A Ravenclaw’s Round-Up: Louise’s Nearly-Annual Report from the Chestnut Hill Harry Potter Academic Conference

As I do almost every year (save my college reunion years that end in 8 and 3:  it’s usually the same weekend! ), I attended and presented at the Annual (in this case, 11th) Harry Potter Academic Conference. Though I attended online the last two years (my talks can be seen here and here), this was my first time back on the beautiful campus since 2019, given that the College was responsible enough to move the conference online for the worst of the COVID pandemic.

I’m happy to report that the conference is still going strong, despite the triple threats of COVID, the demise of the fan festival the helped launch the conference, and the concerns of many scholars, including myself, whose concerns about J.K. Rowling’s public anti-transgender rhetoric have caused them to rethink the wisdom of promoting her writing. But, conference founders and organizers Drs. Patrick McCauley and Karen Wendling report that the Colllege’s new president is enthusiastic about the conference and wants it not only to continue, but to expand, so I am optimistic that the HPAC is here to stay.

Onto this year’s highlights after the jump.

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Hugh Jacks? A Salute to Hugh Jackman and a Night at the Museum in-joke?

There is no question that Hugh Jacks, the man who really does not know the difference between being ignored and being led on, is something of a joke in The Ink Black Heart. He serves the narrative purpose of sparking Strike’s curiosity and jealousy while also sparking Robin’s annoyance from their initial meeting on the New Year’s ski trip to the ugly phone conversation where she points out the obvious and gets verbal abuse in return. When she finally tells him, plainly, that she is not interested, he turns nasty, blaming her for all his problems despiteNight at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb - Wikipedia absolutely zero encouragement or interest on Robin’s part. He also serves as an interesting contrast to the two other rivals for Robin’s affection: the ultra-physical suspect Pez Pierce and the super-nice guy police officer Ryan Murphy.

But he also is part of another little joke that is quite charming as well as pretty obscure. Hugh Jacks sports the nickname “Axeman,” as his name sort of sounds like “Huge Axe”; Midge notes to Strike that people should say baby names aloud before deciding on them. It’s just another joke that makes pathetic Hugh even more pathetic, but it’s a joke with a delightful connection to a far more charming gentleman, the multi-talented Hugh Jackman, who just celebrated his birthday earlier this month, and to a blockbuster fantasy film set in England (no, not one of THOSE films). [Read more…]

Beatrice Groves – Scaramouche’s Fandango in Ink Black Heart

Beatrice Groves, Research Lecturer and tutor at Trinity College, Oxford, and author of  Literary Allusion in Harry Potter, has written a Hogwarts Professor Guest Post: Scaramouche’s Fandango in Ink Black Heart. Join me after the jump for Prof. Groves’ look at music as metaphor, scaffold and clue in Rowling’s Ink Black Heart.

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The “Poisoned Skeleton” in ‘Silkworm:’ Is There an Echo in Ink Black Heart?

The most mysterious passage in The Silkworm is a flash from Strike’s subconscious about a “poisoned skeleton,” an image that the Amazing Memory Man is unable to recall:

Maybe Quine was born four hundred years too late,’ said Strike, still eating shortbread. ‘Elizabeth Tassel told me there’s a Jacobean revenge play featuring a poisoned skeleton disguised as a woman. Presumably someone shags it and dies. Not a million miles away from Phallus Impudicus getting ready to—’

‘Don’t,’ said Robin, with a half laugh and a shudder.

But Strike had not broken off because of her protest, or because of any sense of repugnance. Something had flickered deep in his subconscious as he spoke. Somebody had told him… someone had said… but the memory was gone in a flash of tantalising silver, like a minnow vanishing in pondweed.

‘A poisoned skeleton,’ Strike muttered, trying to capture the elusive memory, but it was gone.

I wrote on the Moderator Channel back in 2016 that this passage seemed to be the equivalent of Dumbledore’s “gleam of triumph” in the Goblet of Fire denouement, the scene where the Headmaster learned that Voldemort has reconstituted his body using Harry’s blood. Ink Black Heart, which echoes The Silkworm in many ways (which Rowling recently confirmed), would be the natural place to look for an echo of this elusive insight, even for an answer to the question it raises.

After the jump, then, a look at the probable Jacobean Revenge Drama from which Rowling-Galbraith drew the “poisoned skeleton” image, a review of its possible place as just a marker for The Silkworm‘s murderer, and a quick list of possible correspondences in Ink Black Heart across the series-ring’s turtle-back line. [Read more…]

Cormoran Strike Studies for a Degree? BA, BSc, MLitt, and PhD Programs

HogwartsProfessor.com, if I say so myself, is the cutting edge of Serious Strike Studies. Our posts here explore the psychological, mythological, alchemical, structural, intertextual, and archetypal elements in Rowling-Galbraith’s murder mystery series. There are, however, at least three failings in our approach.

Though the posts are as a rule much longer and more in depth than other websites devoted to the subject and our writers more expert in the field, these articles do not constitute a course of study, are a work in progress (i.e., largely speculative), and they are not interactive beyond exchanges in comment box threads. In brief, they’re not systematic or anything like a degree program at a college or university.

If the uber Rowling Reader wanted to pursue a degree in Cormoran Theory or Strike Studies, then, where could he or she go and what would the degree involve? After the jump, I list three pathways to an undergraduate or graduate degree via programs currently on offer at major universities in the US and UK in which a Serious Striker can major in Rowling’s detective fiction. [Read more…]