Guest lecturer uses Harry Potter to keep medieval times ‘alive’

Meredith Harris

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Stretching beyond the realm of the Harry Potter world, some characters in the series mirror the lives of Medieval Saints.

Wendy Hennequin, English Associate Professor at Tennessee State University, will present her lecture, “God for Harry, Hogwarts, and St. George: How J.K. Rowling Uses Medieval Saints’ Lives in the Harry Potter Series” at 5 p.m. Thursday in Education Center room 1101.Hennequin researches and teaches courses in medieval literature, as well as a course about Harry Potter, she said. Hennequin will publish “‘Harry Potter’ and the Legends of Saints” in the “Journal of Religion and Popular Culture.”Hennequin became interested in Harry Potter when she worked in the archives at University of Connecticut while working on her Ph.D. The Harry Potter series was coming out, and she convinced the children’s literature curator to purchase the books for the collection.

The series has a lot of elements of mystery fiction, gothic fiction and detective fiction, which she reads for fun, she said.

“The part that I enjoyed the most was when I realized that my idea was bigger than I thought it was,” Hennequin said. “Originally, I thought that just a certain episode in Harry Potter connected to the story of St. George, but then I was finding more evidence of it being like other saints’ lives as well.”

The lecture will be Hennequin’s first time presenting something other than conference papers at a university.

USI English Associate Professor Elizabeth Passmore works with USI’s Medieval Studies Forum and arranged for Hennequin to give the lecture.

Passmore and Hennequin have known each other for about 15 years, since they were in graduate school at University of Connecticut, Passmore said.

Having Hennequin speak at USI will give students and faculty the opportunity to interact with a professor from another university, which would provide a “nice interaction among institutions of higher learning,” Passmore said.

Passmore said she wants to provide students the opportunity to learn more about medieval literature and how modern literature can use medieval tropes and motifs. She said she also wants to keep awareness of medieval times “alive” in popular culture.

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