A Brand of Fictional Magic: Imaginative Empathy in Harry Potter, 17-18 May 2012

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School of English, University of St Andrews
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Call for Papers (Deadline: 15 November 2011):
A Brand of Fictional Magic: Imaginative Empathy in Harry Potter

A two day conference hosted by
the School of English, University of St Andrews
17-18 May 2012, Kennedy Hall, St Andrews, Scotland

The relentless success of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series (1997-2007) evokes words like 'phenomenon' and 'catastrophe'. With the conclusion of the film franchise and the launch of Pottermore.com, the series is receiving increased academic consideration in conferences, articles, and monographs. However, relatively little work has been done directly engaging with the series as a literary text. This conference attempts to begin redressing that lack.

Rowling's combination of fantasy and school-story genres, her use of folkloric archetypes and mythopoeic symbolism, and her social and religious messages render the Harry Potter books a point of interest—and controversy—to scholars from a wide range of disciplines. This conference seeks to critically explore Rowling's concept of imaginative empathy, the ability to 'learn and understand, without having experienced'. Of particular interest are ways in which the power of empathy, in addition to its being of socio-political necessity, might be read as Rowling's 'brand of fictional magic'.

We invite papers and panels that engage with the text to discuss the centrality of empathy to the economies of the creative artist. We particularly encourage submissions from scholars working in children's and YA literature; also welcome are papers from scholars interested in relating Harry Potter to their own areas of research.

Relevant topics might include:

• The poetics of empathy
• Symbolic or archetypal depictions of empathy
• Readings of the series as children's or YA literature
• Mythopoesis and the re-appropriation of folklore
• Medievalism and depictions of the Middle Ages in the Wizarding World
• Space, landscape, or architecture
• Representations and uses of socialization or maturation
• Depictions of education and pedagogy, empathetic or bounded
• Rowling's concepts of "mental agoraphobia" and "willful unimagination"
• Literary influences on the series
• Textual or semiotic analysis of the narrative
• Genre criticism, viz., Gothic, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, School Story, Dystopia, et al.
• Narrative voice and authority
• Political empathy, class action, or solidarity

Keynote speakers will be John Granger and Jessica Tiffin.

Papers will be 20 minutes, and may discuss any of the seven books individually or the series as a whole. Please submit a 300-word (max.) abstract in .doc, .docx., or .pdf format with a short CV to John Patrick Pazdziora (jpp6@st-andrews.ac.uk) by 15 November 2011.