Scholars Congregate in Scotland to Discuss Literary Merits of Harry Potter Books
May 17, 2012, 10:50 AM
According to BBC News, a group of more than 60 scholars have congregated at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland to discuss the literary merits of the Harry Potter series over the next two days.
The conference, entitled "A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature," will feature over 50 lectures about the series with topics ranging from the role of paganism, British national identity and how death is dealt with in the books. A complete anthology based on this conference is expected to be published in 2013.
Conference organizer, Professor John Patrick Pazdziora, had this to say about putting together such a conference:
"We can't avoid the fact that Harry Potter is
the main narrative experience of an entire generation - the children who
literally grew up with Harry Potter.
"The Harry Potter novels are simply the most important and
influential children's books of the late-20th and early 21st Centuries."
"For very many people, this is their first
experience of literature, and of literary art. So they want to think
about it, and analyse it, and talk about it."
I’m glad to see this happening. I hope that they tape and transcribe it all, and end up putting it on the Web so that we can all hear the lectures and panel discussions.
Too often, it seems, the people who dismiss the Potter books as lacking any literary merit are people who consider it beneath them actually to read them. And the masses of people who fall in love with JKR’s storytelling most often lack the background in literature to critique them in a meaningful way. I would love to be able to hear analysis of the Potter books by people who both enjoy them AND have the academic chops to parse between their strengths and weaknesses.
It will make some diehard fans angry to hear any criticism at all, of course, but JKR’s writing isn’t perfect. There are occasional passages that make me tear my hair in frustration because they read like first drafts and just need a little more work. I hope that JKR will pay attention to this conference and learn from it, so that her future works will truly cement her reputation as a ‘serious author’ for all time.
Well, when I was young most of the critics had a similarly dismissive attitude to J R R Tolkien.
I wish I had known about this, though health problems would probably have meant that I couldn’t have attended anyway. But I hope one day to write something on JKR’s great mythos!
I really look forward to reading that, V-J!
I also think that many people consider Harry Potter to not be strong literary works just because it is popular. Again, this is an example of those who do not read the books and just consider it to be the equivilant of a Pretty Little Liars series, or, dare I say it, a Twilight series. Although Jo’s writing isn’t perfect (I personally think that Ron’s role isn’t as well written as it could have been) I do think it is an important literary work.
I am so glad they are doing things like this! Harry Potter IS perfect and IS the most amazing adn life changing invention ever. I am soooo glad people see that, and I love it. Harry Potter is my life. Always
I wanna see this when they produce it!
I too, am happy to see people sitting down and delving into the amazing work that is Harry Potter. It was the first ‘big girl’ book I ever read, before that it was Nancy Drew. Which I still love and read from time to time because they are fun and take me bac to my childhood. Harry Potter however is more than just a childhood read, its something that grew with us as we grew, became a part of us, taught us lessons for life, and gave us an amazing fiction family. :)
Well, I for one know ‘good’ writing when I read it… Jo has the ‘chops’ to rate right up there at the top in her genre… Perhaps she’ll even successfully cross over. I hope she does!
The Harry Potter books got me reading and I am so glad they did !
I really look forward to reading
@Weeny Owl You might like to check out “The Seeker’s Guide to Harry Potter” by G. A. Trevarthen. The author has lectured at the University of Edinburgh on the HP series with reference to the magic and the many alchemical references within the text. To the average lay reader it is an eye-opener, revealing depths to the text of which we were totally unaware. Alchemy is not an easy subject to grasp even at this “for the general reader” level.
I’m really excited about this, I’d love to be able to listen to the lecturers and here what they’ve got to say! As other’s have said, it’s amazing to see Potter finally being considered as an influential literary work! I was listening to Radio 4, the book show on a Thursday afternoon (I can’t remember what it’s called) and they were talking about the different ages of children’s literature, which was really interesting in itself, but I was just delighted to hear them mention JK Rowling as the bringer of the most recent ‘Golden Age’ of children’s literature, along with Philip Pullman. I can’t wait to hear the books really pulled to pieces and analysed by some academics, it should give us lots to discuss!
I try not to go too fan girly over Potter, since the reason that I was first attracted to it was because of what a good piece of writing it was, but I suppose I do find it quite insulting and rude when people criticise the books. However, I think this is the best way for it to happen, if anyone is going to make negative comments about the series then I would like it to be from a scholar, with sufficient evidence to back their claims up. I just find it very offensive when people say to me something along the lines of, ‘You like Harry Potter, don’t you? Have you seen them all? I hate Harry Potter, it’s really boring’
Thanks for the tip, Graymayne – I’ve added that title to my B & N Wish List!
“A complete anthology based on this conference is expected to be published in 2013”
The Norton? Anthology of Harry Potter…must get that! :-D