Thursday, 17 May 2012

Harry Potter and the Academic Conference | High brow literary theoreticians dig deep into Hogwarts

Harry Potter goes to University? A two day conference with 60 scholars is being held at St Andrew's University about JK Rowling's seven book series.

This will divide people. The fans will be decided the books are being taken seriously -- the knockers will loathe the fact that yet more hype is being given over to those silly kids books about magic...

This is from the press release:

The man described as ‘the Dean of Harry Potter scholars’ will explain why the series is worthy of academic study at the first conference on the subject in the UK this week (17-18 May 2012).

John Granger, author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures, will be joined by sixty scholars from around the world to examine the J K Rowling books as literary texts in their own right at the event at the University of St Andrews.

In an intense series of almost 50 lectures over two days, experts on the series will discuss how they deal with death, the role of empathy and the influence of writers such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Other papers will deal with paganism, magic and the use of food and British National Identity. 
The event, A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature, aims to redress the lack of direct study of the body of work as a literary text.

The conference is organised by John Patrick Pazdziora from the University’s School of English, and Fr. Micah Snell from the University’s Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts (ITIA).

Pazdziora explained, “We can't avoid the fact that Harry Potter is the main narrative experience of an entire generation - the children who quite literally grew up with Harry Potter. The Harry Potter novels are simply the most important and influential children's books of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first centuries. 

“For very many people, this is their first experience of literature, and of literary art. So they want to think about it, and analyse it, and talk about it.  It's important because people care about it, and care very deeply.”

The wide-ranging event will cover the influence of other literary figures such as Chaucer, Shakespeare and Jane Austen, as well as more homespun Scottish folklore.

Pazdziora continued, “J.K. Rowling has put so much detail, so many literary and folkloric and cultural references, it's a tangle or a puzzle picking it all out. People find that they like the elements of Scottish folklore they see in the series, or Tarot and ritualism, or social justice concerns, and they go off and become enthralled and fascinated by that. The series opens up new worlds to its readers…and this is also partly why it's so imaginatively and culturally important.”

John Granger, widely hailed as the leading authority on the series, and described by TIME magazine as "The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars", commented, “The Hogwarts Saga is the most loved story in the history of publishing by quite a margin and, consequently, it is a natural and important subject of study for anyone interested in the literary arts.

“I take exception to the unexamined and misinformed assumption that the books are ‘light on literary merit.’ Ms. Rowling's works are comic, certainly, but it's a great mistake to think they're simple or haphazard story-telling. The seven books are each and taken together a remarkably intricate ring composition for one thing, with every chapter having a parallel analogy with another in the same book. "


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