Sunday, May 20, 2012

60 scholars attend UK’s first-ever academic conference to discuss Harry Potter

Jumbo Editorial Team

Around 60 scholars from across the globe are set to take part in a conference at the St Andrews University in Scotland discussing JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter books. It’s the UK’s first-ever academic conference on the subject and the first in the world to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text.

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. 

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 CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. 

Other papers will deal with paganism, magic and the use of food and British National Identity. 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).

“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,” Pazdziora was quoted as saying. 

“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,” he added. 

''As literary critics, as academics, why on earth wouldn't we want to come to grips with these texts? There's so much here to talk about, culturally and critically, that a two-day conference really can only get the conversation started. People will be reading and writing and studying Harry Potter for years to come. Rowling's seven novels run to 4100 pages, so the books would easily be able to sustain serious academic discussion over the two days,” Pazdziora stated.

The keynote speakers include John Granger, widely hailed as the leading authority on the series. He will be joined in St Andrews by fellow experts from countries including the USA, South Africa, Australia, India and the Philippines, as well as the UK. 

“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,” Granger remarked. 

“Hogwarts, we're told, is hidden somewhere in Scotland, the author lives here, too, and Ms Rowling's mother was half Scot. It's somehow appropriate and fitting that the first academic conference of any size be held at Scotland's oldest university, St Andrews. The enthusiastic response and the quality of the universities from around the world who will be represented at the conference make it a landmark event,” he said.

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