“Potterversity” Episode 31: “Calling In from the Harry Potter Academic Conference – Part 2”
For the second part of our discussion about the 2022 Harry Potter Academic Conference, we discuss current themes in Potter scholarship, including the special section on the transgender community.
Katy and Emily continue their conversation with conference presenters and attendees Laurie Beckoff, Lauren Camacci, Louise Freeman, and Lana Whited. After talking about favorite presentations in the first half, we turn to overall themes we noticed throughout the conference. Lana sees difference and reaction to it as a major topic, reflected in the interdisciplinary nature of the conference, which included political, sociological, and psychological approaches. Social justice and critical reading have been at the forefront of Potter studies in recent years, featured in Christine Schott’s talk on house-elves and Julye Bidmead and Emma Brandel’s presentation on creating a critical engagement guide to reading the series.
Lana has observed a lack of attention paid to J.K. Rowling’s works for both adults (Cormoran Strike) and children (The Christmas Pig, The Ickabog) outside the wizarding world. We debate what might account for the relatively low scholarly interest, including Rowling’s controversial comments, genre, quality, generational appeal, and overall popularity.
Rowling’s remarks about transgender people have been a major point of discussion at the last few conferences, to the point that the organizers decided that the topic called for a special section. Our guests discuss Louise’s scientific approach to transgender identity, using the “transabled” characters who wish to amputate healthy limbs in the Strike books as a point of reference to view it as a neurological phenomenon. Other subjects include trans “spite fic,” or Harry Potter fanfiction focused on transgender characters to spite Rowling (Ben Cromwell); “half-blood fans,” or queer fans who face judgment from their fellows for remaining in the fandom (Brent Satterly); and how to read the scene in which the boggart that takes Snape’s form is forced into a woman’s clothing (Lorrie Kim). This rich discourse is part of why we all keep returning to Chestnut Hill, and we look forward to more excellent conferences.