.6 Methodology
    • 1.7 Overview of chapter
  • Chapter 2: Lived theology through The Harry Potter series
    • 2.1 Introduction
    • 2.2 Lived theology
    • 2.2.1 The term ‘Lived Religion’ or ‘Lived Theology’
    • 2.2.2 The characteristics’ of lived theology
    • 2.2.2.1 People’s search for the ultimate questions and the living out of
    • religion within their socio – cultural ‘realities’
    • 2.2.2.2 Lived theology in the fantasy genre
    • 2.2.2.3 Normativity
    • 2.2.2.4 Transformation and transcendence
    • 2.3 The lived theology of the Harry Potters Series
    • 2.3.1 When and why people may have a sense of estrangement from the
    • Church and the Bible?
    • 2.3.2 Why people may experience fascination with the Harry Potter series?
    • 2.3.3 Why people may experience a free sense of belonging to the Harry Potter world?
    • 2.3.4 Where and why people may feel deeply at home within the Harry Potter world?
    • 2.4 An Overview
  • Chapter 3: Alternative identities through the choices created by alternative worlds in narratives
    • 3.1 Introduction
    • 3.2 How human beings create their world and construct identity through language and narrative
    • 3.2.1 Heidegger’s ‘Fourfold’
    • 3.2.2 Crites: sacred and mundane stories
    • 3.2.3 Berger and Luckmann: Society and identity formation
    • 3.3 Heidegger in conversation with Berger, Luckmann and Crites
    • 3.4 Understanding who we are through narrative
    • 3.5 How toddlers create their social identity and then challenge this same identities
    • as adolescents
    • 3.6 Our identity and spirituality through narrative
    • 3.6.1 Paul Ricoeur and Hans-Georg Gadamer
    • 3.6.1.1 The ‘ipse and idem’ that make up identity
    • 3.7 How people express the “gods” element of their ‘Fourfold’
    • 3.7.1 The way kids develop religion and spirituality
    • 3.8 How kids construct their identity and spirituality in a corporate consumer western society
    • 3.9 Meylahn’s discourse of Christ
    • 3.10 An overview
  • Chapter 4: The Harry Potter narrative: Through the spiritual portal
    • of fantasy
    • 4.1 Introduction
    • 4.2 Harry Potter as fantasy narrative and the ‘elvish’ craft of ‘Sub-Creation’
    • 4.2.1 The elements of fantasy
    • 4.2.2 Rowling’s ‘elvish’ magical language of ‘Sub-Creation’
    • 4.2.3 Going through the portal of the Harry Potter ‘Sub-Creation’
    • 4.2.4 Challenging the readers ‘Primary World’ with an alternative ‘Secondary World’
    • 4.3. ‘Baptism of the imagination’ and finding alternative identity and
    • spirituality through a glimpse of ‘Joy’
    • 4.3.1 Harry in the ‘Sub-Creation’: Crucifying the consumerist superhero and
    • glimpsing the Gospel
    • 4.4 Spiritual identity through the choice of the love for the wounded Christ:
    • The crucifixion of consumerism and the resurrection of community
    • 4.4.1 Voldemort: The perversion of consumerism
    • 4.4.2 Harry, Ron, Hermione, Lily and Dobby: Resurrection of community
    • through love, transformation and redemption – The wounded Christ
    • 4.4.2.1 Ron and Hermione
    • 4.4.2.2 Harry
    • 4.4.2.3 Lily
    • 4.4.2.4 Dobby
    • 4.5 An overview
  • Chapter 5: Kids seeking identity and spirituality through the characters of
    • Harry, Dumbledore and Snape
    • 5.1 Introduction
    • 5.2 The problem stories within the dominant discourse of consumerism:
    • The consumerist pre-figuration of kids and the loss of identity in western society
    • 5.2.1 The case study of the effect of consumerism on Dudley Dursley
    • 5.2.2 Kids as valuable assets to the ‘Market’
    • 5.3 Re-Imagined / Re- Figurated Futures Through the Configuration of the Fantasy Narrative of the Harry Potter Series with its Alternative Story
    • 5.4 Re-Imagined Futures Through the Characters of Harry, Dumbledore
    • and Snape: Following in the Actions of the Wounded Christ
    • 5.4.1 The Sometimes Undesirable Characters of Harry, Dumbledore and Snape
    • 5.4.2 Harry – The Fragmented Seeker
    • 5.4.3 Dumbledore – Harry’s Story ‘Space Opener’
    • 5.4.4 Snape – Harry’s Liberator to the Alternative Story
    • 5.5 An Overview
  • Chapter 6: Concluding Thoughts And The Way Forward With Harry Potter
    • 6.1 Concluding Thoughts
    • 6.2 The Study Question
    • 6.2.2. A Summary of How the Chapters Went About Answering the Study Question
    • 6.3 The Way Forward With Harry Potter and Looking for Lived Theology in Virtual Reality
    • Bibliography

 

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