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Half-blood Prince and potions - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Half-blood Prince and potions
So, I'm listening to HBP at the moment. I don't often listen to or read 6 and 7, but I wanted to.

Anyway, I'm in "Sectumsempra" at the moment, and Hermione chastised Harry about a potions reputation he didn't deserve... which is true, inasmuch as Slughorn thinks it's his own creativity. But Hermione seems throughout the book (and series) as though she believes she deserves that reputation... only she's no more doing original work than Harry is. She's following book directions; he's following Snape's personal instructions. They're really operating at the same level, maybe Harry slightly higher for recognizing that the marginalia are more effective. Neither is exhibiting brilliance.

I think I'd have really liked it if, after following "the Prince's" instructions for a while, Harry had begun to get the hang of improvising in potions. It feels like it would have also driven home the fact that Snape was actually able to teach him when he wasn't aware of doing so. Like, Harry's thought process would have gone from, "Did the prince write anything about this?" to "What would the prince have written if he had written?" to "Oh, yeah, I know that using the flat of the blade works for getting more juice, and I think what this potion needs is more juice, so..." That's what I always felt was missing in Hermione's brilliance. She's awesome at memorizing facts and theories, but not that good at synthesizing them. Ron's good at thinking on the fly, but bad at remembering facts. Harry's got a bit of both, and I think it would have been neat to see that integrated a little. The point of memorization isn't memorization, after all. It's having facts at your grasp so you can use them in new ways, when you don't necessarily expect to need them.

That's why the "You can always google that" mentality tends to bother me, for the record. You don't always know when something is going to come in handy. Oh, sure, you may think, "Whoa, I need to go look up X" if you know you're writing around something that intersects with X. But if X is a fact that you happen to have in your head and it gets dumped into the stewpot with other random fact M, and random knowledge C, then they brew together and come up with something you might never have thought to research in the first place.

Says the person who just spent ten minutes reading up on the history of the names of Santa's reindeer, which led to the Dutch for thunder and lightning (Dunder and Blixen are named for that). I will have to tell co-workers that "Dunder" was, in fact, the first name, followed by Donder, then only later by Donner. Because that, I'm sure, will be a useful fact to have in my head at some point...
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shiiki From: shiiki Date: December 2nd, 2017 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, sure, you may think, "Whoa, I need to go look up X" if you know you're writing around something that intersects with X. But if X is a fact that you happen to have in your head and it gets dumped into the stewpot with other random fact M, and random knowledge C, then they brew together and come up with something you might never have thought to research in the first place.

I think it's more of the fact that you need to know at least something about X to be able to connect it with M and C. Maybe you don't know everything about X and still need to Google it to get more details (which may then connect to some other random facts N and D!) but you have a sufficient amount to make the connection.

Then again, the way our memories work is highly contextual, which is why making those connections is really difficult to begin with. Each memory gets stored in its own network and may not have a link to another until both facts surface at the same time, for whatever reason.

She's awesome at memorizing facts and theories, but not that good at synthesizing them. Ron's good at thinking on the fly, but bad at remembering facts

I always thought that's what make them such a good problem-solving team together. Hermione has the facts, and Ron connects the dots. :)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 4th, 2018 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I agree with you on Hermione’s lack of originality in just following the textbook’s instructions in Potions class.

But I’d say, apart from Potions, Hermione is always synthesizing what they’ve learned. She takes what Snape forces them to read in DADA and figures out that Remus is a werewolf. She takes the mysteries in Chamber of Secrets and realizes that reflection is the key. She takes Voldemort’s Death Eater mark and uses that concept to communicate with Dumbledore's Army (and uses various skills together to uncover any potential traitor in Dumbledore’s Army).

Potions might be the only place where Hermione doesn’t try originality. Which might have something to do with her disastrous attempt in Chamber of Secrets...

She’s brave enough to continue doing potions and will even make and take Polyjuice Potion again, but never with the confidence and cleverness she exhibits in the other magical subjects.
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