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Report From the HP Conference in Australia

Posted by: Melissa
September 07, 2003, 08:39 AM

Sheba sent us a report from yesterday's day of lectures, debates and forum discussions at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia:

Admission was free and about 60-70 people turned up. Participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds, including academics, writers, teachers, librarians etc, and were of all ages from teenagers right up to septuagenarians, but all shared a common love of all things Potter.
Four panels were run over the six hours. Each panel had between 2-4 speakers who spoke for around 10-15 minutes, then the discussion was opened up to questions and comments from the audience.

The first panel dealt with the question, “Is Harry great literature?” Dr David Ellison discussed whether Harry Potter will take its place amongst the literary canon; Dr Ian Henderson examined the role that readers play in determining the worth of a book; Dr Francie Oppel looked at allegory in Harry Potter and compared it to Arthurian legend in its use of Christian symbolism; and Dr Anne Galligan looked at the marketing of Harry Potter.

The second panel examined the fascinating topic of “Harry Potter and Ethics”. This discussion raised issues from the very serious, such as the culpability of Dumbledore in sending Harry back to an abusive household, to a fun look at what lessons Rita Skeeter can teach journalists. Spirited discussion from the floor ensued with people happily debating the moral lessons that Harry Potter imparts and the banning of the books by fundamentalist Christians. Panellists included Dr Cathy Jenkins, Prof Phillip Nielsen and Ms Lynda Davies.

Lunch provided a great opportunity for people to chat informally then it was back for the third panel which discussed the topic of adapting Harry Potter to the screen with Dr Jason Jacobs sparking much debate with his contention that the films were better than the books. The final panel heard from teachers about the ways in which Harry Potter can be used in the classroom and the reactions of students to the books.

Although all the panels were interesting, the real strength and fun of the day came when the discussion was opened up to the audience, all of whom were well versed in the books. Fascinating ideas, theories and opinions were raised and debated. The day was a great success – lots of fun, intellectually stimulating, and it made me want to re-read the books as soon as I got home.

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