Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vibrant Wands

“First, a life is not only a negative recalcitrance but a positive, active virtuality: a quivering protoblob of creative elan. Second, a life draws attention not to a lifeworld of human designs or their accidental, accumulated effects, but to an interstitial field of non-personal, ahuman forces, flows, tendencies, and trajectories.” –Jane Bennet, Vibrant Matter

Alright, with an introductory quote like that, one would expect I would apply it to a bit of scholarly material deserving of such a cerebral yet aesthetic dance of language. But that’s not going to happen. I just spent a solid week ill to the teeth from a sinus infection and a simultaneous flu. As badly as I desired to start perusing Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, read a few Breton Lai’s searching for instances of thing-power, and continue Mallory’s Morte Darthur, my head was a viscous cloud of pain and I could not give any of the most materials the attention they deserved. Thus, I finally read the final book in the Harry Potter series, a bit of light reading I knew I wouldn’t regret if I failed to read it with a critical eye.

Yet I did get something more than just entertainment value from Harry Potter, and although my diction and critical writing skills haven’t fully recovered from my week of illness, there is one thing I want to get written down before I move back into more scholarly literature (although I firmly believe there is scholastic merit in studying the relationship between medieval literature and contemporary medievalisms).

Thus, as a fledgling OOOist (is that right?), I couldn’t help noticing all the attention given to the vibrancy, the autonomous activity of inorganic objects in Harry Potter. The ubiquity of Tolkien’s influence on the fantasy genre involves the redolence of medievalisms in fantasy narratives, especially the appearance and frequency of objects that have power unto themselves. The bit of Harry Potter that most struck me refers to a particularly powerful magic-wand :

Its history is bloody, but that may be simply due to the fact that it is such a desirable object, and arouses such passions in wizards. Immensely powerful, dangerous in the wrong hands, and an object of incredible fascination to all of us who study the power of wands.

While contemporary understanding of the magic-wand treats it as a tool through which the operator directs his/her magical powers, in Harry Potter, the wand is written as having agency unto itself. Wands are actants, assemblages of manpower, wood, and objects, and as far as the human mind can describe them, they make decisions on their own, they control their own fates. Wands choose their operators, much like swords in medieval romances. Men write a place for wands in their own anthropocentric world, seeking dominance over a power that is outside the human realm, and the result is either violence or fascination. And even though wizards often believe they have mastery over their wands, the objects can still act independently of their operator. This is an obvious appropriation of the role of certain objects in medieval writing, and I welcome the way medievalisms in contemporary literature are able to resuscitate the pre-Humanist acceptance of thing-power.

Yes, a very brief observation, a mere glancing-over instead of a full surgical treatment, but in my defense, the brain operating the person writing this has not recovered as fully as the rest of the body.

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