Harry Potter and the Sacramental Principle

As promised, here is the video of my talk for the Ohio State University’s Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2017: The World of Harry Potter (full conference report here). In the talk, I explain what I mean by “Christian sacramental principle” and argue that a particularly medieval expression of this same principle creates and supports the magical contours of Harry Potter’s world.

Please share your own thoughts on my thesis in the comments below, or dialogue with me on Facebook and Twitter (@ekcstrand).

Roanoke Harry Potter Festival a Smash!

This weekend, the City of Roanoke, Virginia, known for the star that shines from the mountaintop overlooking the city, will sparkle with extra magic!  The Roanoke Harry Potter Festival will feature wonderful programs, events, and opportunities, including the rare chance to see John Granger, Louise Freeman, Emily Strand, and Elizabeth Baird Hardy all in the same place at the same time. The only more difficult feat is seeing Clark Kent and Superman at once!

UPDATE: Read about the 8,500 fan gathering in The Roanoke Times!

[Read more…]

Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2017: The World of Harry Potter (A conference report)

PCDP-HP flyer jpegOn February 24-25, I was privileged to participate in The Ohio State University’s Popular Culture and the Deep Past 2017 conference, hosted by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. This year’s focus was “The World of Harry Potter,” and though it was a local conference for me, it brought together a far-flung set of Potter scholars, as well as thoughtful fans (some in period attire!) with engaging questions and contributions to the conference.

The conference’s call for papers asked for submissions that would IMG_1631“explore historical and cultural strands that tie the Potter world to its medieval and early-modern antecedents,” while “exploring the interface between the past and the present.” This resulted in a conference which investigated fruitfully what is “medieval” about Harry Potter (short answer: a lot) and how our favorite books appropriate and reinterpret medieval elements, themes, motifs and history to spin their epic tale. After the jump, I’ll provide a brief sampling of the most delectable dishes from this Potter thought-feast. (A list of all the talks with links to longer descriptions of each can be found here.) [Read more…]

Rowling Apologizes for Killing Snape

Yesterday, on the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts (which is incidentally, also the same day that Civil War General Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot by his own men at the Battle of Chancellorsville), J.K. Rowling, as has been her habit for the past few years, issued an apology for killing off a character. In the past, sharry-snapehe has apologized for the deaths of Fred Weasley and Remus Lupin, meeting great approval from those of us who still mourn those characters (Really. It’s almost time to start the read-aloud of Deathly Hallows with the younger child, and so I am already stocking up on tissues and hot cocoa). However, this year, she apologized not for killing a funny and beloved twin or a kindly and troubled teacher. She apologized for killing Severus Snape. A number of people seem to be very upset by this, as Rowling expected, by saying she was running for cover after making the comment. However, is it really so shocking? It all comes down to how we interpret “apologizing” in this context. Let’s look at a few interpretations at how they intersect with our responses as readers to the character of Snape. [Read more…]

Five Reasons Harry Potter Fandom Isn’t Excited about Cormoran Strike — Yet

Kernel's Corner Fan Art

Kernel’s Corner Fan Art

Last week, ChrisC! wrote a guest post about the Cormoran Strike mysteries, in which reflection he shared his thoughts about several reasons that Harry Potter fans have not warmed to Rowling’s latest hero and series. He was criticized for not mentioning every reason; he responded that the issue had been discussed before, both at the website and on MuggleNet Academia.

Which is true, but not as true as we’d like! Links to MuggleNet Academia’s old home on MuggleNet are dead (go here to find the elusive ‘Cormoran Strike and the Invisibility Cloak’ discussion) and the HogwartsProfessor post I wrote on the subject was linked to CormoransArmy.com, a website no longer up and running. Fortunately, I have that piece in my vaults and was able to find it to share with you here.

It was written before Career of Evil was published, of course, but 4 1/2 of the 5 reasons are still valid. I’ve updated the fifth just a touch and included the comments left at Cormoran’s Army for your reading pleasure. Be sure to read Oona Eisenstadt’s five reasons at the end for why the series will NOT ever be popular with Potter-fans. Enjoy!

Burke 1When I have given talks at Harry Potter conferences the last two years about the artistry and meaning of the Hogwarts Saga, I see big crowds, great interest, real enthusiasm. When I speak about Jo Rowling’s new seven book series, the Cormoran Strike novels, the crowds are much smaller and the prevalent attitude is a mix of curiosity and something like confusion. “Wait — there’s a new series from my favorite author? Why isn’t anyone besides John talking about that?” (Not knowing, it seems, that Karen Kebarle is also on the case….)

Which raises the question: “Why so little enthusiasm in the Harry Potter fandom for the Cormoran Strike mysteries?” Here are five reasons from the top of my head; please let me know why you think in the comment boxes below.

Five Reasons Harry Potter Fandom Isn’t Excited about Cormoran Strike — Yet

(1) There’s No Controversy.

Harry Potter was selling very well in the UK and word of mouth was growing in the US before Prisoner of Azkaban was published in 1999. But there was no mania to speak of, no Midnight Madness parties at bookstores nationwide, no covers of important periodicals, no flood of online speculation about its possible contents as there were a year later before Goblet of Fire’s appearance. What happened?

Two things: Prisoner, about which more in a second, and the Potter Panic. [Read more…]