Books, movies, theme parks… Harry Potter is still going strong, more than 20 years after he first appeared. In fact, hundreds of fans will gather for the Sixth Annual Harry Potter Conference in Pennsylvania this weekend. St. Catherine University professor Cecilia Konchar Farr will deliver the keynote address on October 20 at at Chestnut Hill College.
The event is "the only annual academic conference to focus on the work of J. K. Rowling and the cultural phenomenon of the Harry Potter series. This year, the theme of the conference will surround Rowling’s presentation of girls and women.” Konchar Farr’s 2 p.m. plenary lecture is titled “It's Complicated: The Relationship Between the Harry Potter Novels and their Avid Readers.”
In it, she plans to “dive into the gap between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, the years between 2000 and 2003, and explore how an active fan base became a Girl Gang, a Dumbledore’s Army of engaged readers who took the novels into their own hands.” (Read her full keynote description below.)
Konchar Farr, who chairs St. Kate’s English department, created “Six Degrees of Harry Potter,” one of the University’s most sought-after classes in 2010. The four-credit literature course spawned Gryffindor Tower, the Harry Potter-focused living-learning community on the St. Paul campus. Konchar Farr also led “A Wizard of Their Age: Harry Potter in Contexts,” a J-term 2016 study abroad class to London, Oxford, Edinburgh and Orlando.
“The conference has grown every year for five years,” she said. “Last year, it hosted over 500 attendees and 50 presenters. My invitation to speak was, in part, a product of the book I edited with my students.”
That book, A Wizard of Their Age: Critical Essays from the Harry Potter Generation is the culmination of a three-year collaboration between Konchar Farr and her students to set right the errors they kept finding in the available scholarship on their favorite wizard. It was funded by St. Kate's Sister Mona Riley Chair in the Humanities, Assistant Mentoring Program and a Summer Scholars Collaborative Research grant. (Konchar Farr, who teaches both English and Women's Studies courses, held the Sister Mona Riley Chair in the Humanities distinction from 2011 to 2014.) The publication involved seven contributing student editors, two of whom also helped design then served as teaching assistants in the “Six Degrees of Harry Potter” course.
At the conference in Pennsylvania, Konchar Farr will also participate in a book signing. After she's done with work, you can bet she'll indulge in some Potter-inspired cuisine and take a ride on the Knight Bus.
“There is a Harry Potter Festival in Chestnut Hill the day after,” she explained, “where the town transforms into Hogsmeade Village and is overrun by readers and fans of Harry Potter. It sounds like a really good time!”
For conference information, see the Harry Potter Weekend schedule.
Here is the full description of her keynote address:
"For this address, Professor Konchar Farr (herself an unabashed Harry Potter fan and “Hogwarts Assistant Headmistress” in the Gryffindor Tower Learning Community at St. Kate's) will dive into the gap between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, the years between 2000 and 2003, and explore how an active fan base became a Girl Gang, a Dumbledore’s Army of engaged readers who took the novels into their own hands. They talked, they wrote, they re-read, revised and wrote some more. When they didn’t like something, they changed it. When the author fell short, they talked back and filled in. These readers and the ways they connect with novels are forcing critics to rethink the relationship between reader and text in an age of expanding women’s leadership in the publishing industry, in our universities, and across U.S American culture."