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Magically-minded scholars gather in St Andrews for Harry Potter conference

St Andrews University holds first academic conference discussing Harry Potter books as literary text.

Harry Potter: Final movie opens in Elgin on Friday

Around 60 scholars from across the globe are set to take part in a conference at St Andrews University discussing JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter books.

The event, A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature, aims to redress the lack of direct study of the body of work as a literary text.

In an intense series of almost 50 lectures over two days, experts on the series will discuss how they deal with death, the role of empathy and the influence of writers such as CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien. Other papers will deal with paganism, magic and the use of food and British National Identity.

The conference is organised by John Patrick Pazdziora from the university’s School of English, and Fr. Micah Snell from the university’s institute for theology, imagination and the arts (ITIA).

Mr Pazdziora said: “We can't avoid the fact that Harry Potter is the main narrative experience of an entire generation, the children who quite literally grew up with Harry Potter. The Harry Potter novels are simply the most important and influential children's books of the late-twentieth and early-twenty-first 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. It's important because people care about it, and care very deeply.”

The St Andrews event is the UK’s first academic conference on the subject and the first in the world to discuss Harry Potter strictly as a literary text.

The keynote speakers include John Granger, widely hailed as the leading authority on the series. He will be joined in St Andrews by fellow experts from countries including the USA, South Africa, Australia, India and the Philippines, as well as the UK.

Mr Granger said: “The Hogwarts Saga is the most loved story in the history of publishing by quite a margin and, consequently, it is a natural and important subject of study for anyone interested in the literary arts.

“Hogwarts, we're told, is hidden somewhere in Scotland, the author lives here, too, and Ms Rowling's mother was half Scot. It's somehow appropriate and fitting that the first academic conference of any size be held at Scotland's oldest university, St Andrews. The enthusiastic response and the quality of the universities from around the world who will be represented at the conference make it a landmark event.”

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