Ascendio 2012 Formal Programming: Five ‘Not To Miss’ Talks

Am I excited about Ascendio 2012? Yes, I am.

First, there’s the group of friends I’ve made that have presented at five or more HPEF conferences in locales as different as Orlando, Salem, Dallas, Las Vegas, Toronto, and San Francisco: Diana Paterson from Calgary, logospilgrim, Cathy Leogrande, Melissa Aaron, David Gras, HPEF’s Heidi Tandy and Gwendolyn Grace (Lee Hillman), and Valerie Frankel. I don’t know if Philip Nel and Karin Westman from KSU, Steve Vander Ark or the podCasting regulars Melissa Anelli and Andrew Sims will make it, all regulars in past years, but I do expect to see and catch up with HPA’s Andrew Slack. Ascendio 2012 will be a blast if only as a reunion of the decade’s Potter Punditry.

But it’s a lot more than a reunion. These folks are coming again because of the wow talks that are scheduled beyond the Quill Track we’ve discussed briefly here. Outside of St. Andrews, no one reaches the Programming bar that HPEF sets: the variety, depth, and reach of the discussions here is simply the best. Surfing through the incredible list of talks in their formal programming, for example,  I found this mind-blower —

The Unpublished JKR – Behind the Scenes of Lev Grossman’s 2005 Interview

In July of 2005, shortly before the publication of Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling agreed to a two-hour conversation with a callow, inexperienced and thoroughly starstruck journalist named Lev Grossman. The interview turned into a TIME magazine profile (the infamous badness of which the journalist deeply regrets). But that profile only made use of a few scattered quotes from the conversation, and the full transcript of the interview, which runs to 12,000 words, has never been published anywhere, and probably never will be. In this talk — the contents of which must never be repeated anywhere, on pain of agonizing death — Grossman will share the highlights, and a few of the lowlights, with you.

And this

Where is God in Harry Potter?
Paper: Patricia Lyons

Summary: After the publication of Deathly Hallows, JK Rowling said in an interview, “To me [the religious parallels have] always been obvious…but I never wanted to talk too openly about it because I thought it might show people who just wanted the story where we were going.” From The Sorcerer’s Stone through The Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling focuses forcefully on the reality of human souls and how love and evil can heal or split them. In an interview with MTV, Rowling called Hogwarts a “multi-faith school” and in that spirit this workshop will engage the religious ideas in the books with a curious and open mind, and with the single goal of uncovering as many spiritual meanings as Rowling intended to hide under her cloak.

And this —

The Hunger Games

Panel: Valerie Frankel and Cathy Leogrande

Summary: Cathy Leogrande’s paper, “From Harry to Katniss & Back to Pottermore: How JKR Took The World on a Transmedia Flight”, examines how, with a convergence of circumstances, technology, and love, Rowling and her fans broke ground when together they melded text and other formats to create new narratives. Explore how and why Rowling and Warner Brothers set the stage for other fandoms and franchises such as Hunger Games. Valerie Frankel’s paper, “Minerva’s Not the Only Goddess Around: Naming and Symbolism in The Hunger Games”, notes that as with Harry Potter, names have great significance in Suzanne Collins’s books, referencing sixteen characters out of Shakespeare, all from a particular era of Rome. In her series, Collins unites the power of Shakespeare and Rome to retell an ancient epic of betrayal, violence, and glory on the stage of an apocalyptic future.

And this:

Snape, Machiavelli, and the Redemption of Slytherin

Presentation: Lorrie Kim

Summary: By giving Snape the matronymic “Prince,” J.K. Rowling hinted that Machiavelli’s The Prince might hold some keys to her own intentions about this character. A fresh look at Machiavelli gives definitive answers about whether Snape redeemed himself in the end, what makes something Dark Magic, if it had to be a Slytherin Headmaster to defeat Voldemort, what it truly means to be a Slytherin, and how Slytherin power can be used for good.

One more?

A Family Divided: The Story of the Mitfords

Paper: Katherine Bailey

Summary: This presentation outlines Jessica Mitford’s life, from her unusual childhood in an unusual family, to the outbreak of World War II and the ideological struggle that divided her family into two distinct camps.In the great ideological battle accompanying global war in the 20th century, two sisters took sides:  Unity gazed adoringly across a cafe table at one of the most monstrous tyrants ever to rise to power, while Jessica would take the side of the people against tyranny. What is the story of the person J. K. Rowling has called “my most influential writer” and “my heroine since I was 14 years old,” and how deeply does it inform the basic struggle in her novels?

And there is a lot more — Leslie Barnhart on alchemical characters I’ve missed (!), Connie Neal on the Christian holidays, and the usual suspects — slash fiction, Quidditch, CosPlay, political correctness and JKR missteps. We’ll be talking about these subjects and more in the coming weeks as we run up to the Wizarding World’s last HPEF gathering as well as possible futures, the HPEF legacy.

If you’re not registered yet, there’s still time! It promises to be a blast and I hope to see you there. (I’ll write up descriptions of my three Ascendio talks and Meet-ups here this week — stay tuned!)


  1. Carol Eshleman says

    The Hunger Games one happens right before mine!! I am so psyched about that one! It’s gonna kill me to duck out in the last few minutes!

  2. I am dying for your panel to be posted – I hope I will be able to be the Prefect for that session! 😀

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