Friday, May 12, 2017

DePaulPotter notes- The Occult Potter

 Last Saturday, I got to attend the illustrious DePaul Pop Culture Conference, this year focused on Harry Potter. I took some notes on a few sessions.

The Occult Potter: Materiality in Harry Potter
Jason Winslade
Megan Zimmerman
Nathanael Bassett

Winslade starts with some thoughts on his work on Potter & the occult:
  • References Bill Ellis's Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture
  • Onion article on HP & Satanism, which actually caused some panic in church communities. Why did it freak people out so much? Connected to "fears of the hidden" like the red scare etc.
  • Discussion of Weber's idea of "the disenchantment of the world", and how the magic in Potter is a skill, not ritual, there's "no contact with a supernatural world".
  • Commercialism in and outside the books—the way Potter is such a lucrative franchise, and also how "in the books, they really like buying things".
  • Commercial enthusiasm and engagement compared to Christopher Partridge's idea of "re-enchantment" and the idea that "occulture is ordinary".
  • Mention made of the official Buffy Ouija board and attempt to make a Buffy Tarot.
Zimmerman shared some ideas on fannish transformation of the Potter works:
  • Notes that Potter series is "still bound by the rules of the real world"; despite the magic elements it doesn't show much change in the world; fans can paradoxically give the work more power than the books themselves do.
  • Cites the HPA & Collegiate Quidditch as examples.
  • Talks about tattoos in and of the Potterverse, tattoos as a kind of ritual, and the current exhibit at the Field Museum.
Bassett flew through some very intriguing slides on Potter and mystic/occult language practices:
  • Noted that HP movies have a lot more nonverbal magic than the books, where language seems to be more of a requirement.
  • Magic as thaumaturgy (changes in world) vs. theurgy (changes in self).
  • Foma locutionis or Edenic language, the idea of a language which doesn't just signify but makes reality.
  • Examples of characters who exhibit Medium Awareness, including Sandman and Vivec from Morrowind.
  • Harry Potter as version of alchemical "lead into gold", through changes in himself.
Couple fun things in Q&A:
  • That magic shop that won't sell wands to Potter fans, long discussion of differing opinions on "store-bought ingredients" among actual magic practitioners of various kinds.
  • The question of "magic as skill" vs. "innate power" and how that ties into consumerism/capitalism—how much of Harry's flying prowess comes down to his really expensive broom, for instance.
  • Comparisons made to Kiki's Delivery Service.
  • "Flow" performance theory.
  • Pierre Bourdieu & habitus, tech lifeworld vs. inner magic.
  • John Gray's The Silence of Animals and the idea that "Western Progress is a myth".
  • Question-that's-really-a-comment on how there's much less distinction made between books & films in Potter fandom than in many other.
  • Interesting discussion of Potter amusement parks, how the main appeal is atmosphere, not rides. Ollivander's Wand Experience as an example of "the re-enchantment of late capitalism".
  • Return to the connections between religion & fandom, how we can't judge what's valid practice for others.
  • Discussion about cosplay & tribalism, why Sorting Hat quizzes matter. Note that a lot of Potter comes from stories about frankly terrible, arbitrarily abusive British boarding schools—so why are fans so into this "House" system? Countered with the idea that the houses/tribes are ways for loners to identify with a community when they might otherwise have no path to.
Cool talks, lots to look up.

No comments:

Post a Comment