UCL Prof Pans Potter PhD
Reading Harry Potter for your finals? A conference in St.Andrew’s discusses the possibilities.
Harry Potter, for a long time now a permanent feature of British culture, has apparated into the realm of education. A two-day conference, entitled “A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature”, began on Friday in St.Andrews, with the aim being to consider Harry Potter as a serious literary text for academic study.
The event attracted 60 scholars from across the world, who discussed issues drawn from the books such as paganism, magic and British national identity. Seminars ranged from “The Canonization of Neville Longbottom”, through to “From Nerdy Boy to Emphatic Male: Harry Potter’s Development."
With almost 4100 pages of content to analyse, academics had plenty to get their teeth into over the two days. Melanie Babenhauserheide, of Bielfield University, Germany, managed to draw parallels between the Death Eaters and the Nazis, with other scholars invoking Plato in goblin racial politics and Socrates, in Dumbledore.
Organizer and St. Andrews’ tutor John Pazdziora stated: “We can’t avoid the fact that Harry Potter is the main narrative experience of an entire generation.”
However, it was UCL’s very own English Professor John Mullan who emerged as the biggest critic to ‘Potter Studies’. Claiming that Harry Potter was “for children, not for grownups,” he was amazed that his peers who participated had the time to do so:
"They should be reading Milton and Tristram Shandy: that's what they're paid to do.”
Regardless of whether you think Mullan is spoiling the chances of a very fun degree being implemented, the issues he raised are important. Does Harry Potter deserve a place in the literary canon of Shakespeare and Dickens? Would it actually prove to be suitable material for University level students? Who actually has read Tristram Shandy?
The popularity of the series will always render it culturally significant but would you want your £9,000 tuition fees for BA English going towards finding out how Fluffy the Three Headed Dog symbolizes Britain’s love of domesticated pets? Actually, we would. It’s not like Arts degrees can get anymore irrelevant anyway.