The Combat Myth and the Gospel's Apocalypse in the Harry Potter Series: Subversion of a Supposed Existential Given

By Barber, Peter John | Journal of Religion and Popular Culture, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

The Combat Myth and the Gospel's Apocalypse in the Harry Potter Series: Subversion of a Supposed Existential Given


Barber, Peter John, Journal of Religion and Popular Culture


Introduction

The following study confirms the hypothesis that J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series finds its source of influence in the Gospels by identifying a convergence of content, structure, and meaning between the two. The Gospels are asserted here to contain an internal polemic of two opposing logics organized around the subversion of the traditional combat myth. Therefore, J. K. Rowling's monumental fiction is distinctly formed around the same plot and imagery of the combat myth, openly subverting it in terms of the two logics. The profusion of biblical content within Western civilization and beyond makes justifying or corroborating Rowling's particular influences unnecessary.

The argument that the Gospels and Harry Potter share similarities begins with the definition and explanation of the two types of Logos. The combat myth represents the Logos of violence. The Logos of love's subversion of the Logos of violence is a reflection narrative (Hebrew subversive parallelism), which is the subversive process Girard calls the scapegoat lens. Next, working from Girard's insights, I explore the way the Bible describes human culture as a metaphorical grave or tomb that comes by "life," and is thereafter sustained, through devouring victims. Finally, the complete symmetry of the two narratives is discussed under the heading "The Gospel of the Harry Potter Series."

J. K. Rowling has fashioned in the Harry Potter series a guide. She has laboured to restore the long scorned and abused word love and reinstated it in the mainstream consciousness (with 400 million books sold, and counting, since 1997) as the arch-rival of the violence that rules this world, and as equivalent with life, which I define as a Gospel concept. This central theme is a strong indicator of the fiction's Gospel affiliation. An instance of the recurring polemic between violence and love occurs in one of Dumbledore's "epilogues" debriefing Harry near the close of the fifth book, in which Harry laments Voldemort's apparently superior power:

"I haven't any powers [Voldemort] hasn't got, I couldn't fight the way he did tonight, I can't possess people or--or kill them--"

"There is a room in the Department of Mysteries," interrupted Dumbledore, "that is kept locked at all times. It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature ...Itisthepowerheld within that room that you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all." (Rowling 2003, 927)

The power held in the room, and so abundant in Harry, is love. The essential dichotomy in the Harry Potter series is violence versus love.

The present study is informed by the groundbreaking work of Rene Girard, whose contribution to the social sciences over the past several decades has been staggering with his anthropological theory of mimesis and scapegoating which explains the interrelationships of the universal phenomena of human violence and religion. Yet his is surely one among a host of profound and complementary offerings to our collective knowledge of what Girard terms the two types of Logos. I hope to show that Rowling has formed the Harry Potter series as the battleground of two opposing concepts of world order that Girard terms "the Logos of Heraclitus" and "the Logos of John" (1987, 263-280). Girard articulates his idea best in the context of the Judaeo-Christian scriptures from which, he asserts, the two ideas are first and most clearly developed, and by which Rowling was influenced with regard to the essential narrative framework of her bestselling fiction.

Two Types of Logos

The two types of Logos are present in the Judaeo-Christian canons in a polemical layering of the two by the writers and redactors. Eminent biblical apocalypse scholar John J. Collins has acknowledged these two types of God in Does the Bible Justify Violence?, where he writes, "The Bible witnesses not only to the innocent victim and to the God of victims but also to the hungry God who devours victims and to the zeal of his human agents" (2004, 30-31). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Combat Myth and the Gospel's Apocalypse in the Harry Potter Series: Subversion of a Supposed Existential Given
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.