Marilyn R. Pukkila will read from and sign her book The Skill of a Seeker: Rowling, Religion, and Gen 9/11 on January 10th at the Waterville Public Library, from 2 to 4 pm.
Marilyn’s book is considered a breakthrough in research about Rowling’s work, and the ties her series has with spirituality, religion and its influence with the 9/11 generation.
“This is a book for everyone: the 9/11 generation, who view their lives through the prism of Harry Potter’s experiences, and their elders who seek to understand them. It has much to say to those who have never read the series but struggle as Harry Potter does to accept death and achieve integrity,” wrote Debra Campbell as an endorsement. Campbell is a Professor of Religious Studies at Colby College.
Pukkila’s book helps us understand the continued success of the Harry Potter series, and the impact it has had, and continues to have, on our ever-changing society.
“Marilyn R. Pukkila has delved deep into the world of the spirit and the world of J.K. Rowling. Like Hermione Granger, she brings intelligence and research to bear on her subject, but like Harry himself she also brings a deep love, both for stories and for spirit, teasing out the threads of Rowling’s moral and ethical framework, and suggesting ways that framework may influence millions of young readers and viewers in an increasingly secular age,” endorsed author Jane Raeburn in the book.
Marilyn answers some compelling questions about the Harry Potter series:
What inspired you to do your research?
“I taught a course at Colby College on religious responses to Harry Potter in January of 2010. I realized from that course that many students didn’t have much in the way of religious background, but that they were comfortable exploring religious and spiritual questions through the medium of Harry Potter because Rowling presented those concepts in a non-denominational fashion.
“Since they were also of the group that I called ‘Gen HP’ (Generation Harry Potter) and ‘Gen 9/11,’ I felt that was relevant, and that a book exploring the religious and spiritual content of the series might be interesting, provided it did so in a way that mentioned as many spiritual/religious traditions as possible and pointed out the non-denominational approach. In essence, I was answering the question that the students had to answer for their final essay: What is the religious and spiritual content of the Harry Potter series?”
How much is this generation affected by the Potter books?
“The books were particularly influential with the folks who grew up with Harry, so to speak. I identify the age range as those born between 1980 and 2000 but the movies brought in more people.”
Are the movies very different than the books?
“The movies are profoundly different in their non-treatment of the religious themes, so that the disparities sometimes arise in the course of my public readings, particularly when I talk about Harry as a nonviolent hero.
“Part of my book discusses the ways that media can take the place of religion for some people, and I question how accurately the media choose to depict concepts of nonviolence as presented in the books that inspired the movies.
“’If it bleeds, it leads,’ seems to be a big movie mantra as well as a (sensationalist) journalistic one; the way the final movie treated the deaths of Voldemort and Bellatrix (they explode into sparkly bits and fade away; in the books, their bodies fall to the ground with banal finality) radically erases Rowling’s message that evil is a human capacity, and even people who perform acts that are beyond ‘usual evil,’ as Dumbledore puts it, are still, in the end, nothing more than human beings whose evil can be overcome by other human beings.”
What do you consider the most important lessons Rowling is trying to impart?
“Love is stronger than any other power, stronger than hate, stronger than death. That was one of her most important messages. The other is that death is something to be accepted rather than something to be overcome—and certainly not something to be feared or deliberately ignored.”
When did you discover the Harry Potter series had hidden depths in spirituality?
“When I first read the first three books in the series, in 1999. Each successive book contained more and more religious and spiritual content, a grand crescendo to the glorious finale.
“The remarkable thing is the way that Rowling was able to present it all without any overtly religious material, and the way she ‘aged up’ her content as her characters aged. Those who were children in 2001 form a particular cohort that faces stark challenges when pondering religious and spiritual themes. But they also have an unexpected, nonviolent hero, whose greatest power is love, who grew up along with them and dealt with the same challenges. Gen 9/11 is also Gen HP, the people who grew up with Harry Potter. J.K. Rowling’s series provides them with an easy entry into the world of Big Questions; my book shows some of her answers and how they resonate with all her readers.”
About the Author
Marilyn R. Pukkila is Scholarly Resources and Services Librarian for Social Sciences and Humanities at Colby College, where she also teaches courses on Tolkien, women in myth and fairy tale, the religion of contemporary Witchcraft, and (of course) Harry Potter.
Good conversation, good food, gardening, and most especially good stories are among her greatest joys, and she’ll happily wander in the woods or along a beach in almost any season.
Perfect Paperback: 312 pages, $17.95
Publisher: Polar Bear & Company of Solon, Maine