What is Harry Potter canon?

We’ve discussed it here and on Mugglenet Academia, but a local Children’s Lit student is trying to do some research on it.  Please help her out by filling out a 1-question survey and passing the link on to other Potterphiles.  Many thanks!

Virginia is for Wizards

I attended the inaugural meeting tonight: a new Harry Potter fandom organization in Virginia.  Organizers were back from Misti-Con and very enthusiastic.  The hope is to have a couple of events per month and a trivia night is already scheduled.

Any Virginia HogPro readers who are interested should check out the MeetUp and/or Facebook pages.

Help one of your Hogpro Faculty on a research project.

Hunger Games readers and movie fans are needed for a study being conducted at Mary Baldwin College on empathy for fictional characters. If you are age 13 or older and a native speaker of English, you are eligible to participate. It will involve taking an anonymous online survey (Click here for the link) and should require no more than 30 minutes to complete. This study is approved by the Mary Baldwin College Institutional Review Board.

PS.  If you run into any problems with the survey, please alert me at lfreeman@mbc.edu  Thank you, friends!

Literature, Film and Legacy: Reflections on a Random and Completely Unbalanced Sample

As promised, here is my sampling of books and associated movies that I experienced in my own childhood, and my own thoughts looking back at them, in view of the question asked earlier about whether the films destroy the book legacy. I am interested in hearing from others, older and younger than me, about how their experiences compare.

Doctor Dolittle: Hugh Lofting’s Newberry-winning series was published between 1920 and 1950. My father adored the series as a boy and he, in turn, read it to me, when I was in elementary school; eventually, I re-read the entire series for myself. As much as we both loved the books, neither of us had any affinity for the 1967 movie musical. No one who understood the charm of the books about the mild-mannered, dumpy and completely asexual animal doctor from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh could relate to Rex Harrison’s handsome, singing vet with an ongoing love interest. Besides being a pretty unsuccessful film in its own right–Leonard Matlin’s review suggested its one merit was its ability to put unruly children to sleep–it apparently triggered backlash against the books by drawing attention to the unfortunate 1920’s racial stereotypes that were no longer acceptable in the 1960’s.  Attempts in the 1970’s to edit the unflattering ethnic portrayals into a more acceptable format (a move taken with the permission of Lofting’s son) unfortunately produced rather clunky stories and destroyed key plot points. I doubt many kids today read the Doctor Dolittle books at all.

As for the later “Dr. Dolittle” movies with Eddie Murphy, they had so little to do with the original books that it is pointless to mention them. Calling Murphy’s character “Dr. Dolittle” just because he wound up talking to animals (against his will, of course, as opposed to the diligent study of the original) makes about as much sense as calling the  “George of the Jungle” cartoons Tarzan. The only thing these movies could do for the books is leave potential readers wondering where the fart jokes are.

To Kill A Mockingbird: Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning book (1960) was followed by an Oscar-winning movie that won the author’s full approval; Ms. Lee was so impressed with Gregory Peck’s legendary portrayal of Atticus Finch, a character inspired by Ms. Lee’s own father, that she gave him her father’s gold watch. For myself, I read the book around 1980 and watched the movie for the first time a year or so after that. These were, after all, pre-VCR days when you had to wait for an old movie to show up on cable.

The To Kill a Mockingbird movie is arguably the best and truest film adaption of a great book ever made. It’s also the reason I say that a true book fan will always be disappointed by the movie. As good as it was, upon my first viewing, I was left very let down by all the details that were left out of the movie: the visit to Calpurnia’s church, Miss Maudie’s house fire, the mud-and-snowman, Miss Dubose the morphine addict and pretty much every action of Dill (I think Walter Cunningham had more lines).

But, even if it failed to capture some of the richness, there is no doubt that it was a very, very good movie. I would be interested to know, today, how many people encounter the book before the movie and vice versa. But clearly people are still enjoying both; To Kill a Mockingbird was #3 on NPR’s 2012 top 100 novels for teens, right behind Harry Potter and Hunger Games. I think this is a case where the book and movie complement each other and both contribute to Mockingbird’s continuing popularity. [Read more…]

Game Theory: A New Key to Young Adult Fiction?

There’s a new book out that I would love to read and discuss with HogPro regulars: Jane Austen, Game Theorist.  Game theory and neuroeconomics are a relatively new interest for me in my field, psychology ( though hormones and neuroscience will always be my first love), but that interest has grown thanks to an Honors Course (Phil/Psych 306) I have been privileged  to teach a few times with a colleague in the Philosophy Department.  We recently completed a class research project using the Ultimatum Game.

According to the reviews, Dr. Chwe seems more interested in the Prisoner’s Dilemma, which makes since.  The Prisoner’s Dilemma has been getting a lot of popular press of late, even serving as the basis for a popular game show (I’ve only seen it once, and, yes, both contestants defected and went home with nothing).  But with themes like trust, loyalty, betrayal and survival bearing at the heart of so many of our favorite series here at Hogpro, it is likely game theory could give us some fresh insights.

Other writers have already applied the Prisoner’s Dilemma to the Hunger Games.  Brent Keller points out that a district who trusted each other could request unlimited tesserae without increasing the probablity of any individual child dying the the Games…  as long as everyone requested the same number. The economics blog Centives explains Tribute alliances in terms of the Prisoners Dilemma, as does Samuel Arbesman of Wired Magazine.

Ally Condi’s Matched series refers to the Prisoner’s Dilemma as one of the limited game choices the youth can play during their free time, although, in the Society’s version, it purely a game of chance that will, statistically, result in equal numbers of wins and losses for both players.  Only Ky, the Aberration, knows that the original game involved a human decision-making process and that a favorable outcome depended on two partners absolutely trusting each other.

As a fairly recent Psychology student, Veronica Roth likely encountered game theory.  Did it, like personality theory and biopsychology, make it into her books?  That is something I will consider after I have read Dr. Chwe’s book, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

But, it is likely in my own economic best interest to get my semester grades turned in first.