So today we have learnt that Dumbledore is gay.

Peter Tatchall rejoices: ‘It’s good that children’s literature includes the reality of gay people, since we exist in every society.’

But now, I find myself in a dilemma.

I would have no issue with Dumbledore being gay.
I can even see the line of thought that says that his evil rival was his true love.
But given the several thousand pages Rowling had to play out her cards, is she really allowed to be so explicit now?

Surely we may suspect that Dumbledore is gay, we may be right in our supposing, but we cannot say that he is given his utter silence on the matter for so many centuries (of pages, you understand).

Now, as for whether he is really Piskie…

9 thoughts on “erised?”

  1. I guess that I feel that had JK put it explicitly in the book, the press would just have focussed on the ‘gay’ issue and ignored the aspects of redemption, human frailty, the loss of innocence and the importance of friendship that are so central to all the books. By making the statement explicit now, those of us with active sexual fantasies and identity-visibility desires can re-read the texts with fresh eyes. (And I have no doubt that queer theorists across the western hemisphere will be doing just that.)

    Perhaps the bigger question is about what is and what is not appropriate in ostensibly children’s fiction. None of the adults in the Potter books really are made explicitly sexual beings. Where sexuality does raise its head it is in the explorations of the adolescent world. Of course identity is more than just a sexuality issue. Or is it?

    Of course Dumbledore is a Piskie – so much discretion and a definite don’t ask, don’t tell approach to life, mixed with an unerring sense of life being about more than immediate gratification. 🙂

  2. Yes, I can see that.

    Last night my objection was theoretical: does the character exist outside of the books? Who gets to decide — reader or writer?

    Today I wonder: if we are going to start being explicit about the characters now, just how many gay teachers do you suppose we could find at Hogwarts?

  3. I’ve just seen a fuller comment by J.K. Rowling, in relation to Dumbledore:

    A 19 year old from Colorado, asked “Did Dumbledore, who believed in the prevailing power of love, ever fall in love himself?”J K Rowling replied that:“My truthful answer to you…I always thought of Dumbledore as gay.”

    from The Leaky Cauldron
    My literary qualms are therefore obliterated. Authorial intention allows for ‘thinking of as’ even if Reader Response says it is too late for her to add facts now.

  4. does the character exist outside of the books? Who gets to decide — reader or writer?

    This is an interesting question. My feeling is that the character may well exist differently for everyone. I imagine the character exists fully formed in the writer’s mind with a whole history that the reader never gets to learn but nevertheless helps to flesh out the character simply by being there in the writer’s imagination. The same often happens in the mind of a reader, particularly one who has strong feelings for the character – maybe identifies with the character in some way – and they will subconsciously add some backstory of their own to the well loved character. Fanfiction is often the embodiment of this need to flesh out a character. It can give rise to all sorts of conflict within the fan community – hence JK’s wry comment about fanfiction!

  5. Well, as soon as he appeared in a purple velvet suit in ‘Half Blood’ all doubt was removed, wasn’t it?

    But I was disappointed when Tonks turned out to be straight….

  6. Rosemary, yeah me too.
    Actually, the question of the existence of a text that the reader creates from their reading is interesting, as for me this is so often what happens with Biblical reading…and what Churches all over the world attempt to control. What do you folk out there think?

  7. Mustn’t be diverted from the ‘to-do’ list for long enough to give Vicky’s question the thought it deserves. But first thought:

    If we believe that scripture is inspired — that God meets us in and through these texts– then it should be the text creating the reader, rather than the reader creating a text. So, the biblical narrative shapes us. It’s story becomes our story.

    But — since we also believe that God is not limited to scripture, when our lives become part of the story of faith, we shape the text(s) of the church (if not so much the text of the Old and New Testaments).

  8. I tend to think it as a dialogue. We bring ourselves to a text as well as the text bringing things to us. What is created in the act of reading lies in the middle. I think this is true of anything we read, including Scripture – but there we also have that promise of God’s meeting us in that space.

  9. Sarah’s comment is even more applicable to poetry, where so much is implied or dependent on connotation.
    Who was it who insisted that we had to “see the object as in itself it really is”? I.A. Richards? It formed the basis of my very first university essay. I always discouraged speculation in Lit. Crit. – as in “stick to textual evidence” – but I still haven’t read past the first HP book.

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