Limerick conference pays homage to magic Harry Potter phenomenon

Wed, Jul 25, 2012, 01:00

WIZARDS, MUGGLES and established academics joined forces at the University of Limerick yesterday where JK Rowling fans from around the world gathered to discuss the cultural impact of the Harry Potter phenomenon.

The campus turned into a mini-Hogwarts for the State’s first Harry Potter conference.

Magic is Might 2012 featured 20 presentations showcasing international research on the impact of the famous series on everything from literature, to education, law and digital media.

In the keynote address, delivered by Abbot Mark Patrick Hederman of Glenstal Abbey, a Harry Potter fan, it was argued that JK Rowling had done more for the imagination than any other single force in this century.

Abbot Hederman said we should be rejoicing that any literature has caused such excitement instead of bemoaning the fact so many people are reading these stories.

“JK Rowling has a relationship with our children, and indeed with ourselves as children, which we should envy and encourage.

“Far from trying to stop the lights, we should be helping them to burn more brightly. She is doing more for imagination than any other single force in our thoroughly bleak and businesslike century. As she might say herself: ‘I take my hat off to you – or I would, if I were not afraid of showering you in spiders’.”

Fans paid €130 to attend the conference, which featured debates about the best-selling phenomenon.

As of June 2011, Rowling had sold about 450 million Harry Potter books, which have been translated into 67 languages, making the brand worth in excess of $15 billion.

“The incontrovertible fact . . . is that huge numbers of children, and adults, all over the world have been accompanied by Harry Potter and his friends as their most important guides throughout their childhood and through the childhood of this century,” Abbot Hederman said.

He was critical of so-called literary experts who say what they think we should be doing, rather than telling us the meaning of what we prefer to do.

“They slam films or books which we love, not because of what they are in themselves, but because they are not what these critics think they should be. Complaining that Rowling is not Tolkien, that Harry Potter is not The Hobbit, that the Half-Blood Prince is not Lord of the Rings is about as helpful as telling us that surf boards are not submarines. Of course they’re not: they were meant to be and to do completely different things.”