NPR Wants Potter Professors for Show

National Public Radio in the US is planning a 20th Anniversary program to celebrate all things Harry Potter. They are looking for teachers who use the Hogwarts Saga in their classrooms — not just classes devoted to the subject but anywhere in any subject at any level. Here’s the  CFP — ‘Call for Pundits’ — on their website:

It’s been a little more than 20 years since Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first published in the U.S. In that time, the series has become beloved by many — and sparked controversy among others, often making it onto lists of banned books.

NPR wants to hear from teachers who incorporate Harry Potter into their yearly curriculum. Whether you’re just starting out and have loved the books since you were a child or you’re a seasoned veteran who has taught about Hogwarts for years, we want to hear about the experiences you’ve had with your students.

Your responses may be used in an upcoming story, on air or on NPR.org. A producer may reach out to you to follow up on your response, too. Thanks for submitting our form!

The form, very short, can be found here by scrolling down. NPR does great radio and I look forward to hearing about how the Harry Potter stories are being put to use by Generation Hex teachers in primary, secondary, and college classrooms, teachers who grew up with the stories and are now charged with sharing the magic. Please do send out this CFPundits to all the teachers you know who teach with Harry Potter. I hope to listen to your story or your friends’ stories when the show is aired!

J. J. Abrams: The Mystery Box

I have been asked to give a TED-length talk later this month at Oklahoma City’s ‘Curiosity Fest’ so I have been watching online some of the most popular videos of this speaking genre. This is a shorter and funnier example with something of a message for Potter-philes about the power of mystery in story-telling. Plus you get to learn how a director gets around the problem of shooting scenes involving a gun forced inside Tom Cruise’s nose. Enjoy!

JKR Lumos Interview with Whoopi

It’s all about Lumos and Volant charities for Rowling. She said on the ‘Today’ show last week that she realized in 2000 that she would never again write a book or series as wildly popular as Harry Potter. She has told us more than once that her legacy will be the work of the charities she supports, especially the Lumos goal of ending institutionalized child care (orphanages) by 2050. Her appearances in support of Warner Brothers films all, consequently, include at least one gala about Lumos in which she speaks at length. Every actor and actress appears throughout the years between films and the months surrounding release in Lumos gear and promotions (perhaps per their contractual obligations?).

There was a long and thoughtful piece on MuggleNet this morning that argued Rowling and Harry Potter may have ‘jumped the shark’ and fan interest will drop sufficiently to kill the Hogwarts goose laying the golden eggs.

Maybe! I believe, though, that Rowling’s principal creative energies today go to her Cormoran Strike novels and that she participates in the collaborative Wizarding World film making exercises, stage productions, and theme park building just to keep the flood of magical money rolling in for Lumos and Volant, her legacy. There is nothing in the latter that compares with the artistry of the former — and the Strike novels and teevee adaptations are not going to pay the bills for closing orphanages or finding a cure for MS.

Your thoughts? Was there anything in the Lumos interview with Whoopi Goldberg, no doubt a distant relation of Tina and Queenie, that suggests otherwise? (H/T to BG and KL for the links)

Oskar Eustis: Theater and Democracy

A long time friend of this blog sent me a link to a TED talk by Oskar Eustis called “Why Theater is Essential to Democracy.” He wrote that he thought I might find Eustis’ thoughts “useful or at least interesting.” Right he was!

It’s a short piece, only 13 minutes instead of the 18 allowed by TED, and, as you’d imagine, it celebrates live stage performance and the outreach efforts by the Public Theater in NYC, which Eustis leads as their Artistic Director. He is an unapologetic missionary for Culture. I admire him for his zeal and concern for the Great Unwashed, if at times I admit I had to grit my teeth at the condescension for the Deplorables in Flyover Country he sees as his mission field.

What I found “useful” and “interesting” in the talk was the distinction made between watching a movie and watching a live performance on stage. For years I have said in talks and written here and in my books that movies are not an imaginative experience but sensation, and, as such, they are incapable of transforming audiences in any meaningful, lasting way. All film can do is scare us or move us to a sentimental moment, not just tears and smiles, granted, but the sentiments of rage and pity as well, none of which, however, last very long.

I have found that this assertion about film, the distinction between active imaginative experience versus passive sensation, really annoys people that prefer screened images to reading books or who “just love movies” (which is to say “almost everyone”). One of the more interesting counters to my thesis I’ve heard through the years is the question, “Well, what about the stage? That’s not imaginative, either; you watch the characters rather than imagining them. Are you saying contra-Aristotle and millenia of experience that audiences at live theater are not experiencing catharsis?”

No, I’m not. With Oskar Eustis, though, I am saying that the experiences of staged drama and screened images are fundamentally different — and the effect of this difference is that one is an individual’s sense experience of little effect on the person watching and the other is at least potentially transformative. We imagine, Eustis says, ourselves as the speakers in dialogue on stage, which imagining in conjunction with our being part of an audience witnessing a live event exercises our empathy, the experience to be had in fiction read in books.

Let me know what you think. Does Oskar Eustis have it right about the difference between film and stage? Does that or does it not confirm my disregard for the movie medium relative to book reading or play watching? Let me know what you think!

Alohomora: Ring Composition, Part One

I have been podcasting at MuggleNet.com since 2011, first with Keith Hawk on a show called ‘MuggleNet Academia’ and now with Katy McDaniel on ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling.’ I do it because it is a lot of fun — the conversations with guests and the show host are almost always challenging and a delight — and because a lot more people listen to those podcasts than will ever read what I write here at HogwartsProfessor. MuggleNet is truly a global platform and it is a privilege to get to speak from it about Harry Potter, Cormoran Strike, and literature in general in this age which has largely been shaped imaginatively by the work of J. K. Rowling.

There are, of course, other podcasts on MuggleNet and much more popular and less ‘heady’ ones than those in which I participate. One of the most successful is ‘Alohomora.’ The team of podcasters there have recorded more than 250 episodes devoted to a chapter-by-chapter re-reading of the Hogwarts Saga; their following is sufficiently broad that they have advertisers, a paid producer, and a real presence at the website and Fandom.

Though I know all the principals on the show and have for some time, I had never been invited to join the crew for a talk about a specific chapter or topic. Until this month! Kat Miller and Company wanted to do a show on Ring Composition and I was the default subject matter expert. You can read about and listen to the show here: Ring Composition, Part One: It’s a WOW Thing

To anticipate your question, no, I don’t know if there will be a ‘Part Two’ to follow-up on this ‘Part One.’ That they do not mention anywhere in their write-up of the podcast that I was a guest speaker suggests that, if they do, I won’t be invited to participate!

Part One was a fun and firehose conversation, though, as none of the others knew the first thing about chiasmus or ring writing and its importance to Potter studies. Your boy Gilderoy obliged them with an hour long review and introduction to the subject.

Which maybe put them off? Maybe! The good news is that, if you haven’t got the time to read Harry Potter as Ring Composition and Ring Cycle, and want to learn a little more about story structure and Harry’s magic, this podcast will serve as an appetizer for the subject. Let me know what you think, even if you’ve read the book, of the podcast in the comment boxes below.

Is it possible I’ll ever be invited to ‘Speak Beasties,’ the MuggleNet Fantastic Beasts podcast franchise?