Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Is Dumbledore Gay? : Can Literary Criticism Help?

A few years ago J. K. Rowling created a controversy when she announced that she had "always thought of Dumbledore as gay." When I first heard about this statement, I asked myself why would she make such a statement and why now. This was after the seventh volume had been published and the series completed. It seemed to me it would just give ammunition to those who are opposed to the Harry Potter series. The question this leads one to ask Is Dumbledore gay because Rowling says he is? There are at least three possible answers from three different theories of literary criticism. These three theories are intentionalism, structuralism, and reader-response theory. Karen Kebarble does a good job in showing how these three different theories could answer our question in her essay, "If Rowling Says Dumbledore is Gay, is He Gay? : Harry Potter and the Role of Authorial Intention" in Hog's Head Conversions: Essays on Harry Potter edited by Travis Prinzi. Kebarble argues the intentional view, but she notes, "What Rowling says in interviews does not determine the meaning of the texts, but what she intended as she wrote them does."

Kebarble and others think that the evidence in the text is non-conclusive. She gives possible reasons for this: Rowling was writing for both kids and adults and hid the meaning.; there was no intent; or Rowling failed to communicate. I find the evidence proving Dumbledore as gay lacking in the text. I think Rowling was making a political statement because she believes in diversity. I believe in author's intention, but they are not the only voice in the process of interpretation.

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