Rowling’s New Twitter Header Means The Faerie Queene is a Strike 5 Theme?

As many of us are anxiously looking forward to the release of the fifth Cormoran Strike novel, Troubled Blood, this September, the latest change to J.K. Rowling’s Twitter account may have some clues. The novel’s title has several possible origins, including Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene. With her recently changed Twitter header, which includes an image from a beautifully illustrated 1890s edition of The Faerie Queene, Rowling and her crime-writing alter-ego Robert Galbraith may be laying the groundwork for a Spenser-scaffolding installment in the adventures of the ever-fascinating Strike and Robin Ellacott. Some of us truly hope that is the case.

[Read more…]

Pottering around the house in the midst of the COVID-19.

This particular Hogwarts Professor has had her academic workload suddenly quadrupled as she tries to move three classes, one lab, two thesis students and two interns online.  But, I wanted to pop in and suggest a few ways Potterphiles with more free time can entertain themselves during confinement.

First, the fine folks at have made many great books available for free, including some good young adult lit and classic works of literature.  Check them out and, if you find something you want to discuss here, include it in the comments.

Second, JKR has relaxed the copyright on Harry Potter, and allowing teachers to read aloud to students.  Among the many conducting read-alongs are the Head Girls who run the great Queen City Mischief and Magic Festival; check out their Facebook page to tune in.  Another choice would be my friend and former student Dylan’s YouTube presentation. 

Finally, my sweet sister-in-law sent me a link to a Virtual Harry Potter Escape Room, created by Peters Township Public Library.  I’ve only just gotten started, but it looks pretty good.

All for now…  stay home and stay healthy, everyone.



Reading, Writing, Rowling: Werewolves!

From Laurie Beckoff’s write-up at MuggleNet:

In this supersized episode, John and Katy talk with literary scholars and werewolf specialists Dr. Melissa Aaron (California Polytechnic State University) and Dr. Renée Ward (University of Lincoln, UK) to reveal the true nature of beastly transformations in the Harry Potter series. “Everything you know about werewolves is wrong,” Melissa tells us, explaining the literary origins of werewolf lore and its key elements. Renée explains the diversity of classical and medieval lycanthrope references, which were not necessarily judgmental but often emphasized martial violence and extreme difference. Melissa cautions that there is no stable “Ye Olde Book of Werewolves” with one static understanding of what werewolves are or were, but you will nevertheless get lots of ideas for your werewolf reading list from our discussion.

What do werewolves represent? Often they represent the beast within, and fear of oneself, which is clearly a theme of Rowling’s series, especially with Remus Lupin. Renée explains the significance also of Fenrir Greyback (and his name) and how both he and Lupin are searching for similar things: In struggling with their own identities, they look for communities in which they can find acceptance and play meaningful, powerful roles. Rowling’s archive of character histories reveals important contrasts between Remus’s and Fenrir’s developments. Werewolves in general, and these two characters in particular, explore the fear that having been a victim of a predator, one may become a predator oneself.

Newt Scamander in his Fantastic Beasts textbook has difficulty categorizing werewolves as “beings” or “beasts.” Rowling problematizes such a binary system, using the werewolf as a case study. Transformation is a fundamental, often involuntary part of werewolf nature. To her magical world, Rowling adds Animagi and Metamorphmagi, who transform at will. Why does she do that? What do we think about the concept of wolfsbane as a medical treatment for lycanthropy? We look at the various metaphorical readings scholars have used to understand Rowling’s transforming characters, the alchemy of these transformations, struggles with one’s own duality, and whether the novels support a romantic Beauty and the Beast reading of werewolf relationships. The movies, the Twilight series, and the new Fantastic Beasts films (especially Nagini) – we leave no stone unturned in this conversation! Human/animal transfiguration, we realize, is genuinely at the heart of Rowling’s most important themes.



Final Day for Make Magic for Autism T-shirts.

My Make Magic for Autism T-Shirt campaign ends tonight at midnight EST.  This is the final opportunity to purchase a shirt (in your favorite house color) in support of my Skillcorps Ecuador Team for the Global Autism Project. 

I am hoping to have a long-term partnership with the organization, and there will be many opportunities for fundraising in the future. Which makes me wonder, what would a clever Cormoran Strike t-shirt look like?

For those who are wondering, the Global Autism project cancelled its February trips, in an abundance of caution for the coronavirus. This resulted in a loss of 1/3 of the organization’s revenue, making our current work that much more important. July SkillCorps trips are still planned, in hopes that the corona virus will no longer be a threat. If those trips get canceled, too, I’ll be re-booked on a later one. The virus won’t last forever; autism will.

“It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.”- Albus Dumbledore.

Shared Text: Ragtime Hedwig, Smart Guy

[Read more…]