Archives for September 2017

BBC1 Strike: The Silkworm Episode 2

Thanks to Candice — and to our Friend in Iraq who captures and uploads the shows for us outside BBC1 broadcast range! Again, watch while you can; it may be taken down at any time.

Pottery Barn Potter: Why we love and lament it

This week, retail furniture giant Pottery Barn revealed its new Harry Potter décor collection for teens (okay, let’s all snigger about that as we get out our grown-up wallets). The collection features authentically fashioned, drool-inducing items such as a Golden Snitch clock (because “time flies”), flying keys to hold your jewelry (if you trust them to stay put), an absolutely gorgeous Mirror of Erised (no word on whether it will show you holding the $400 you’ll need to purchase same) and more. Now you can go into your local Pottery Barn and purchase pillows, sheets, throws and backpacks to show your Hogwarts House pride, or even a lap desk with hidden storage (which I guess makes it worth $100?) in the stripes of your clan. Mixed in with the replica items are Hogwarts-inspired décor such as midnight blue velvet drapes, glittery gold bed skirts, vintage-chic rugs and armchairs “squashy” enough for the Gryffindor common room. Here’s a link to the collection. Clicking on it will result in either a fannish frenzy of superfluous spending or – if your financial situation is more like mine – a persistent and painful longing for stuff you can’t afford. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. [Read more…]

Coming up September 22-24: Queen City Mischief and Magic

Staunton, VA is throwing its second annual Harry Potter festival next weekend, and it is going to be amazing!  Festivities start Friday night and continue all weekend, and most of the businesses in historic downtown Staunton are transforming themselves and offering all sorts of free and low-cost activities for the community.

I myself have spent most of the summer rounding up speakers for Mary Baldwin University‘s contribution to the weekend.  Fittingly for the home of Mary Baldwin College for Women, on Friday night there will be a series called “Hermione’s Army” focusing on everyone’s favorite Hogwarts bibliophile and the female YA heroines she inspired: particularly Hogwarts Professor favorites like Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior.  The keynote address will be given by none other than Dr. Lana Whited, noted expert in both Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.  And I get to talk about psychology in both The Hunger Games and Divergent on the same night!

Then, on Saturday, Francis Auditorium will become Beauxbatons Academy, and host a day-long series of talks on a variety of Potter- and Potter- related topics. We’ll cover topics from Mary Julia Baldwin herself (and how she was like Dumbledore!) to the real Nicholas Flamel (courtesy of Dr. Whited, yet again!) to the wonders of owls to the language of runes. I am going to be offering a preview of my Chestnut Hill talk on scientific names inspired by the wizarding world and speaking about my own work Harry Potter and empathy.

In addition, we will have live owls and snakes, courtesy of the Virginia Wildlife Center.  Local Potterphiles should definitely drop by for some learning. laughter, and Sorting Hat cookies.

New Reading, Writing, Rowling Podcast: Oxford University’s Beatrice Groves ‘Literary Allusion in Harry Potter’

The latest podcast on MuggleNet’s ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ series is out — and it’s a ‘wow’!

From the description on the page with the downloadable program:

In this episode, hosts Katy McDaniel (Marietta College) and John Granger talk with Oxford University Research Fellow Beatrice Groves about her new book, Literary Allusion in Harry Potter.

Rowling’s works are filled with references, some obvious, some oblique, to other literary works. Groves’ book explores the allusions throughout the Harry Potter novels, to everything from Petrarch to Shakespeare, Austen, Tennyson, and even Monty Python. As a specialist in Renaissance English literature, Groves guides us through these references so that we can understand how Rowling wants us to read and how she converses with other texts of the Western literary canon.

Join John, Katy, and Professor Groves as they discuss Rowling’s practice of “Cratylic naming” (“Dumbledore,” “Argus Filch,” the “House of Gaunt,” and more!), her links to Chaucer and Shakespeare, and her allusion to Austen’s gothic stylings in Northanger Abbey (connected by that tricky vanishing cabinet), among many other references. Groves shows us that for Rowling books are, like the ones in Hogwarts’ library’s restricted  section, literally whispering to us, and we should be listening.

It was great fun speaking with Dr Groves and the conversation was both challenging and informative. Check it out and let me know what you think! And buy the book — you won’t regret it.

Weekly Vlog: Embedded Misdirection

Did you know that J. K. Rowling’s ‘voice choice’ for her Harry Potter novels is such an important part of her artistry that she embeds narrative misdirection in the plot lines of each and every book, i.e., that characters are experiencing the same kind of twist in struggling with the texts and narratives they encounter that we are as readers?