A week of enchanted activities was offered as the English & Philosophy Department celebrated Literature Lives Week with a series of activities centered around J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter series.
Held Feb. 28-March 6, events were held on campus and in the Joplin community, with organizations such as Bookhouse Cinema and the Joplin Public Library serving as hosts. The week included films, lectures, trivia, crafts and more.
“Part of what makes Literature Lives Week interesting is that it makes literature connect to so many different fields,” says Dr. Amy Gates, assistant professor of English and coordinator of the annual event. “It is still about literature, but it’s also about all of those other cultural, social and historical issues that literature opens up to us.”
A variety of departments found ways to connect with the wizarding world and magical heroes of the series, which began with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in 1997 and ended a decade later with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.”
The Alumni Association hosted “Creature Studies and Crafty Concoctions” in the North End Zone Facility, giving kids of all ages a chance to be sorted into a Hogwarts house, make wands and dragon eggs, and get an up-close look at wildlife they may have encountered in the books.
Dr. David Penning, an assistant professor of biology, offered one of the most unique experiences of the evening – attendees could view, touch and even hold some surprisingly warm and friendly turtles and snakes.
Dickerson Park Zoo from Springfield brought two owls – a staple in the Harry Potter world. Hedwig, a great horned owl, was brought out of his carrying case to show off his beautiful, camouflaged shades of brown, a notable difference to his counterpart in the book, an European, white snowy owl.Some events offered a more academic take on the series.
Professors from the History Department presented an evening lecture on the “Magic, Politics and Harry Potter.”
Dr. Megan Bever, associate professor of history, gave a detailed look at the different allusions to slavery through oppressed characters such as the house-elves.
“Seemingly normal people go along with this exploitation,” said Bever. “House elves are creatures who are less than human, according to wizards.”
Dr. Bill Fischer, assistant professor of history, shed light on the relationship between political structures and magic, and how that resulted in a state of fear and prejudice.
“The state began to police the actions of women, thereby increasing the patriarchal nature of society,” said Fischer. “So, magic was real in the sense that it was a real social construct. What interests me as a historian is, what was the reaction to these allegations?”
Dr. Christopher Bell, from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, presented “The Magic of Mentoring: The Failings of Albus Dumbledore.” Bell is an award-winning expert in children’s culture, TED speaker and consultant for Pixar Animation Studios.
“The great thing about this week is that I end up being very in love with everything we end up doing,” said Gates. “The activities on campus during Literature Lives Week help to open a lot of doors to get people talking.”