Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The 'turning' of heroic literature

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One of the primary functions of literature, of art generally, has been to priovide examples of heroism: of courage and endurance in a good cause.

One example is the Old Testament, which can function as a series of cameos of heroic virtue in the face of persecution, corruption and a multitude of disadvantages. The way I remember the OT from my childhood is, indeed, in exactly this way - David and Goliath, Sampson, Daniel... heroic figures. (There are better examples, of course, but these are the ones I remember.)

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The same applies to the Book of Mormon, and indeed this line of thought was stimulated by an e-mail from commenter 'MC' who is an active Mormon. He described how the BoM functions to provide a set of heroic examples upon which modern Mormons can model themselves.

When I again looked through the BoM, I could see that this was indeed something of a Key to understanding the special role or function of the BoM in the LDS church: more explicitly than the OT, and in greater number and with more variations on the theme, the Book of Mormon provides one account after another of individual courage and endurance in faith; in face of recurrent apostasy, decadence and violence - and thus a spectrum of hero models, from whom the modern Mormon may gain inspiration and resolution. 

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In the increasingly secular environment of the twentieth century, this role has devolved from scripture to fiction, and especially to the 'fantasy' genre of which Tolkien is the greatest exemplar.

I myself have used characters and situations from Lord of the Rings in order to model and clarify situations in life, and from whom to gain inspiration.

The Harry Potter series is a more recent example - and much of the appeal of HP comes from its many and vivid depictions of self-sacrificing heroism.

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Scripture and fantasy are traditional genres, and the atheistic, radical, progressive opposition can only parasitize upon heroic literature - as when the heroes of Carol Kendall's (excellent) Minnipins/ Gammage Cup story are depicted rather in the fashion of sixties counter-culturalists with their unconventional dress, poeticizing and abstract painting;  nonetheless, their heroism is in service of traditional 'goods' and made possible by the eccentric reactionary Walter the Earl.

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But despite its fundamental rootedness in the traditional, and despite its quasi-scriptural basis; heroic fantasy literature can be turned against traditional values, as happened when Tolkien was adopted by the sixties counter-culture, and interpreted to be in favour of drop-out drug culture, the sexual revolution, and extreme Leftist utopianism generally.

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The same has now happened with Harry Potter, but in a much nastier fashion given the modern environment of media-spun political correctness, with an organization called the Harry Potter Alliance - which bureaucratically harnesses Potter-mania to all the latest hot-button causes of modern Leftism, with Potterphiles deployed as funders of radical pressure groups - and thereby 'turns' heroic idealism from defence of tradition into subversion of The Good.

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As with the Left's appropriation of Tolkien, the HPA works by ignoring the deep Christian structure of the novels, and focusing on superficial aspects which can be channeled into 'supporting' a pre-existing agenda.

But the HP novels are much more ambivalent about tradition/ Leftism/ the sexual revolution than is Lord of the Rings.

With her post-Potter works and public persona, JK Rowling herself seems to have turned against the deep Christian and traditionalist structure of the Harry Potter books, and embraced all the distinctive concerns of modern Leftism.

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The turning of Harry Potter shows the way that Leftism works. It was made easier by the fact that the deep Christianity of the Harry Potter books is - while real and powerful, as depicted by John 'The Hogwarts Professor' Granger's analyses - covert and coded; while the more Leftist concerns are much more obvious: for instance the Nazi-like 'racism' of Voldemort and the 'pure blood' death eaters.

Thus makes it easier to invert the meaning of HP; but in fact, such is the power of the mass media to impose its own categories (by selection, emphasis, diversion, invention, shock) - that even real life personal experience can now be reframed to mean its opposite: this is a matter of daily, headline routine.

Modern people believe what they are told by the mass media; not what they know by experience: we are tabulae rasae, 'hollow men', the 'men without chests' - each night forgetting everything; each morning waiting to be re-filled by the latest media content.

So the potential benefits of heroic literature are quite simply turned-against their traditional and Christian basis.

Perhaps the LDS church has been fortunate that the Book of Mormon is off-the-radar, being considered as beneath the notice of the mainstream mass media culture; which has not therefore condescended to 'reframe' its stories of heroic virtue into meaning the opposite of their real meaning; a process which has, of course, long since happened with the Bible.

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