Call For Papers: ‘The Power to Imagine Better’

There will be an academic conference at which serious readers of Harry Potter are welcome in late October next year on the campus of Marymount Manhattan College (Upper East Side, NYC). The aim is to foster discussion of the “philosophical themes” of the Hogwarts Saga but it is interdisciplinary in the sense that “submissions are welcome on any philosophical theme or issue arising in the Harry Potter corpus that intersects with metaphysics, ethics, religion, literature, and/or politics.” The premise, dear to readers of this site I think, is that this is a justified exercise both in light of the value of the work itself and because of its pervaviseness in the global culture, i.e., that Harry is our “Shared Text,” like it or not.

I’ve already checked my calendar to be sure I can go and blocked out the dates. I hope to see you all there! [The complete ‘Call For Papers’ with proposal, location, date, and contact specifics is below the jump.]

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Shared Text: “Ze Who Shall Not Be Named”

Shared Text Alert: Terrorists Love Hogwarts Saga?

According to a recent AP article, former child soldier and Al-Qaeda militant Omar Khadr is something of a Harry Potter fan.  Khadr, described in several articles as a rage-filled, cold-blooded killer, apparently enjoys reading the books, which begs the question: Does someone who so clearly exhibits only intolerance for anyone who does not share his beliefs really “get it” if he considers himself a fan? Does he not see that the Order of the Phoenix members would all fall under the category of personae non gratia in his worldview? Or does he see those who disagree with him as the evil Ministry of Magic?  What seems really interesting, though, is the way the media keeps tossing out Khadr’s reading of HP. On one level, the references are probably just meant to emphasize the irony of the situation: terrorist who reads the popular, epitome-of-Western-Culture books loved by millions, isn’t that bizarre? [Read more…]

Unusual Appearance of Shared Text in Politics

Joe Miller recently launched this hilarious Halloween-themed ad in his US Senate race, calling his opponent “She Who Must not Be Named” and using plenty of campy witch tag-lines. The commerical looks more like an SNL spoof than the real deal, but the shared text hit is intriguing, especially since campaign advertisements are specifically aimed at adults. While critics want to send Harry to the kiddie lit compartment, children can’t vote and would thus not be the target audience here. The grown-ups headed to the polls are clearly expected to “get it”!

The Seven Keys to — the Hogwarts Professor?

I was asked today by a very kind reporter to summarize the way I think about books and Harry Potter especially. Here, well,  below the jump,  is my flash response as a rushed email note, posted  for your comment, amendment, and correction:

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