Sixty Scholars Debate Inclusion of Harry Potter as Literary Texts
A team of sixty academics from across the globe including the US, India and South Africa converged at the St Andrews University in Scotland to discuss the inclusion of the famous Harry Potter series as literary texts.REUTERS

A team of sixty academics from across the globe including the US, India and South Africa converged at the St Andrews University in Scotland to discuss the inclusion of the famous Harry Potter series as literary texts.

The conference entitled A Brand of Fictional Magic: Reading Harry Potter as Literature is the first event of its kind where academics discussed and debated if the Harry Potter series is worthy of academic study.

The intense series of lectures which took place from 17 May to 18 May, 2012 discussed how they deal with death, the role of empathy and the influence of writers such as C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien. Other papers dealt with paganism, magic and the use of food and British National Identity.

The conference was 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).

"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," Pazdziora stated. "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," Pazdziora further said.

The wide-ranging event will cover the influence of other literary figures such as Chaucer, Shakespeare and Jane Austen, as well as more homespun Scottish folklore.

Although the ten-year-long series of books are receiving increased academic attention, 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.

Keynote speakers included John Granger, widely hailed as the leading authority on the series, and described by TIME magazine as "The Dean of Harry Potter Scholars."

"I take exception to the unexamined and misinformed assumption that the books are 'light on literary merit.' Ms Rowling's works are comic, certainly, but it's a great mistake to think they're simple or haphazard story-telling," stated Granger. "The seven books are each and taken together a remarkably intricate ring composition for one thing, with every chapter having a parallel analogy with another in the same book."