Prof JBH interviewed on Dumbbells & Dragons

Prof JBH, aka, Dr Joel Hunter, was interviewed by Mr Kenneth Rotter of the fantasy podcast Dumbbells & Dragons this month.

dumbbells-dragons-podcastThe topics they discuss on the show include:

  • how Prof JBH got interested in reading the Hogwarts saga
  • the books vs the movies
  • The Lord of the Rings and the importance of Sam Gamgee
  • homebrewing, choral singing, and Coachella
  • the superpower he would like to have
  • working out
  • his favorite character in Harry Potter (can you guess?)
  • the portrayal of Snape by Alan Rickman
  • the upcoming Leviosa conference
  • Ravenclaw Reader
  • parting advice for D&D listeners

Enjoy, and do support D&D by subscribing on iTunes and giving them a review! Roll a D6, gang.

Mythcon 47: Mythopoeia, Tolkien, and Propp

Our faculty have a busy summer: Prof JBH will be attending Mythcon 47 this summer to read a new paper on mythopoeia through the lens of Tolkien and Propp. The conference title and theme is “Faces of Mythology: Ancient, Medieval, and Modern.” As part of his Muggle disguise, Prof JBH has managed to infiltrate the Mythopoeic Society, the organizer for the Mythcon conference.

mythopoeia-at-the-mythopoeic-society

Here’s the title and a short blurb for his upcoming presentation:

Mythical Grammar according to J. R. R. Tolkien and Vladimir Propp: A Gesture Toward Conciliation Between Mythopoeia and Formalism

This paper sketches a framework for understanding how the radically different literary perspectives of Tolkien and the Russian folklorist Vladimir Propp can be constructively compared, and the value of doing so. I will briefly explain Propp’s approach in the Morphology of the Folktale and how it can be used to explain the aesthetic satisfaction many readers experience and report when a tale conforms to a particular structure. Propp consciously disregarded questions of literary meaning, thus guilty by Tolkien’s lights of “using the stories not as they were meant to be used, but as a quarry from which to dig evidence” (1947, 47). Tolkien has no truck with empirical and reductive methods like Propp’s. Propp is an analyst of form and syntax, Tolkien of content and meaning. Propp is an anatomist, Tolkien a psychologist (or poet). And yet their analyses of fairy tales converge on two noteworthy points. The first is the effect of a well-written tale on the reader. In previous research published on Propp, I have investigated his elliptical claim that his 31-function schema “is a measuring unit for individual tales” (1968, 64). It has been observed that the well-formed tale according to Propp’s scheme constitutes a cultural script marked by keen aesthetic satisfaction. The second point of convergence is on the question of origins, with both Tolkien and Propp, in their respective vocabularies, indicating the necessity of an Ur-story, a Protean form from which stories of an infinite variety of “amazing multi-formity, picturesqueness, and color” (1968, 21) have emerged under the sub-creative auspices of the “elvish craft.” Propp’s explanation is by design naturalized while Tolkien’s is metaphysical. Yet both reveal something essential to “incantation in Faërie,” a mythical grammar by which the storyteller may, if successful, wield an enchanter’s power.

Prof Hunter is drawing from the Manuscript B version of “On Fairy-Stories” published in Essays Presented to Charles Williams (1947/1966, out of print). He is particularly enthusiastic about this paper because it will be his first attempt to build on his already-published Proppian analysis of the Harry Potter saga, which appears in The Ravenclaw Reader. It is also the fruit borne from a discussion with the Hogwarts Professor at a pub in St Andrews, Scotland four years ago. Pubs in Scotland are, parenthetically, where most good ideas originate. st-andrews-university-hotbed-of-mythopoeia

When the conference program is finalized, we’ll provide a link.

Students may use their holiday Hogsmeade pass to attend. If you don’t have a pass signed by your parent or guardian, please register online at the Mythcon 47 website. If you’ve already used your pass to attend the Leviosa! conference, then alternative routes out of school grounds are known to exist, but you can be assured that Mr Filch and Mrs Norris will be guarding them vigilantly.

New Book: The Ravenclaw Reader

We here at Hogwarts Prep are pleased to announce the publication this week of Dr. Joel B. Hunter‘s essay, “Folktale Structure, Aesthetic Satisfaction, and the Success of Harry Potter” in the newly minted Ravenclaw Reader!  The Hog Prep faculty and administration are delighted to share in this milestone in Prof JBH‘s academic career, and he would like to give you more details about this fantastic new book…Ravenclaw-Reader-400px

Booklaunch page for the Ravenclaw Reader

Amazon page

This is a remarkable, one-of-a-kind anthology of Harry Potter punditry. It has emerged from the first academic conference in the UK dedicated to the scholarly investigation and analysis of the Harry Potter series. This conference was held at the University of St Andrews in May 2012 (official draft program for all of the talks and events). Scholars from all over the world, including yours truly in full Muggle regalia, spoke, listened, argued, laughed, and enjoyed the company of fellow lovers of literature, artistry, wisdom, and all things Potter. Old friends gathered and many new friends were made over the course of three days in the hallowed halls, towers, classrooms, and historical setting of the university and the quaint seaside town of St Andrews.

st-andrews-university-harry-potter-conference

Let me tell you a little bit about the book. One of the unique features of Ravenclaw Reader is its dynamic dialogue structure. This was a conscious decision of the editors and publisher to capture, as far as possible, the stimulating give-and-take of the formal talks, the Q&A sessions, and the informal discussions that erupted all over St Andrews on that crisp weekend. I had one such memorable tête-à-tête with the Hogwarts Professor himself, “the Dean” John Granger, over a pint or four at what became my favorite haunt on this visit, the Central. You can hear his version of that meeting in the promotional video for the RR.

The dynamic dialogue around my paper and research in the Ravenclaw Reader was written by Prof Gabrielle Ceraldi. “Venturing into the Murky Marshes” is Prof Ceraldi’s response essay to my “Folktake Structure” contribution. I haven’t yet seen Prof Ceraldi’s response, so you’ll have to check out it for yourself! When my copy of RR arrives–which should be any day if the owls are healthy–I look forward to reading her critique and continuing the discussion within the pages of this blog and elsewhere.

So that’s an example of the “dynamic dialogue” structure of RR: main contribution, which is a revised, often expanded, version of the contributor’s conference paper, and a close reading and critique by another Potter scholar. Cool, huh?

I wrote a response piece for the RR as well. “Hidden in Plain Sight” is my response to Dr Jessica Tiffin‘s contribution, “Learning, Understanding, Experience: Harry Potter and Pedagogy.” Just to give you a sense of the international reach of this conference, I well remember a walking tour group outing arranged by conference co-organizer Micah Snell. Our merry troupe included Fr Snell, myself and Drs Tiffin, James Thomas, and Maria Del Pilar Alderete-Diez, all presenters at the conference enjoying the cool, moist, air that bright Sunday morning on the Scotland coast. We had converged on St Andrews from South Africa, California, Arizona, and Ireland to share our academic interests in the Potterverse with attendees and the unique academic community of Potter scholars. Can’t wait for the next one!

Arch-Dean Granger, honorary faculty here at Hogwarts Prep, has put together a compelling deal for Potter fans and curious readers, which gives you unique access to some of the interactive experience, dialogue, and good times, as if you had been there yourself. Buy the book and forward the purchase confirmation email to him (john@hogwartsprofessor.com), and you’ll get back an invitation to join the Ravenclaw Reader membership site, which includes some cool freebies, as well as the opportunity to participate in webinars, presentations, interviews, and who knows what else. For all the details check out the Booklaunch link above. Nondisclaimer Disclaimer: Neither I nor Hogwarts Preparatory Academy receive any financial reward or incentive if you buy the book or take up the Hogwarts Professor on this exclusive deal. I’m promoting it to you gratis, as a friend to all of the editors and publisher of the Ravenclaw Reader.

For even more news about the launch of this fantastic addition to Harry Potter Studies, check out the Mugglenet Academia podcast with the editors of the Ravenclaw Reader as well as Dr Joshua Richards, who gave the fascinating paper on Snape as Harry’s father-substitute, which you can watch on the Booklaunch video.

So apparate, don’t walk, to your nearest bookstore, or order your very own copy of the Ravenclaw Reader online, and join in this direction in the conversation on our favorite wizard saga. And rest assured, though we are eager for you to own your own copy, we here at Hogwarts Prep have a strict policy against using the Imperius curse 😉

We will be including the Ravenclaw Reader in our Hog Prep curriculum in the coming weeks and months. I leave you with the official publisher’s blurb:

In Ravenclaw Reader, an international gathering of scholars debate the literary merits and demerits of the Harry Potter series. Each chapter is conversation, with the main argument followed by a reply from another critic. Representing a wide range of critical and cultural voices, the discussion includes questions about the portrayal of education in the book, the role of Snape, the landscape around Hogwarts, the structure of the series, the Wizarding World as dystopia, the problem of the Dursleys, and the canonization of Neville Longbottom. Perceptive, incisive, and thought-provoking, this in-depth conversation will engage fans, students, and academics alike.Ravenclaw Reader sets a new standard for Harry Potter criticism.