Harry Potter & Literature Conference at St Andrews: A Brand of Fictional Magic
This Thursday and Friday (May 17 and 18) the School of English at the University of St Andrews will be hosting an international conference on Harry Potter called, “A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature.” Today I am leaving Las Vegas to return to Scotland for this event. I’ve been excited for this conference since before I was even accepted to study at St Andrews. Initially I just thought I’d attend, but I received a mass-email from one of the convenors last October asking for abstracts and decided to give it a shot. Thankfully my paper was accepted and I will be presenting it this Thursday. I am by no means an expert on Harry Potter, I’m just a fan. In fact, I didn’t enter the fandom until Summer 2009. As the Apostle Paul would say, I feel as one untimely born!
(SPOILER ALERT: Please stop reading this post if you’ve never read Har…. Wait, why haven’t you read Harry Potter?!?!?!)
My paper is entitled, “The Death of Death in the Death of the Boy Who Lived: The Morality of Mortality in Harry Potter,” and will be presented for the “Structure” Seminar. The title is an obvious play on the famous treatise on the Atonement by John Owen: The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. The main focus of the study is on the moral value of death in the series. Many have noted the pervasive motif of death, but it remains to be addressed sufficiently whether death is presented as good, evil, or perhaps morally neutral in the series. I take the epitaph on the tombstone of Lily and James Potter in Godric’s Hallow — taken from 1 Cor 15.26 — as the interpretive key for understanding death’s moral value in the narrative: “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”
I am thrilled to be able to contribute to this conference and to participate alongside the international cast of academics — both professors and doctoral students — that will be presenting at the conference. Some of the institutions represented include: University of Cambridge, Universita di Siena, Acadia University, University of Sioux Falls, Arizona State University, Oregon State University, BYU Hawaii, Pepperdine University, University of Cape Town, Palm Beach Atlantic University, University of Delhi, De La Salle University, University of Amsterdam, and more!
I was also asked to be the Chair of the “Formation” Seminar, which means that I’ll be moderating three presentations and the subsequent Q&A times following each paper. The topics for this Seminar include: Death in Children’s Literature, Empathy & Development, and Magical Food.
My buddy Nathaniel Warne will also be presenting on Civil Disobedience for the “Society” Seminar, focusing primarily on The Order of the Phoenix. A condensed version of his thoughts was shared last October at The Two Cities and can be read here: Harry Potter & Moral Issues.
If you are in the St Andrews area be sure to stop by and check out this conference! If you are unable to come but are interested in reading the proceedings, I’ve been told that some of the papers (most? all?) will be published as the official collection of the conference proceedings. I’ll provide more information on this as it becomes available.
Lastly, if there is anyone reading this who thinks Harry Potter is evil, please read this post I wrote last October: Harry Potter & Pagan Issues (I feel obliged to add this because I STILL run across folks with such egregiously ridiculous views)
PS: John Granger — Mr. Hogwarts Professor himself — will be there : )