French Marxist Attacks `Bourgeois' Harry Potter

By Lichfield, John | The Independent (London, England), January 28, 2001 | Go to article overview
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French Marxist Attacks `Bourgeois' Harry Potter

Lichfield, John, The Independent (London, England)

HARRY POTTER is a sexist neo-conservative meritocrat who perpetuates a "degrading image of women". The French newspaper Liberation has published the first extended, Marxist-structuralist analysis of the works of J K Rowling.

Would-be "progressive", "non-elitist" and "non-sexist" children are urged to avoid the politically incorrect symbolism of the four Potter books, which have sold more than a million copies in France.

Harry Potter, the trainee wizard, may look like an "intellectual" with his glasses and his unruly hair, writes Pierre Bruno. Once "deconstructed," he is "only too clearly" the hero of a "political allegory" of the triumph of the socially ascendant (on broomsticks presumably) petite bourgeoisie.

Mr Bruno, a university lecturer in Dijon and author of a book on adolescent culture, has applied the principles of structuralist literary criticism and Marxist social analysis - the twin pillars of French left-wing intellectualism - to the wizard from 4 Privet Drive.

His critique has touched off an impassioned defence of Harry and Rowling by French publishers, teachers and parents in the same newspaper. How, they ask, can a book be socially undesirable if it helped a generation of children to rediscover reading?

The charge of "sexism," they say, does not stick. Harry's friend Hermione - inaccurately presented by Mr Bruno as a stupid, ineffectual bookworm - is a brilliant scholar who plays a pivotal role in most of the books' comic-horrific adventures.

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