Chestnut Hill 2017: Emily’s Conference and Festival Report

Peri Fisher giving her talk on the power of YA lit to effect social reform.

Catching the heels of Louise’s excellent round-up of the sessions she attended at 2017’s Chestnut Hill College Harry Potter Conference, I submit my own report, dear Hogwarts Professor readers. In addition to the conference, my intrepid friend Katherine Sas and I also attended the Harry Potter Festival in the village of Chestnut Hill, just down the street from the College, the day after the conference, as we have done the past few years. The fest was particularly good this year, for both magical and non-magical reasons. I’ll spell them out here, with photographic evidence of the mischief that was so delightfully managed by Chestnut Hill, PA in 2017. [Read more…]

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.

Oxford’s Beatrice Groves in Webinar with Potter Pundits Summer School

Beatrice Groves is a Research Fellow and Lecturer in Renaissance Literature at Trinity College, Oxford University, and the author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter. I invited her as part of this month’s Potter Summer School to do a live Q&A webinar with the registered students last Thursday. She graciously agreed and the webinar went wonderfully; we were able to get to all the questions that were tossed out live and even to answer five or six of the ones that students who couldn’t be there at the time had sent me in advance.

For starters, we talked about literary alchemy and ring composition, the subjects of my first two Summer School talks (you can still register by the way; it’s free, painless, quick, and it gives you the only access you have to the four lectures and the pile of downloadable documents, all of which are coming down this week; just click here and join the hundreds of students from around the world already!).

Then we touched on Christian content, the canon of Harry Potter in light of the Fantastic Beasts films, how to read at depth and actively rather than passively, what gets us every time on re-reading, what readers most often miss or fail to appreciate, how Rowling organizes or outlines her work, even what one question would we ask Rowling if we were ever ushered into The Presence, head bowed, and allowed one boon.

It was fun and all the proof you could want that interactive learning with an expert in the field, no matter how exalted or far away, is possible, in fact, that it’s easy. Thanks to Professor groves for joining us! See you all in the weekly VLOG coming right up — and at the Potter Pundits Summer School, where I’ve just posted Lecture 3, about what bizarre and humorous type of writing Rowling learned from her three favorite writers, Austen, Colette, and Nabokov.