Harry Potter and the Commemorative Ornaments

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at my house, given that we typically put our tree and other decorations up right after Thanksgiving. And yes, the Boy Who Lived has a place in my holiday decor.

Several years ago, after it was clear that Harry and friends would be a long term part of my personal and professional life, my mom began giving me Hallmark Harry Potter ornaments. Hallmark has been releasing these annually since 2000, and Mom has thus far managed to track down most on Ebay.  Harry-themed ornaments were not something I would ever have thought of getting for myself, but now that I have them, I love putting them up every Christmas.  When it became clear that they would all get lost in the eclectic jumble that is my family’s normal Christmas tree, I got them their own wrought-iron table-top version.  I thought I would devote this post to sharing a few favorites.

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Chestnut Hill Wins House Cup for Ravenclaw, as Always.

Chestnut Hill College had its 6th annual Harry Potter Conference last weekend. This was the fourth time I have attended and and my third time as a session moderator. Doubtlessly, the conference has established itself as the major venue of serious Potter scholarship. Attendance is a must for any student seeking a N.E.W.T. in Hogwarts Studies.

I arrived late to the high school student section on Thursday night, thanks to horrendous traffic in the area, so I only heard a paper and a half, but I thoroughly enjoyed what I did hear. I wish I could have heard the full paper on Harry Potter and animals. since it seemed to fit well with my work on depictions of nature in the series. And the final paper, on how the depiction of Ginny Weasley changed from book to film, won second place honors.

More on the main section after the jump. [Read more…]

Is There Scientific Evidence that the Factions of Divergent are Meaningful?

There’s a little bit of Gilderoy Lockhart in all academics. Every once in a while, I am vain enough to do a Google search to see if anyone is talking about my research. Imagine my delight when, last January, I ran across two conference papers, from 2014 and 2015, by Brazilian psychologist Dr. Bruno Campello de Souza. Souza, and colleague Dr. Antonio Roazzi, apparently tried to match people’s Divergent Factions (as determined by the relatively simple 7-question Faction quiz published in the e-book) with the Five Factors and numerous other traits such as IQ, values, and professions. They also, to my delight and surprise, cited my Hogwarts Professor post as a reference, which, I believe, is a first.

While my understanding of the 2014 paper was limited–it’s in Portuguese–the 2015 paper had apparently partially confirmed my idea, linking Candor with Extroversion, and Erudite with Openness to Experience. Abnegation, interestingly, linked not only with Conscientiousness, but also with Agreeableness and Stability. The latter fits nicely with my characterization of the old Dauntless at the Stable end of the Neurotic domain, and the new Dauntless at the Instability end. Remember Tobias’s theory that bravery and unselfishness are the same thing and his remark that he could have just as easily been in Abnegation? Dauntless did not link with Neuroticism, but that did not surprise me, given that split nature of that faction, and its tendency to attract both the highly stable (Tobias) and unstable (Eric, Al, Peter). Amity did also not line up with Agreeableness, but you can’t have everything.  [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.

Professor Grubbly-Plank visits Staunton, VA for annual Harry Potter Book Night

Harry Potter book night

Owl tableLast fall, the Staunton Public Library contacted me about doing a presentation for this year’s Harry Potter Book Night on Feb. 2nd. The theme was “The Professors of Hogwarts.”  I couldn’t really think of a fun activity for kids that stemmed directly from my work on Harry Potter and psychology; I had an feeling inducing Dementor-like depression or Moody-esque PTSD in the youngsters would be frowned upon.  So with my (reasonably) close-cropped and (increasingly) grey hair, I decided to don my academic gown and matching witch hat and appear as Professor Grubbly-Plank, healer of Hedwig and expert on owls. [Read more…]