Visit to Harry Potter Conference exposes professor to fandom
Shoulder to shoulder with Dumbledore, muggles and students of Hogwarts, Visiting Assistant Professor of English Tara Moore presented her research, “I Will Tell You Where You Ought To Be: Sorting Identity in Young Adult Dystopian Literature,” as part of the Harry Potter Conference and Festival taking place in Chestnut Hill in October.
Moore is scheduled to teach a Young Adult Literature course in spring 2017 at Elizabethtown College. Teaching her students from novels along the lines of “Mortal Engines,” “I Kill Giants,” “Red Queen” and, of course, Harry Potter, brings the writing of current authors into the classroom.
A segment of her Young Adult Literature course focuses on fandom or a deep interest in a subject that occupies large portions of a fan’s time and energy. “I’m scheduled to teach young adult literature,” said Moore. “Part of that is the fandom and hype that surrounds that.”
As a participant in the festival, Moore gathered insight into the phenomenon of fandom, noting that reader dedication to the Harry Potter series was evident in some of the festival workshops she attended. Ardent fans became animated and passionate as they discussed finer points of the author’s writing.
They feel like friends even though they don’t know each other.”
Fandom is not a new phenomenon, Moore said. It goes back as far as mid-Victorian writing. Charles Dickens’s fans obsessed over his serialized novels. Toward the end of his career, he pleased many fans by performing readings of his work for British and American audiences.
Though fandom might sound over the top to some, the professor said, as a common denominator it brings together people from varying backgrounds. “They feel like friends even though they don’t know each other,” she said. “It’s a sense of belonging.”
Interestingly, Moore said several young adult book series written in the past couple decades have centered on bringing children together and labeling them as distinct groups. “These are irrevocable choices,” she said.
The Harry Potter series, a seven-book young adult series written by J.K. Rowling, is an example of the type of sorting Moore discussed in her presentation at the conference. The students of Hogwarts are chosen to be part of a “house,” in which they will live and learn throughout their time at the fictional school. An eighth book, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” released this fall, is a series-inspired play.
Young adult literature is growing in popularity most likely due to the inter-generational component — parents trying to have a shared literary appreciation, Moore said. Teaching current authors helps students explore interest in this form of literature.