In a World Full of Umbridge, Who Would You Be?

Like a lot of Potterphiles, I have Harry Potter merchandise popping up on my social media feeds on a near-daily basis. One of the more recent appearances was a T-shirt reading “In a world full of Umbridge, be a Fred and George.”  While the mischievous redheads were undoubtedly major nemeses of the Toad Lady, I found it hard to envision myself wearing one of these shirts. I guess I’m at the age where I identify more with the middle-aged ladies of the Wizarding World than the kids.

Which led me to think, who would I put on mine?  Two answers immediately sprung to mind.   First, the teacher who was the antithesis of Dolores: Minerva McGonagall. In our humor episode of Reading, Writing, Rowling, several McGonagall v. Umbridge moments made it into our “funniest scenes” lists. Certainly McGonagall is one of the finest teachers in the series, one with high standards of excellence and who daily earns the respect of her students. In other words, everything dear Dolores wanted to be. Harry’s regard for her is clear: when even his own godfather’s murder could not push him into performing a Cruciatus curse on the perp, Amycus Carrow’s spitting in McGonagall’s face did.

The second, of course, is the best (or, at least the best living) mom of the series, Molly Weasley. In addition to being a surrogate mom and regular source of comfort (as opposed to pain) for Harry, Molly is also a loving mother to the twins. Yes, she gets exasperated with them frequently, sometimes seeming as short-tempered as Umbridge, but her love never wavers and she is never cruel. In the end, she accepts that the twins are successful in their own right, even with their poor OWL results, aborted education and non-conventional career choice.

More on Minerva, Molly and T-shirts after the jump! [Read more…]

The Personal Heresy Afoot at Hogwarts

As the school break affords some time for getting up some long-overdue posts, I had been planning a few, but I’ve shunted those to the backburner, with hopes of pulling them forward before I must return toImage result for the personal heresy grading, preaching the virtues of the Oxford comma, and catching incompetent plagiarizers. Instead, I find myself having to do something rather odd, defend J.K. Rowling, but not against the usual antagonists: misguided Puritans, well-meaning but overprotective parents, and the sad horde of people whose imaginations were apparently damaged or removed in some sort of unfortunate childhood accident. Now, I’m defending her against the “fans” who are presently foaming at the mouth over a tweet she refuses to recant despite their most petulant whines and threats. The controversy and the subsequent venom of some members of the once-loyal fandom likely come as no surprise to the savvy Rowling, whose own work predicts just this sort of thing, but it is also reflective of a phenomenon rampant in a number of fandoms these days, a phenomenon C.S. Lewis foresaw with his brilliant examination of what he called “the Personal Heresy.” Join me after the jump for some thoughts on this phenomenon as it is playing out in Potterdom.(If you’ve been under a rock, catch up here and here.) [Read more…]

Attention UK Readers! LondonMoot is coming!

Get ready, dear readers in the United Kingdom, for the erudite nerdiness of Signum University and the Mythgard Institute to finally come to YOU! Later this month, on April 28, Signum U. (digital disseminators of some of the best and most accessible learning and teaching in imaginative fiction studies anywhere) will host its first London “moot” at the Sir David Davies lecture theater, Torrington Place.

A “moot,” of course, is a meeting of Ents (tree-people) in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings; Signum’s version promises to feature few talking trees, allowing proceedings to be held at a slightly hastier pace. Signum/Mythgard has been hosting such moots around the US for a few years now, with their main gathering, Mythmoot, held annually over a weekend in Leesburg, Virginia.  [Read more…]

Harry Potter and the Commemorative Ornaments

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas here at my house, given that we typically put our tree and other decorations up right after Thanksgiving. And yes, the Boy Who Lived has a place in my holiday decor.

Several years ago, after it was clear that Harry and friends would be a long term part of my personal and professional life, my mom began giving me Hallmark Harry Potter ornaments. Hallmark has been releasing these annually since 2000, and Mom has thus far managed to track down most on Ebay.  Harry-themed ornaments were not something I would ever have thought of getting for myself, but now that I have them, I love putting them up every Christmas.  When it became clear that they would all get lost in the eclectic jumble that is my family’s normal Christmas tree, I got them their own wrought-iron table-top version.  I thought I would devote this post to sharing a few favorites.

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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…]