Unlocking the magic of Harry Potter

Break out the butter beer.

Wizards, muggles, and academics from around the world have gathered at the University of Limerick to explore the influence of the Harry Potter series on everything from literature to law.

Turning UL into Hogwarts for two days, academics from more than 10 countries have gathered to discuss 20 papers showcasing international research on multiple aspects of the impact of the series.

Fittingly the two-day event is taking place in Limerick, the home of Richard Harris who was the first person to breathe life into the character of Prof Albus Dumbledore on screen. It was the last film role played by Harris, who passed away in 2002.

The presentations at the conference include the reconstruction of the live trial of controversial character Dolores Umbridge, exploring her crimes and debating the severity of her punishment.

Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman of Glenstal Abbey, a keen Harry Potter fan, will today deliver a keynote speech entitled Harry Potter: Archetype of the Child as our Future in the 21st Century.

Abbot Hederman said many conservative Christian parents refuse to allow their children to read the stories which, they claim, promote witchcraft and wickedness.

In his keynote address, he refers to a Pastor in New Mexico who burnt the books publicly as “an abomination to God and to me”, and to Richard Abanes who says there is a link with “current paganism”, witchcraft and the Potter books.

However, as a Christian, the abbot said he found the Harry Potter books give children an opening to the kind of mystery which Christianity embodies.

Conference organiser Dr Luigina Ciolfi described the Harry Potter series as a publishing phenomenon that has captured the imagination of children and adults all over the world.

She said the stories created by JK Rowling have also inspired extensive multidisciplinary academic discussion, ranging from analyses of the cultural and literary impact of the stories to sociological and philosophical interpretations, and even to design and technology practices.

“The characters’ relationships, the political and social systems, and cultural commentaries woven into Rowling’s writing are just some examples of what makes the Harry Potter series an exciting framework for academic discourse in a number of areas,” said Dr Ciolfi. “We will encourage intensive and lively discussion and debate around the papers.”

Some of the papers being delivered at the conference include: Jennifer Trieu, Trinity College Dublin, Food and British National Identity in the Harry Potter Series; Berry Eggen, Eindhoven University of Technology, Humdrum Magic: Design Explorations into the Magic of Everyday Life; Lucy Andrew, Cardiff University, The Role of Free Will in the Creation of the Criminal Child in the Harry Potter Series; Alice Nuttall, Oxford University Books, Wand Privilege: Superiority and Inferiority in Wizarding Society; and Breanna Mroczek, University of Alberta, The Magic of Death in the Harry Potter Novels.

Cloaks of invisibility, wands and flying broomsticks are not required to attend.

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