News Flash! JKR comes to Harvard to Give Commencement Address

The Harvard Crimson reports:

Harry Potter never returned to Hogwarts for his seventh and final year, so J. K. Rowling never got to write a graduation speech for her magical protagonist.

The author of the mega-bestseller “Harry Potter” series will get a chance to make up for that in June, when she delivers the keynote address at Harvard’s Commencement exercises, the University announced Thursday morning.

“Perhaps no one in our time has done more than J. K. Rowling to inspire young people to experience the excitement and the sheer joy of reading,” said University President Drew G. Faust in the statement.

I assume Yale tried to get her to come to New Haven but that Harold Bloom might have expired if she had accepted. Harvard is much more Harry friendly…


  1. aw, shoot! my graduation is the same day or I could be there, since I’m from there! In fact, I’ll be up at Harvard for my parents’ 25th reunion like two days after! shucks, I’ll miss it..

    oh well. Thanks for the update, JAB!

  2. I thought the same thing about Harold Bloom. I had to look him up because I thought he was at Harvard. I think it’s great that she will be speaking at Harvard. Has she done anything like that before? Sounds a tad intimidating and scary to me. But, then I’m not Jo either.


  3. Arabella Figg says

    What a wonderful validation of Rowling from academia. It’s about time. I’m sure she’ll do a wonderful speech.

    Harold Bloom can retire to his fainting couch with some smelling salts and have his hissy fit from there.

    Congratualtions, Nzie, on your graduation! It’s obvious from your posts that you’ve really had your plate piled high. Perhaps friends of your parents could record or video-record the speech for you? Anyway, enjoy being celebrated and diplomaed.

    If the kitties ever wanted a diploma, it would be to lay on it…

  4. I would love to know how Harry Potter is accepted/rejected within the Harvard teaching community and how Harvard managed to lure JKR to the podium. What a memorable commencement address!

    Hear! Hear! Nzie! And congratulations to your parents on 25 years of wedded adventure. Been married 35 years myself…blessed and blessed again!

  5. Not true… We Yalies are very, very HP friendly. Prof. Bloom speaks for himself, and only himself….

  6. Welcome, SudiptaB! We would love to hear a Yalie’s take on Harry Potter. (You don’t have to resort to meeting in the RR to have a rousing literary discussion, do you? 😉 )

  7. Thanks pj! Not sure I quite caught your reference to “RR”, if it’s an HP reference I’ll feel rather silly for not catching it, haha!

    As a student myself, I’m in an interested position– I was just a kid, same age as Harry, when the books first came out… and I’ve grown up with him. I feel the HP books are the myth of my generation, much like Star Wars (the original trilogy, of course) was the myth of an earlier generation, and Lord of the Rings the myth of a still earlier generation.

    Of course, these stories are all timeless, and so are accessible to future generations. My peers still enjoy LotR and SW, even though we weren’t around when they first came out. That said, there’s something to be said for actually growing up with and experiencing something as impactful as the HP series *in real time*. It’s a great, timeless story, but to my generation it is more: it is OUR great, timeless story.

    In any case, Yale is offering a class this semester on “Christian Theology and Harry Potter”, which I am quite excited to be taking. John Granger’s “Looking For God in Harry Potter” is on the syllabus, as is Abanes’ “Harry Potter and the Bible”. We haven’t read John’s book yet (seeing as the semester has just begun), but we have read the introduction to Abanes’ book… and it was very depressing, to say the least.

    Anyway, that prompted me to do some online research, during which I found this blog… and this post. Though it wasn’t quite as depressing as Abanes’ introduction, this post was somewhat depressing, too… because Yale is definitely more Potter friendly than Harvard. 🙂

  8. JohnABaptist says

    Hi SudiptaB, welcome to our little blogfest.

    I’m the [JAB] who is currently sitting in for John Granger while he is finishing the next edition of the very book you are using as a text. (The current edition was put out before Deathly Hallows and so needs some neatening up.)

    I also own a now bedraggled copy of Abanes’ book. Bedraggled even though I have only read about a quarter of it so far. Every time I pick it up, I get through about five or six pages and then hurl the book against a far wall while shouting “The man is an absolute idiot!” The binding is not standing up to this treatment very well.

    You must, of course, read both Abanes and Granger critically for yourself; but I might recommend you try extracting the standards of criticism each uses and try applying them to other works to see how valid they appear to be. I personally find Granger’s techniques quite widely applicable to books of most any genre. I can not say the same of Abanes.

    In fact, when I apply Abanes’ criteria to the Holy Bible I find they seem to recommend that I lock my Bible in a trunk somewhere and never again open its covers due to all the supernatural activity, seeresses, and other magic related persons and things found there. It is even rumored that Magi(cians) were present shortly after the birth of the Bible’s hero, Jesus. Clearly not something a good Christian should meddle with.

    Heavy handed irony aside, please keep us posted on your journey through this course as the year proceeds. You will find many here quite interested in your experiences. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Arabella Figg says

    SudiptaB, welcome! It will be very interesting to follow your studies with you and read your commentary.

    I read a couple books by Abanes around Y2K and discovered that he was definitely on a mission–to expose anything he felt was unbiblical. Unfortunately, in so doing, he found so much that it actually staggered the mind. I have to agree with JAB’s paragraph above.

    He also critqued the Potter books without reading all of them. See on this blog, Deathly Hallows Discussion Point #23: “Smuggling the Gospel” Fallout, for further information and comments by Abanes.

    Hairy Plotter sends his best meow…

  10. JAB: That irony was in fact pointed out in our last (well, first– the semester only began last week) class discussion. Indeed, it seems to me like Abanes’ attitude is one of severe underestimation of kids’ abilities to use their brains. Underlying assumptions in (what I have read so far of) his book are syllogisms like:
    * Kids will repeat what they see.
    * Kids see sorcery and witchcraft used as allegorical tools in the HP books.
    * Kids will repeat sorcery and witchcraft.

    * Kids will imitate the actions of their “heroes”.
    * Kids view Harry Potter as a hero and see him lying to Severus Snape.
    * Kids will become dirty, filthy liars.

    The above syllogisms are bogus. Kids aren’t that stupid. Sure, they’re impressionable, but not stupid. If Abanes really thinks kids are that stupid, the logical conclusion is that kids must be kept sheltered from all the ills of this world–i.e., they must be made to grow up in a fantasy world, where everything is good and the reality of evil is kept from reaching their easily deluded eyes.

    AF: I’ve noticed that, as well as Abanes’ inane critique about the generic pagan death/resurrection motif (which he claims, without having read it, HP7 is an example of). While he’s not incorrect that such a general motif exists in non-Christian settings, he discounts more recent evidence of Jo’s Christian roots. The ITV documentary on Jo is a good place to start: … Note the parts from 5:35 on (particularly from 6:46 on).

    Also, it’s too early in the semester for me to say that HP definitely has religious undertones– I still have more critical reading to do. While my reading on Harry Potter is up-to-date, my reading on Christian theology is not. But from what I have read and seen so far, Abanes’ out-and-out rejection of any Christian elements seems quite incorrect.

    Now look, I’ve gone quite far off-topic from this original post! … Oh right, Yale is Gryffindor, Harvard = Slytherin. 🙂

  11. Arabella Figg says

    SudiptaB, you write:
    “Kids aren’t that stupid. Sure, they’re impressionable, but not stupid. If Abanes really thinks kids are that stupid, the logical conclusion is that kids must be kept sheltered from all the ills of this world–i.e., they must be made to grow up in a fantasy world, where everything is good and the reality of evil is kept from reaching their easily deluded eyes.”

    While not attacing homeshcooling (so please, everyone, don’t jump on me!), I’ve seen this with Christian homeschooled kids raised in the fundy black and white “fortress mentality,” who grow up almost as foreigners in their own society. Now grown up, they struggle on unfamiliar ground, with concepts and a grasp of contemporary culture the average person takes for granted. They have no background in much of film or books outside their narrow exposure. Their parents have protected them so much they experience a disconnect when cogently presented with unfamiliar ideas and struggle with exploration beyond familiar “homilies” such as you list.

    This hurts their critical thinking skills. My hat’s off to homeschooling parents who do teach their children such skills and expose them to books and thinking outside the “Christian” comfort zone, helping them learn to evaluate and tease out what is good and bad (and are they really?) and where the two might overlap in that unavoidable gray area.

    Remus Loopy is unavoidable gray…

  12. “RR”…..Room of Requirement. No biggie, the initials could have easily been misunderstood as “Ravenclaw Rumpusroom” or something else quite obscure. I apologize for not making myself clear. 🙂

    Christian Theology and Harry Potter??…how cool is that? I have not read Abanes’ work(s) but I am an extremely grateful reader of John’s *Looking for God in Harry Potter.* It changed the way I read the books…and I read *Looking…* first. Good luck with the class.

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