While the original target audience for the wildly popular Harry Potter series may have been children, it’s clear that it
has transcended the adolescent world and even made its way onto the Mount Royal campus.
Four MRU professors have contributed academic essays to a recently published book, titled Harry Potter’s World Wide Influence, which will officially launch with a party on Jan. 21.
English professor Diana Patterson not only contributed an essay on the subject of linguistics, but edited the book as well. She explained that the idea to publish the essays as a book stemmed from a Harry Potter conference two years ago, but her love for the series began much earlier.
Nearly 10 years ago, Patterson was asked to teach a course on the history of publishing, and while preparing for that class she discovered J.K. Rowling’s books.
“In 1999, there were people beginning to talk about the phenomenon of this book called Harry Potter, so I thought ‘Oh, a publishing phenomenon, I better read this book and find out what all the fuss is about.’ So I did and I fell in love with it,” she said.
“I’ve been going to Harry Potter conferences since the first one started in 2003 and usually these conferences are a mix of fan conference and academic conference,” she said.
As one of the organizers of the 2008 Accio Conference held in Oxford, England, Patterson said she had put together a series of academic papers, known as Proceedings of Accio 2008, prior to the conference.
Following the conference, she decided to double the number of essays in The Proceedings and publish those as a book.
In total, Harry Potter’s World Wide Influence, which was released in November, includes 16 essays contributed by authors from around the world, as well as three of Patterson’s colleagues.
Deb Bridge, a sessional instructor in the English department, wrote an essay about the use of comma splices in Harry Potter – there are hundreds of offences throughout the series – while Aida Patient and Kori Street collaborated and took a different route.
Patient, an English professor, and Street, the chair of aviation, chose their topic after watching the fifth Harry Potter film together.
“It was a mutual decision I think,” Patient said. “We were watching one of the Harry Potter films together and we both thought ‘I see images of the Holocaust in the film’…and it is, at times, quite obvious in both the films and the book.”
With their mutual interest on the subject and Street’s background in Holocaust studies and film history, the two began working on their essay.
“After we presented the paper in Oxford at the Accio Conference we had the opportunity to publish and have our paper selected for publication…and we ended up developing it over another year in order for it to be published,” Patient said.
Street said that she hopes Harry Potter’s World Wide Influence is able to reach a lot of people and introduce a new way of thinking about the seven-volume Potter series.
“I think there are some very interesting papers in the book and I hope to see it get widely read,” Street said.
“I mean [there] is a huge, worldwide impact from these books and we need to do more academic studies on it. I think, I hope it prompts more research. I think, I hope it gets people thinking about Harry Potter in a more…analytical way.”
While the book was released in November, the official launch party is scheduled for Jan. 21.