Category Archives: Harry Potter Culture

NY Comic Con 2013

The exhibition/booth floor was packed at NY Comic Con 2013
The exhibition/booth floor was packed at NY Comic Con 2013

This past weekend (10/10-10/13) was the eighth annual NY Comic Con, where tens of thousands of fans gathered each day (for an estimated total of 120,000 overall) at the spacious yet ever-crowded Jacob Javits Center in midtown Manhattan to attend panels, fun activity sessions, and autographing booths, and to engage in cosplay while purchasing all manner of geekware and collectibles.

I was in attendance on Friday as Princess Leia (from the original Star Wars film) and on Saturday as Hermione Granger.  Much fun was had by all! Continue reading

How Things Change

I recently realized it had been over 2 years since I posted something new here at The Hog’s Head. There are a myriad of reasons around why that’s the case, most of it owing to my need to finish out graduate school. In that time, so many things have happened:

  • The Hunger Games has become the most recent literary/movie franchise to draw huge fan attention
  • Twilight has become the subject an internet meme  disparaging its central love story
  • I moved from Kentucky to Minneapolis, Minnesota—after spending a year in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • In an effort to create a viable social network, Google sold Wave to Apache, folded Buzz, and then launched Google+ (none of which I’ve participated in to any great depth)
  • Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars
  • My beloved Kentucky Wildcats won a basketball national title
  • My even more beloved Chicago Cubs are still terrible

And, most importantly, the Harry Potter saga is now complete in its two most significant media forms: books and film. Continue reading

Deathly Hallows Five Years On

On July 21st, 2007 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released. The last book in the Harry Potter series was eagerly awaited and speculated about feverishly. It was five years ago to this day. Some of you were barely into your teens at

the time. Others were leaving their teens. And some of us were, well, we were five years younger than we are now. 🙂

Many things have changed. The movie adaptations of the books are all finished. Pottermore has come, and while Jo Rowling hasn’t committed to writing the so-called “Scottish book,” she has released much new information on the Harry Potter books through Pottemore. She also has a new book, totally unrelated to Potter, coming out this fall. The Potter fervor and fandom seems to be dying down and dwindling away. (Spoilers may lie ahead.)

Continue reading

Spooky Stories in the Hogwarts Common Rooms

It’s a dark and stormy Halloween night at Hogwarts.

The wind keens, and the Whomping Willow churns and rustles. Fang’s lugubrious howls curl around a full moon hovering between silvery clouds. The Hogwarts ghosts flit silently throughout the still castle. Filch and Mrs. Norris prowl the halls, seeking miscreants.

Having feasted, Hogwarts students are now gathered around sprightly fires in their respective common rooms, telling spooky stories, as they toast marshmallows on long forks. You are one of them, and we want to hear your tale of terror from the wizarding world.

Regale us with a scary story, featuring characters known or unknown to us. It may be a wizard urban legend; a story passed down in magical families, a chilling new tale, or a retelling of something printed in the Quibbler. Adapt a Muggle story, if you wish. But your tale must take place in the wizarding world.

We’re waiting . . .

Pottermore: The Sorting Experience

Since Pottermore began opening up its experience to beta testers, fans have talked long and hard about the Sorting. It’s a high-stakes moment; most of us have spent years self-Sorted into one or the other of the Houses.

With Rowling so deeply involved in the production of the site, the Sorting has taken on final authority for many fans. Though the internet is crawling with Sorting quizzes, they’re of widely varying quality, are generally easy to rig, and none of them were created by J.K. Rowling. The pressure is on when you approach the Hat in Pottermore: like Hogwarts, Pottermore only allows you to get Sorted once. This raises several questions: is it possible to ‘choose’ your House, as Harry did? Should you answer the Hat’s questions in a manner true to yourself, or to your own self-Sorting? If you don’t get the House you want, do you open a new account and try again?

In discussion about our Sortings, four of us from the Blogengamot discovered we’d shared the experience of being put in a second-choice or unexpected house. Here are some thoughts from each of us on the process and results. Continue reading

Harry Potter as a Set of Comic Books?

Have you ever pictured the Harry Potter stories as comics? No? Artist Lucy Knisley has pictured it for you, and drawn up books 1-5 in abridged and comical form. I’ll refrain from telling you much about it–some things are better experienced–but dementors have never made me laugh until tonight.

This piece came to the Blogengamot courtesy of Eric Pazdziora, who sometimes comments here. Thanks, Eric!

Teaching God, Theology, and Harry Potter at Yale!

Hello Hogshead readers!  It’s been awhile since I’ve had the honor of getting to share in your conversations, so it’s great to be back with you!

Since I last posted on the Hogshead, there have been many changes in my life: I got married in September and ordained as a priest in The Episcopal Church in January.  Both of those are tremendous joys.

But perhaps most exciting for fans of Harry and his friends is that my first book, God and Harry Potter at Yale: Teaching Faith and Fantasy Fiction in an Ivy League Classroom, was released in December and hearing from passionate fans has been one of the most rewarding parts of seeing the book in print.  I’m especially grateful to Travis for doing some really astute editing and for letting me discuss some of the ideas that appear in the book on The Hogshead a couple of years ago.

What I thought I’d do today is tell you all a bit of the story of God and Harry Potter at Yale and pave the way for some future conversations about Christianity and the Harry Potter series.  So what do you say—are you up for a discussion that would keep even Ron from falling asleep and have Hermione’s hand flying up with enthusiasm?

The tale of God and Harry Potter at Yale began three years ago when I was a poor graduate student living in the attic apartment of two Yale professors.  In exchange for cooking several meals a week, I received free rent, which allowed me to stay in school and finish my master’s degree.  In the summer of 2008, I decided to apply to teach in the College Seminar Program at Yale, which allows non-Yale professors to teach a course at the university, provided that you are either an expert in your field or in your final year of graduate study.  I qualified as the latter.  Since I majored in English, was working on a master’s in theology, and loved the Harry Potter novels, teaching a course on Christian themes in the series seemed like a natural fit.  After all, there had been so much debate in about whether or not the books were heretical that I felt it was important to weigh in…but from a different perspective.

See, most of the discussion about whether or not the series was heretical revolved around witchcraft.  Here’s how most of it went:

A. Many of the characters use witchcraft.

B. The Bible condemns witchcraft.

C. Therefore, the books are heretical.

As a theologian, I had some problems with this logic.  Here were my thoughts:

A’. The characters are witches and wizards, but that’s not the only thing they are.  They have many other personality traits, some of which seem much more definitive of their personality.  For instance, Hermione was definitely smart first and a witch second.

B’. The Bible condemns withcraft not because witchcraft in and of itself is bad but because people use it in an idolatrous way.  In other words, they use it to create powers for themselves because they want to become gods.  Now, this is like saying that a blood transfusion is morally wrong.  A blood transfusion is a technology without moral value, just like your refrigerator doesn’t have moral value.  It’s how we use it that defines it as good or bad—if you save a life with a blood transfusion, that’s good.  If you purposefully use blood tainted with AIDS to make the recipient sick, well, that’s bad.

C’. In light of these two critiques, it seemed to me that the books weren’t necessarily heretical.

But that didn’t mean that there wasn’t more work to be done!  And that’s where the course came in.  I wanted to create a class where students could ask, in detail, whether or not the books supported a Christian worldview.  That meant considering all sorts of topics in Christianity, everything from sin to salvation.  So each week revolved around a theme from Christian thought—say evil.  Students would read historic and contemporary Christian perspectives on evil alongside the Harry Potter series.  Then we’d come to class and discuss them.

Initially there was some skepticism about the class.  I was asked repeatedly whether there would be enough substance to the course (I replied that with 2000 years of Christian tradition and 7 Harry Potter novels, the real question was whether there was too much).  One student even went so far as to tell the Yale Daily News that a course on theology and Harry Potter was a joke.

In the end, however, the course was offered and when 72 undergraduates showed up on the first day to vie for the 18 slots, I knew that the student body was giving the course a thumbs up for academic integrity.  And as for the students who got to take the course?  Well, I’m thrilled to say that many of them said it was the best class they’d taken at Yale, and one of them, three years later, told me she still talks about material from the course.

In the next few weeks, I’m excited to get to share some of the themes we covered in the course with you all.  But in the meantime: let me know if there are particular topics you’d like to see covered.  After all, there’s nothing better than an interactive classroom!

Snowy Tree Stump Harry Potter

The first day of spring arrived on Sunday. Now I live in New York City, and there was a lot of snow this year. One fun thing about snow is snow graffiti. It’s harmless and you see it on cars, and apparently tree stumps. This one particularly amused me when I was walking home from work one night.