From My In Box: Potter Mania Updates, Etc.

The talk yesterday at Princeton Theological Seminary was a lot of fun and the costumes at the Fantasy Ball last night were awesome (I especially enjoyed the ‘Snitch and Seekers’ performance unit, Tumnus the Faun, Holly from LEP Recon, and Gandalf the Grey). Their questions and the consequent conversation were great, as you’d guess. But, in honor of yesterday’s talk, late night, and drive back and forth, I’m giving myself the day off from hard core posting — so here are the contents of my mailbag!

* Catholic has decided Harry Potter is not evil and should not be feared. They even go so far as to recommend an out-of-print edition of one of my books! We’re making progress. Over at ETWN, however, the real Catholic broadcasting hub, we’re still holding to the unassailable position of caution. As the gatekeeper there says “the cautions about a pre-occupation with the occult still remains. Even if the moral metaphors in Potter serve some good purpose, the lives of the saints represent a magic more powerful and real, holiness, and one without any danger to the reader. We are what we read.” Hat-tip to Perelandra for these.

I’m told, though, that if you’re a serious reader of Harry Potter and want the Magisterium’s real take on The Secrets of Harry Potter that you tune in to Fr. Roderick’s podCasts from the Netherlands.

*Hans Andrea, leader of the esoteric and alchemical schools of interpretation of Harry Potter and webmaster at Harry Potter for Seekers, is leading a chapter-by-chapter look at the “symbolism of the septology.” Mr. Andrea writes about the strong parallels between Ms. Rowling’s alchemical scaffolding and the details in Jan van Rijckenborgh’s The Universal Gnosis. I confess the only question that I know I would ask Ms. Rowling if granted an interview or five minutes in the Presence would be about what alchemical books she read before beginning the series. Mr. Andrea’s ideas are well worth every serious reader’s consideration.

* Friend of this blog Dr. Amy H. Sturgis will be giving the keynote address (“Pushing the Boundaries of English Studies: From Middle-earth to Hogwarts”) at this year’s English Studies Symposium at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee on March 21, 2009. The event will include a full day of presentations made by faculty and graduate students from universities all over the Southeast. There is a fee to attend, but there’s also a fully catered deli lunch at no extra cost. If you live in Tennessee, I envy you the opportunity to hear her speak on this subject. It promises to be first rate.

* Are you a college student who has written a paper about Harry Potter? It could be published if you act promptly. Here’s a note I received today: “Our names are Ryan Durham and Andrea Cohen and we are students at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. We are currently working on putting together an undergraduate collection of scholary writings on Harry Potter. The professor we are working with is Dr. Elisabeth Gumnior. She’s been working on the first edition since the fall and we hope to have it finished to publish by the end of spring. We are writing to extend the opportunity to undergraduate students. We accept any writings on Harry Potter and would love to hear from you! Please contact us or our professor with any questions or any writing additions. We will have a website up shortly, which we can send a link out as soon as we finish it.” I’ll post that url when I get it but I recommend you go to and look up Dr. Gumnior’s email address and send her your stuff if you think it has a chance of making the publication grade.

* Check out this traveling exhibit from the National Library of Medicine called “Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine.” It is a “is a six-banner traveling exhibition created to explore the link between Harry Potter and the history of science using materials from the National Library of Medicine,” and you can host the banners at your local library. Hat-tip to Librarian Kitty for this find!

* There’s a job opening for an English teacher on Gampbell Island in the Bering Straits. It would be a hard sell for the wife and children, but I’m very hopeful the school administrators don’t require a teaching certificate.


  1. A couple points on your first note. One is that that thread is from 2006, so I don’t think Looking for God was out of date at the time. Also, don’t let the EWTN thing bother you.

    Why? Because as fun as Mother Angelica can be, she’s extraordinarily rigid. My mom sent her a book she wrote, because EWTN sells books on tv sometimes. It’s a book about pregnancy and motherhood and how it can deepen faith, etc. It got an Imprimatur from our cardinal and he even wrote the introduction. What my mother, who at the time had 5 children, received back was a note basically saying my mom is a heretic for suggesting that the Virgin Mary had pain in childbirth (I believe the consequence of Eden is “increase” pain in childbirth, so it was always going to involve some pain) and a paper in which Mother Angelica talked about the birth of Christ being like Christ’s resurrection, in which he somehow was in Mary’s womb and then was out of it, without any sort of physiological effects. (I think the good Mother thought anything less would somehow blemish the Blessed Mother.) Consequently, my mother’s book was never sold on EWTN (we also think she disliked our cardinal, which didn’t help).

    The lesson? Sometimes otherwise good folks can be guilty of pettiness and scrupulosity – so don’t sweat Mother Angelica being a hardliner. (And btw, ETWN isn’t as influential as it used to be; there are a lot of local diocesan channels springing up that have more of an influence, as do national publications like The Register).

    Well.. I guess I made up for not posting in a while!

  2. IstariErangua says

    Sounds like a lot of interesting stuff going on for you. If you’re serious about trying for that teaching job, good luck. As far as EWTN, I wouldn’t stress either, my campus minister and many of my closest Catholic friends are huge Harry Potter fans…my campus minister’s daughter actually picked St. Hedwig as her patron for Confirmation!

    The news about academic papers on HP makes me wish I’d actually applied with my HP paper idea sooner, I’m still working on that and it wouldn’t be ready for anything serious. Glad to see it’s getting that kind of interest though.

  3. Lily Luna says

    My daughter’s Catholic school is offering a Harry Potter Summer Camp for four weeks (which she can’t wait to attend). For rising 4th through 8th graders, it’ll cover all 7 books plus some “potion-making” and other activities!

  4. The Catholic Church doesn’t (and won’t) take a stand on any work of fiction, although as you’ve seen, individual Catholics do. The Church would only make official pronouncements in areas of faith and morals. You will never see any official statement by the Catholic Church either recommending or condemning a work of fiction. At one time there was the list of Prohibited Books, but that was discontinued in 1966 and did not involve works of fiction.

    Nzie: It sounds like Mother Angelica was referring to the Perpetual Virginity of Mary – before, DURING, and after the birth of Christ. Since that is a dogma of the faith, all professing Catholics are required to believe it. Many theologians have given different analogies to explain it, and it sounds like Mother Angelica was doing the same.

  5. Also, on the EWTN website, the opinion they’re posting is from Steve Wood, not the theologian answering the question. They qualify that by saying this: “It represents the opinion of the newsletter’s authors and should be accepted as such.”

  6. I listen to Father Roderick all the time, by which I mean, every six months or so, because his podcasts are few & far between. But they are worth listening to. He also does stuff on Tolkien & Lewis or did; I haven’t checked in a while.

  7. I don’t care at all about ETWN, really, or goings on in the Catholic media sandbox in general.

    I’m much more interested in Fr. Roderick in Holland. Has anyone tuned into his podCasts? From all accounts, he is supposed to be very good and contributes a much larger and deeper view than other Potter pundits.

  8. The only podcast I listen to more fervently than Fr. Roderick’s Secrets of Harry Potter is Travis’s Hog’s Head Pub! The good Dutch priest and his friends make some interesting connections to mythology and, of course, Christianity. Secrets has had several participants and for awhile was led by Brother Giles Baker as well; the back episodes are quite worth a listen.

    Unfortunately, new shows are quite rare, due to the fact that—as I know from listening to his Daily Breakfast—Fr. Roderick is maxed out on stuff to do. Holding down four or five parishes isn’t enough, he’s got to have twelve podcasts in various languages. But I stay subscribed.

    I haven’t tried out his Narnia secrets, being already subscribed to more podcasts than I can listen to, but I did pick up the Tolkien one once. He was following the video game, so I dropped it again. I’ll have to try out a later episode sometime.

    He’s mentioned you, John, and if he’s recording any time soon he might be interested in an interview. 🙂

  9. Oh Professor, I’m STILL laughing about the posted position in the Bering Straits!
    ( I have a mental picture comprised of several stunned, wide-eyed faces around the family dinner table, utensils suspended betwix plates and gaping mouths…)

    As for your assorted email contents…I’m sure I would not have jumped on the Potter-paper-bandwagon myself, but the opportunity to publish one’s work will be a great adventure for others who have sweated bullets to bring Harry along on their academic journeys.

    PJ…grateful for the chance to laugh, and laugh HARD!

  10. maggiemay says

    IstariErangua, thanks for that info about your friend picking St. Hedwig as her confirmation saint – that’s hilarious! I didn’t even know there was a St. Hedwig(and I grew up Catholic) until I read your post the other day. The next day I was reading my textbook for an online ancient civilization course I’m taking, (which by the way introduced me to Plato’s Cave Allegory)and there she was in the text, along with a 14th century painting of her. She was Saint Hedwig of Bavaria, 1174-1243. She was “married to Henry, Duke of Saxony, by whom she had seven children, and from whom she suffered great abuse. She ruled Silesia (today party in the Czech Republic, partly in Poland) when her husband was away at war; conducted diplomatic negotiations; and founded monasteries…Hedwig and her niece St. Elizabeth of Hungary illustrate the powerful influence of women in the spread of Christianity in central and eastern Europe. (A History of Western Society from Antiquity to the Enlightenment, McKay, et al., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 2006). If Rowling hadn’t named Harry’s owl Hedwig, who would really care about this?

  11. John, Alaska? Are you joking? I mean, I like remote places, but that looks remote even for Alaska. And check out the price of food – there’s a reason they say you should bring it with you. I think I heard something like $12 for a gallon of milk, and other prices were similar. That’s the reason so many in rural Alaska (and not nearly as isolated as Gampbell Island) are having such a hard time with feeding their families this winter and keeping them warm.

    But, it would be beautiful, and the school looked pretty nice. Not too sure about the accomodations for teachers – what they showed looked fairly small for a family.

    But, you could see Russia from your house. 😉

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