Magical creatures and mythical beasts add whimsy to the world of Harry Potter. But few fans may realize that these beings actually have their roots in literary works from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
Invited lecturer Melissa Aaron will allow fans and scholars to explore the Potter series’ themes that are grounded in the works of Dante, Thomas Malory and George Wyatt during her talk “Harry Potter’s Fantastic Beasts or Wandering With Werewolves.”
The free, public presentation, sponsored by UNL’s Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, is 7:30 p.m. March 7 in the Nebraska Union Auditorium.
Carole Levin, director of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, said Aaron’s presentation is a great way to learn more about the program.
“The Harry Potter books clearly demonstrate that Rowling had a thorough grounding in the study of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and many of those who study this period are great fans of the series,” Levin said.
Aaron, professor of Shakespeare and British Literature at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, is a fan of the popular boy-wizard series, but she has also explored the books from the view of a literary scholar.
“J.K. Rowling is a very intentional writer,” Aaron said. “There are things that are so close to Dante or Wyatt or to Malory or to Henry V, that it just can’t be accidental. There are definitely times when she’s definitely echoing some famous Renaissance writers.
And for fans, she said, it’s always interesting to understand Harry Potter a little more deeply. Aaron will focus on the Potterverse bestiary, and how many creatures can be traced back to Medieval and Renaissance mythology. She will also contrast the ancient mythology and the Potterverse to demonstrate how Rowling and other contemporary works have disconnected from those centuries-old mythologies.
Aaron will also give a talk on Shakespeare, “Put money in thy purse: in defense of economic readings of Shakespeare,” at 5 p.m. March 7 in the Nebraska Union Centennial Room.