Mythgard Institute, Harry Potter For Nerds, and Duck of Minerva: HogPro Posts To Go Up Before the Move to Oklahoma City Begins

I am in sunny Huntsville, Alabama, where I’ve given three talks this week post LeakyCon, and I’m packing up today for my return to beautiful upstate New York. I won’t be there long, though, because I’ve been offered a teaching position in Oklahoma City and I’m moving the whole famn damily there next week.

The only problem? I have about twelve HogwartsProfessor posts that are overdue and time sensitive — and there’s no way I’m posting from the cab of a 24′ moving van with family in tow. I’m guessing that Highway Patrol officers are merciless on texters who drive — and that they shoot truck driving bloggers on sight.

Here, then, are the three ‘biggies’ I absolutely have to share before the Granger Gang starts its exodus to the Heartland:

Mythgard Institute: I’m going to be writing about this exciting development frequently and at length in the near future. I’m excited about it — and believe serious readers everywhere will be, too — because it seems the best answer I’ve seen to the problem I have been presented by HogPro All-Pros for the better part of a decade.

“How can I get a better understanding of the books I love and the literary traditions from which they spring without going back to full time school?” That back-to-campus option just isn’t a do-able possibility for most adults and learning-sans-guidance-and community is a non-starter for all but the geek elite.

I think Mythgard Institute from the Middle-Earth Network is a ‘wow’ solution to this frustration we all have in varying degrees. It’s an online school where the top authorities in fantasy fiction — Tolkien to start, more to come — share their best thoughts and engage with thoughtful readers about why their favorite books pack the imaginative punch they do.

Two more notes on this before I fly to the next necessary thing:

(1) You can read all about it here at TheOneRing in Mythgard’s official press release and you should take a long look around the Institute’s web site to meet ‘The Tolkien Profesor’ who is going to be the public face and driving engine, I think, of their first offerings.

(2) If you gag at the idea of Middle Earth, JRRT, and medieval literature, don’t despair or turn away in disgust. The Institute is accepting feedback about what courses to offer in the future and I have been assured by the men behind the curtains there that Harry Potter is an option they are interested in exploring, if readers express an interest.

Really, folks, if you’ve written me or just thought to yourself, “Man, would I love to be learning more about this stuff in an organized way,” this is your opportunity. The long-term goals of Mythgard are accredidation and crfedits towards advanced degrees in Literature. The profesionalism of this site and the simultaneous seriousness and accessibility of the instruction makes me wonder if — and hope that — this is the future of education online.

Get thee to Mythgard Institute today and don’t be bashful about requesting a Harry Potter course!

Harry Potter For Nerds: Travis Prinzi, the Young Lion of Harry Potter scholarship, has gathered and edited a boffo collection of Hogwarts essays called Harry Potter for Nerds. It’s Amazon page is up, though it seems they’re not yet accepting orders. I saw it at Leaky where a few advanced copies were being sold by contributors and it’s a beauty.

Here is the product description to whet your appetite:

‘Harry Potter for Nerds’ is a collection of the most exciting ideas from twelve Hogwarts Professors about the world’s best selling books. Travis Prinzi, author of ‘Harry Potter and Imagination’ and webmaster at The Hog’s Head, has tapped his Potter Pundit friends in Fandom and at better universities around the country for their insights about the literary magic of the seven novels, from their ring composition to the symbolism of the planets, from the Dante, Spencer, and MacDonald echoes to exploration of the meanings of magic and technology. Profound and far-reaching as these ideas are, the essays are all written in accessible style and tone. Serious readers of Harry Potter will delight in the conversation each chapter offers with another lover of the Hogwarts Saga and its greater depths.

Unlocking Press is the publisher so, not only is there a John Granger in the book, but I guided it through its production and have read each essay several times. I’m prejudiced, consequently, but I can say honestly that every chapter in the book attempts to and, as often as not, succeeds in pushing forward the markers of our Potter understanding. Scholars like Joel Hunter and Sandra Miesel, familiar friends like the three Potter Pundits and Elizabeth Hardy and John Patrick Pazdziora of this site, and new faces like Leaky’s Erin Sweeney who breaks the astrology code make this book more than just fun reading. I learned a lot and I’m guessing you will, too.

Daniel Nexon and Duck of Minerva: I met Prof. Nexon (Georgetown) at Prophecy 2007 in Tooronto. We have almost nothing in common other than a love of Harry Potter and contrarian thinking so, of course, we hit it off immediately. His Harry Potter and International Relations is something of a cult classic among the PoliSci crowd and Potter geeks and for good reason; it lays out how to think clearly about the state of the world while simultaneously illuminating the historical context and underpinnings of the Hogwarts Saga.

When the professor puts up his thoughts on the latest movie and the growing meme that “Voldemort = Osama bin Laden,” then, it’s worth a read. Something like “required reading,” really. Check it out at Duck of Minerva. Here’s a taste:

In this respect, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II, is something like comfort food for unsettled times. Many people whom fans have grown to care about lose their lives, but never in vain. Voldemort’s defeat marks the end of the Death Eaters: absent his vision and the fear he inspires, they cannot recover. No wonder long-circulating comparisons between Voldemort and Osama Bin Laden gained a new lease on life in the lead up to the film’s release: for a generation reared on Harry Potter and marked by 9/11, it seems fitting that US forces killed Bin Laden not long before opening day. And it is nice, just for a moment, to imagine that Al-Qaeda, like the Death Eaters, will simply melt away.

But I think it is too easy to dismiss Harry Potter as fantastic escapism. Popular culture seldom has a direct effect on international politics. Instead, it supplies common referents that shape our understandings of events; its images, narratives, and ideas intrude into the “common sense” of its consumers. How it represents, for example, ethnic groups, ideologies, and threats matters. Thus, the very idea of an analogy between Voldemort and Bin Laden, and the ease with which it comes to mind for students of a certain age, takes on some significance. To the extent that popular culture influences our understandings of right and wrong, then the content of Potter’s moral compass matters even more. Rowling’s sophisticated treatment of torture, justice, propaganda, political inequality, and the dangers of state excess are likely to be among the enduring legacy of the novels and films.

More of that to come, too. [Whoops! There’s already more — check it out.]

All right, friends, I have to put my things together for the flight home and the drive west. Prof. Baird-Hardy and company will be posting in my absence, and, God allowing a safe journey (your prayers!), I’ll be back with the other neglected posts this time next week.


  1. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    Thanks for all of this information, John! I’ve gone and toggled my Mythgard course preferences. Oh why won’t Amazon let us pre-order Travis’s collection yet?? In true nerd fashion, I keep checking back on whether they put up the pre-order button yet, finding this much more important than going out to enjoy the sunshine….

    Congratulations on your new teaching post, and safe journey to the Granger family!

  2. revgeorge says

    I don’t know, a teaching position smacks of steady income. You don’t want to lose the eye of the tiger or the glint of the snitch or something like that. 😉

    Anyway, congratulations on the new position! Safe & happy travel to you all!

  3. I would like to highly encourage y’all to sign up for the “Tolkien and the Epic,” even if you’re not a huge fan of Tolkien or medieval literature. Not only is Corey Olsen a fantastic teacher himself, but he has assembled some real heavy-hitters as guest lecturers, probably some of the most accomplished fantasy literature scholars in the world (likely >100 years of experience all combined): Verlyn Flieger, Tom Shippey, and Michael Drout.

    Not only are they fantastic (I saw Verlyn last week at Mythcon, and she is formidable), but they are also pioneers who blazed a trail in serious critical analysis of fantasy literature (and were themselves marginalized at times, much like Harry Potter readers and scholars) and prepared the groundwork for future fantasy lit scholars!

    Verlyn, in particular, told us a story about how she taught the first ever fantasy literature class at Catholic University and that the department only went along with it because they thought it was a passing fad. That class is still being taught there today (even after Verlyn left).

  4. I signed up for the Mythgard course, and I’m so excited! I’ve been dreaming of a program like this since I first read LOTR at 15.

    Thanks for the heads-up about HP for Nerds – Like Carrie, I’m also stalking the amazon page.

    And John – Congrats on the job! Who and what are you teaching?

  5. miles365 says

    Mythgard looks great — I hope they do expand into HP classes as well.

    If you give talks around OKC, that means only about 3 hours travel time for me, as opposed to 22 for New York. Hope the new job goes well.

  6. The Newchurch says

    Wow I can’t believe i missed you John. I live in huntsville and i would have gone if I had been paying attention. You came to talk to us at our school one time Catholic High. I would have liked to hear more though.

  7. Congrats on the new job, John. Best of luck with the move, and as always, we look forward to hearing from you once you get settled.

  8. Jim Smalley says


    Godspeed to you and your family in your move to OKC!


  9. Carrie-Ann Biondi says

    Yayyyy, we can finally order Harry Potter for Nerds!!!! It’s now in my Amazon basket…. Can’t wait to read the essays!

  10. You’re in OKC?! How wonderful for OKC! You’ve got to come speak at Veritas Classical Academy! What will it take?!

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