May 22nd, 2012

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Harry Up Please, It's Time Warner

The perpetually crepuscular attitude of many Eng Lit types towards children's literature never ceases to charm. A few days ago, for example, John Mullan (of UCL) was complaining that it was "all the fault of cultural studies" that academics paid children's reading any mind, and that they ought to be writing about Sterne and Milton instead. (Presumably this criticism doesn't apply to those analyses that use a cultural studies approach to, say, put Sterne in the context of the eighteenth-century cult of sentimentality, works such as - to take a random example - John Mullan's entry on "Sentimental Novels" in the Cambridge Companion to The Eighteenth Century Novel.)

This was all in the context of an HP conference up in St Andrews, an event reported the other day in a very badly-researched article in The Guardian as if it were the first time JKR's books had ever received attention from academics, like, ever.

Not that that's entirely surprising. Those of us who've been writing (and writing about) children's literature for decades have become used to the blundering appearance of pith-helmeted academics who stumble periodically into our Amazonian grove, declare it terra nullius, plant the flag of Yale or Oxford and then stumble out again. In fact, I wouldn't have mentioned it at all, had I not come across B. J. Epstein's article in the UK Huffington Post, which - in reporting all this, and doing a useful take-down of Mullan et al - also links to a story by my friend (from DWJ circles) Gili Bar-Hillel, Rowling's Hebrew translator, in which she recounts the bullying tactics used by Time Warner against the translators of Harry Potter. If you don't read any of the other links in this post, read that one.

Probably I shouldn't be any more surprised by Time Warner's bullying than I am by John Mullan's ignorant contempt. I'm simply more familiar with the latter.