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May 2, 2012
Students will have the opportunity to play the quintessential game from JK Rowlings’ Harry Potter series this fall as part of the course, Games through the Ages, being offered by York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science.
“This course is intended to engage students who may become active through non-traditional activities,” says Deb Fullerton, head coach of women’s field hockey who will teach the course for the first time. “I wanted students to become competitive in their own nature through fun and theatrics.”
Fullerton says she has researched the history of games through the ages and has a feeling JK Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter book series which was also made into several films, did the same before she created Quidditch.
Fullerton plans to start the course by introducing some of those fictional ancient games she believes led to Quidditch, a game played by wizards on broom sticks in the air who try and hit a ball known as a “quaffle” through the opposing team’s hoop at the field’s end to score points and catch the “snitch”, a small golden, erratically flying ball, to win. On the ground for mortals, Quidditch is played as a sort of cross between rugby, dodge ball and tag with several different actions going on at once.
May 30, 2012
Children’s literature is literature. Intelligent adults already know this. However, as those of you who study or write or teach children’s literature are well aware, the world is full of alleged grown-ups who insist on spreading the myth that children’s literature is not literature, and (thus) cannot be studied as such.
A week or so back, journalist Alison Flood reported on a conference alleged to be “Billed as the world’s first conference to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text.” Presumably, that’s a swipe at the fan-organized conferences, the first of which was (I believe) Nimbus 2003: The Harry Potter Symposium, held nearly 9 years ago. While fan conferences do discuss the books as literary texts, it’s also true that they cover other, less traditionally “academic” subjects. (Full disclosure: I’ve been an invited speaker at two of the fan conferences, including Nimbus 2003.) However, it seems a bit of a stretch to say that this was “the world’s first conference to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text.” It was not.
Ms. Flood also seems unaware of the vast body of scholarship on Rowling’s series — which Cornelia Remi has for years diligently tracked on her exemplary bibliography
. While Potter scholarship does vary in quality, the ignorance of Professor John Mullan
— who is quoted in the article — is truly exemplary. There’s a rare purity in his empty prejudices, shaped without knowledge or reflection. According to Flood’s article, Mullan said, “I’m not against Harry Potter, my children loved it, [but] Harry Potter is for children, not for grownups…. It’s all the fault of cultural studies: anything that is consumed with any appearance of appetite by people becomes an object of academic study.” Professor Mullan concludes that the academics attending the conference “should be reading Milton and Tristram Shandy: that’s what they’re paid to do.” In one sense, it’s apt that a poorly informed article would be supported with a quotation from a poorly informed academic. In another sense, one might pity Mullan and Flood for being ill-equipped to complete their tasks — in his case, intelligent commentary, and, in hers, responsible journalism. As Clementine Beauvais noted in her report on the conference
, “It isn’t just careless, or uninformed, to dismiss the Harry Potter series as a serious object of analysis; it is intellectually dishonest.”
One suspects that Mullan and Flood would be surprised to learn that — in addition to the scores of books and articles about Rowling’s series — a portion of the manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Sorcerer’s Stone for American readers) is currently on display in the British Library, alongside works by Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, William Blake, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Wordsworth, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ted Hughes, and George Eliot. Indeed, the exhibit — Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands — does not segregate children’s literature from “adult literature,” a decision which would likely distress Professor Mullan. In addition to Rowling, the British Library’s exhibit features Kenneth Graham’s Wind in the Willows, A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Arthur Ransom’s Swallowdale, Susan Cooper’s Greenwitch, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (the book which, in revised form, became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). It also includes comics by Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. It’s a fascinating, well-curated exhibit.
Rowling’s manuscript pages (written in longhand) display an earlier version of Chapter 6’s first page (67, in the Bloomsbury edition). In the published chapter, the second paragraph begins, “Harry kept to his room with his new owl for company. He had decided to call her Hedwig, a name he had found in A History of Magic” After another three sentences, the paragraph concludes:
Every night before he went to sleep, Harry ticked off another day on the piece of paper he had pinned to the wall, counting down to September the first.
On the last day of August, he thought he’d better speak to his aunt and uncle about getting to King’s Cross station next day, so he went down to the living-room, where they were watching a quiz show on television. He cleared his throat to let them know he was there, and Dudley screamed and ran from the room.
‘Er — Uncle Vernon?’
Uncle Vernon grunted to show he was listening.
In Rowling’s handwritten manuscript, the second paragraph begins, “Harry spent most of his time in his room with Widdicombe his owl.” Then, there’s some crossed-out material that’s hard to read with added harder-to-read tiny new material above it, after which Rowling writes:
He pinned a piece of paper on the wall, thinking of the days before he went to September the first marked on it, and he ticked them off every night. On the thirty first of August he thought he’d better speak to his uncle about getting to King’s Cross next day. So he went down to the living room, where the Dursleys were watching a quiz show on television.
Harry cleared his throat to tell them he was there, and Dudley screamed and ran from the room.
“Er — Uncle Vernon?”
Uncle Vernon grunted to show he was listening.
The revisions to the above offer a glimpse into Rowling’s creative process.
Three items stand out.
- First, the original name for Harry’s owl was not Hedwig, but Widdicombe. Hedwig was a medieval saint. Widecombe-in-the-Moor is a town in Devon, England. Ann Widdecombe is a British Conservative Party politician; however, given the distance between Rowling’s views and hers, as well as the close relationship between Harry and his owl, the socially conservative former member of Parliament is likely not the inspiration for the character of Harry’s owl. The town is the most likely source because Rowling collects words she likes, including those from street signs — Snape’s surname came from an English town. The new name for Harry’s owl offers stronger thematic resonances with the character, a noble owl who endures much suffering on Harry’s behalf. The change to the original name also reminds us how carefully Rowling considers her characters’ names. As is the case with Dickens’ names, Rowling’s names often telegraph a key trait of the character.
- Second, based on this selection, Rowling struggles more with descriptive passages than she does with characterization. The books’ sentences — which combine vivid detail with fast-paced narrative — derive from Rowling’s diligent editing. “He pinned a piece of paper on the wall, thinking of the days before September the first marked on it, and he ticked them off every night” becomes “Every night before he went to sleep, Harry ticked off another day on the piece of paper he had pinned to the wall, counting down to September the first.” Though only two words shorter than the earlier version, the published sentence is more sharply constructed. Its opening clause establishes place and time of day, allowing us to visualize where Harry is: “Every night before he went to bed” tells us that he’s in his bedroom, formerly “Dudley’s second bedroom” (32). It also establishes this ticking-off-days as a repeated behavior, occurring “Every night.” Where the original version begins by directing our attention to the paper on the wall, the new version first sets the scene before bringing in the subject of the sentence (our title character) and his nightly activity: “Harry ticked off another day.” It does not need to tell us that he is “thinking of the days before” school begins because the nightly counting-down clearly conveys that the subject is on his mind. The new sentence also ends with “September the first,” placing emphasis on the day Harry awaits, and providing an effective transition to the next sentence, which begins with “the last day of August.”
- Third, I say that characterization comes more easily to Rowling (based on this admittedly limited sample) because she makes very few changes to the descriptions of the Dursleys. In both, they are “watching a quiz show on television,” which (for Rowling) signals their shallowness. Always rude to his nephew, “Uncle Vernon grunted to show he was listening” (in both). Still spooked by his recent encounter with magic, “Dudley screamed and ran from the room” (in both). How apt that Rowling should have greater facility with character. Though she has a fully imagined secondary world, key to readers’ enjoyment are characters to whom they can relate. Rowling’s debt to the mystery genre helps make her books page-turners, but she has such avid fans because she’s able to make people care about Harry, Hermione, Ron, Sirius, Ginny, Dumbledore, Neville, and others.
I concede that my off-the-cuff analysis of a few textual differences could be more robust. But my larger point here is that of course Harry Potter can be — and often is — the subject of academic analysis. Indeed, for roughly a dozen years, it has attracted a great deal of attention from literary critics. If we are interested in the craft of the most popular and influential writer of her generation, then it’s worth taking J. K. Rowling’s work seriously. If we care about the adults today’s children will become, then we need to take children’s literature seriously. Stories provide children with their earliest ideas about how the world works, and about what literature is and why it matters. Professor Mullan should care about books for the young because the children who enjoy reading are the ones most likely to grow into adults willing to read Laurence Sterne and John Milton. But we all should care about children’s books not merely because they help create literate grown-ups. We should care about them, study them, hold conferences on them, and write them because they are Art.
May 20, 2012
An academic conference on J.K. Rowling's texts has created a stir.
ACADEMICS have gathered in Scotland this weekend to discuss a range of important literary topics including the racial politics of goblins, the canonisation of Neville Longbottom, and Beedle the Bard as mythopoesis in the Chaucerian tradition. Welcome to Britain's first conference on Harry Potter.
Entitled A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature, the conference brings together 60 scholars from around the world for a two-day event hosted by the University of St Andrews school of English.
Billed as the world's first conference to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text, it offers almost 50 lectures, with academics taking on issues including paganism, magic and the influence on J.K. Rowling of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Shakespeare.
Seminar titles range from ''Moral development through Harry Potter in a post-9/11 world'' to ''Harry Potter and Lockean civil disobedience''.
Organiser John Pazdziora, a doctoral candidate in the university's English department, is adamant Rowling's seven children's books merit an academic conference.
''These are the most important, seminal texts for an entire generation of readers,'' he said.
''In 100, 200 years' time, when scholars want to understand the early 21st century, when they want to understand the ethos and culture of the generation that's just breaking into adulthood, it's a safe bet that they'll be looking at the 'Harry Potter' novels.
''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, Mr Pazdziora added. "We've got nearly 50 serious academic critics talking about these texts, each of them is finding something different to talk about, and frankly, we're barely getting started. In any good literary text, there is so much depth and meaning to discover,'' he said.
But John Mullan, professor of English at University College London, was less convinced. ''I'm not against Harry Potter, my children loved it, [but] Harry Potter is for children, not for grown-ups,'' he said.
''It's all the fault of cultural studies: anything that is consumed with any appearance of appetite by people becomes an object of academic study.''
May 16, 2012
The Harry Potter novels will be thoroughly examined from all aspects of its literary merits as more than sixty scholars attend a conference at the University of Scotland this week including MuggleNet Academia's own John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor.
John, the keynote speaker for the event, will conduct a lecture entitled A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature. Mr. Granger said, "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."
He added, "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 scholars attending the event will discuss J.K. Rowling's books with over 50 lectures including topics such as paganism, British national identity and death.
An anthology of the conference will be published in 2013.
Want to learn more about the literary aspects found in the series, then check out our MuggleNet Academia section and its associated podcast. Co-host John Granger and I will certainly be bringing to light some of the topics discussed from this conference in the upcoming episodes.
May 2, 2012
When MuggleNet, the world's No. 1 Harry Potter website, decided to open a new section called MuggleNet Academia and to offer a regular podcast with experts in the study of literature, the organizers made their first call to Suzanne Keen, the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English at Washington and Lee.
Back in February, on the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth, Suzanne made the point in an interview that many of today's students grew up reading Harry Potter and, as a consequence, have a much better appreciation for Dickens. That story on the W&L website was picked up by Mugglenet and other Potter-related sites. One thing led to another, and Suzanne was the featured guest on the inaugural monthly MuggleNet Academic podcast.
Suzanne was joined by John Granger, known as the Hogwarts Professor, an expert on the series who spoke at W&L last November; Rosie Morris, senior student of literature at Kent University in England; and Keith Hawk, of MuggleNet.
The hour-long conversation touched on a variety of topics, including the question of whether or not the series' author, J.K. Rowling, knew from the start how all the books in the series would come out.
The podcast, which has nearly 2,000 Facebook shares, is available for free on iTunes.
April 30, 2012
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, one of the most influential secrets of the entire Harry Potter series was seen in the form of Tom Riddle's Diary. A book that at first glanced appeared completely unmarked. However, communication to the viewer was readily apparent through ink that seemed to rise through the paper inside the book. This concept inspired Australian researchers to create a new blood test that would help eliminate incorrect blood types on individuals.
According to a new article, if the wrong blood type is used during a transfusion to a individual, death could occur, and rapid tests in the past are not completely uncomplicated and can lead to disaster. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, researchers explained a new "responsive" paper that indicates blood type as unambiguous text, almost as if Tom Riddle himself wrote the answer.
From the article:
Like the conventional laboratory technique, this test is based on the fact that red blood cells agglutinate or clump together when they encounter antibodies directed against their antigens. The paper is printed with a hydrophobic layer with four windows left “open”. These windows contain the antibodies. In the windows containing the antibodies that correspond to the sample, the red blood cells agglutinate to form large clumps and get caught by the paper fibers, leaving behind a red tint even after washing with saline solution.
So how does the paper “write” the blood type? For types A, B, and AB it is easy: Two of the windows are shaped like the letters A and B, and are filled with the antigens A and B, respectively. Type A results in a red tint in the A-shaped window, type B in the B-shaped window, and type AB in both. However, type O doesn’t respond to any antibody, so the researchers had to get creative. They made the third window in the shape of an X, included antibodies against A and B, and printed on a red letter “O”, which was printed with a waterproof ink. Blood types A, B, or AB turn the X red, telling the user that the sample is not O type by “crossing out” the O. If the sample is type O, the X becomes white after saline washing, leaving only the red letter O.
The researchers were equally clever in their approach to indicating whether the blood is RhD positive or negative: The fourth window is shaped like a vertical line and contains antibodies against rhesus factor D. A red horizontal line is printed on the paper with the water-proof ink. If the blood is RhD positive, it tints the vertical line red. In combination with the printed water-proof horizontal line, this forms a plus sign. If the blood is RhD negative, the vertical line becomes white after saline washing and the paper shows only a minus sign.
Once again, J.K. Rowling has inspired a solution in today's world, only this time the solution rose from within the pages of the book...literally!
March 10, 2012
The Harry Potter book series, as we all know, has encouraged reading in millions of school-aged children since the series came out in 1997. But the magic of reading the Harry Potter series is enhanced when a teacher is able to create an environment in their classroom that is suited to students that fall into the category of "below grade level" reading skills. One such teacher at Bellaire Elementary School in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, deserves recognition for encouraging her students to fall in love with reading when she created a 'Harry Potter Club' at her school.
Reading specialist Kellie Peterson organized a reading club that consisted of 26 fourth and fifth graders that fell into the "at-risk" reading level to meet once a week for special lessons. When asking the students what they would be interested in reading, the students voted for the Harry Potter book series.
Miss Peterson read aloud to the class from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, organized exercises, quizzes, and games like quidditch based on the book to test their retention. She separated the students into the four houses and awarded points based on participation, quiz scores, attendance, behavior, and other positive reinforcements.
In the end, the Hufflepuff team won the House Cup and the students were given a pizza party and movie celebration, where the students chose to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -Part 2.
According to Principal Jim Burgess, "Students wind up in remedial reading classes because they have trouble decoding the words, so they struggle, they get frustrated and they give up." By finding a book series that keeps their interest and holds their attention long enough, they can get past some of these difficulties and are encouraged to read more to strengthen their reading skills.
Congratulations to Kellie Peterson and all of the other reading specialists, who find ways of encouraging reading to the children that struggle through the fantastic series of Harry Potter.
February 7, 2012
The Harry Potter series has been an attraction for scholars the world over as colleges and universities examine the intricacies of the literary phenomenon. The series is even used to study genetics as we previously reported.
On Wednesday, February 8th, another course in the academia of Harry Potter will be shared. This time, it comes from Western Washington University's Hannah Boxberger, a WWU senior majoring in classical studies, who will be giving a lecture titled, "Classical Mythology in the World of Harry Potter."
The event is scheduled for 4:00PM in the Wilson Reading Room, 4C, of the Western Libraries at WWU and is FREE and open to the public.
If you attend this event and would like to write an article on the lecture, please contact me directly at email@example.com.
February 2, 2012
Colleges and University professors from all over have begun teaching the literature of J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter series in the classroom. And for those who grew up reading the seven book series, professors are finding that students are able to better understand and appreciate the classic literature of Charles Dickens, according to a Washington and Lee University English professor.
Suzanne Keen has struggled in the past to educate college students on classical pieces by Charles Dickens, whose 200th birthday is on February 7th, and with the exception of the infamous tale A Christmas Carol, found that students from six or seven years ago did not enjoy other works by the author, like Little Dorrit.
"It seemed that students were losing their connection to Dickens," Suzanne said. "That was alarming, because, amongst the Victorian novelists, Dickens is the most popular, the most fun, the easiest to read - right up there with Jane Austen."
Today, the students entering colleges and universities grew up reading the Harry Potter series. Consequently, said Keen, "they get Dickens." Apparently, reading Harry Potter is like taking a crash course in reading Dickens because "it's got humor, it's got the caricatured names, it's got multi-plots, it's got the really long stories that you read for hours and hours and hours, and you enjoy the fact that they're long."
Suzanne goes on in the article that she gives all of the credit to J.K. Rowling for priming the younger students with a kid's book version of a Dickensian world. A generation that enjoys reading long books, talking about books with other students, and better appreciating classical English Literature with the likes of Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.
January 10, 2012
The Harry Potter series has been used for a variety of subjects in higher education schools throughout the world. For instance, Durham University's education department offers their students a 30-credit Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion module. But the Sun Yat-sen University, in the southern part of Guangdong China, has recently introduced the Harry Potter series to help students understand...genetics?
Lecturer Chen Suquin explains:
"Genetics greatly influence how a mother reacts during her pregnancy and how she rears her children. In 'Harry Potter,' we can easily find such case studies in Harry and Voldemort, who are both suspected of having some of the same genes as Slytherin, and who live in a similar [wizard] environment.
Why is it Harry and Voldemort have totally opposite characters? Was it because Harry was surrounded by his mother's love inside her womb and when he was first born, while Voldemort's mother was full of hatred during her pregnancy?"
Genetics is often viewed as very boring and dry course of study, but with a Harry Potter fan in the class, this course will increase their curiosity and help them along the program of study. In fact, since beginning this program of study, the once shunned elective course, which runs for 36 hours and offers two credits, has seen the class enrollment grow substantially.
September 08, 2011
When Harry Potter and religion are mentioned in the same sentence, it is usually grounds for strong debate.
But according to a new New York Daily News article, Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg teaches his congregation about morality and ethics through the Harry Potter series.
"When the Hogwarts Express rolled to the end of its enchanting line, Rabbi Moshe Rosenberg was perhaps one of the more unlikely fans who mourned the conclusion of the series about the boy wizard."
He became fascinated with the series more than 10 years ago when he found his students reading Sorcerer's Stone.
"Author J.K. Rowling's books are valuable, Rosenberg said, because they deal with all of life's most essential questions.
'What gives life meaning? How do relationships work? What's the interplay between good and evil and what are our obligations in that struggle?" he said. "All of these things are dealt with in the Bible as well.'"
You can check out his book Morality for Muggles: Ethics in the Bible and the World of Harry Potter right here.
August 18, 2010
BBC News is reporting that Durham University will be offering an academic course based on the Harry Potter series next year:
The Durham University module uses the works of JK Rowling to examine prejudice, citizenship and bullying in modern society.
So far about 80 undergraduates have signed up for the optional module, part of a BA degree in Education Studies.
'Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion' will be available for study next year.
A university spokesman said: "This module places the Harry Potter novels in their wider social and cultural context.
A few Harry Potter classes have appeared in American Universities over the past few years as well. Lucky students!
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