Question: Do you think that there is evidence in the “Harry Potter” series that suggests that Albus Dumbledore is gay? Do you think that J.K. Rowling’s divulgence of this information will affect how readers view the series and Dumbledore as a character?

Answer: Fictional characters don’t have sexualities! An author’s pronouncements about a character aren’t necessarily true!

These are my instinctive responses to J. K. Rowling’s announcement from last October that Dumbledore is gay. I am torn between wanting to praise Rowling for creating a positive queer role model and feeling frustration that, in 2008, an author’s extra-textual assertions about a character still hold ferocious sway.

As an English professor, one of the comments I most often write on students’ essays is, “Careful—literary characters aren’t people.” Literature might aim to create characters who seem human, but that ’seem’ is extremely important.

Why does it matter? Books can teach us things about the human spirit, while simultaneously placing words like ’human’ and ’spirit’ under a microscope. Approaching these books, we need to see what ’gay’ would mean in the world of “Harry Potter,” rather than to bring all sorts of assumptions to the texts.

Rowling’s possessive attitude towards her characters, while understandable, is also not one with which I’d agree—I’d say she falls prey to her own “intentional fallacy.” In a recent interview in “Time” magazine, Rowling said about Harry Potter, “He’s still mine,” even though “many people may feel that they own him.”

I fervently believe that, once the book is written, readers “own” Harry just as much as Rowling does. Though I love to read the diaries and letters of authors, I know that the materials I gather from biography merely add to possible readings of works rather than give any definitive reading.

Now that the “Harry Potter” series is published, whether Dumbledore loved Grindelwald is a case that must be made from the books’ written texts. Rowling, like anyone else, would have to write an essay proving her case with ample textual evidence.

  • Stephen Fryshill

    Who worth caring about cares? Nobody, I’d say.

    The only people who care are the billion-or-so half-witted, purblind and feckless bottom-feeders who buy this dross again and again; seemingly attracted to its lumbering, artless stream-of-vacuity.

    There is no one who has ever been able to read more than a paragraph of J.K. Rowling without stopping in despair at its one-dimensional dullness who has ever written or appreciated any literature of any beauty of any form. No one.

    It is insignificant but for its shocking exposé of humanity: highlighting that we are amongst some terminally obtuse people.

  • anon

    I care what this assistant prof. has to say about this issue.

    You may note that you did not respond to the article, your comments are a non sequitur. Maybe you need to take some English classes from Megan?