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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Harry Potter and the Girl Who Takes Latin

According to a recent story on MTV's website, a study submitted to the Journal of General Psychology by psychology professor Dr. Jeffrey Rudski and two of his undergrad students at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, shows that some 10% of Harry Potter fans exhibit symptoms of addiction to, and subsequent withdrawal from, Harry Potter. While this may come as no surprise to many of us who have followed the adventures of the Boy Who Lived for many years, what interests me is Dr. Rudski’s rationale for studying psychological pathologies of the followers of the Harry Potter a cultural phenomenon:

It was a toss-up for him between studying people's reaction to the end of "The Sopranos" and the end of Harry Potter, but ultimately, Rudski chose the boy wizard because his 15-year-old daughter is a fan — well, he calls her an addict but says her addiction has positive outlets. "She's picked up guitar because she wants to be in a wizard-rock band," he said. "She's studying Latin because she wants to better understand J.K. Rowling's choices of names for her characters. She started reading Stephen King and John Irving because they spoke with Rowling at Radio City two summers ago." If that's being an addict, he's down with it.

As some of you may know, more than five years ago, I wrote my high school senior thesis on “Classical References, Linguistic and Literary, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter”; the central thesis of the paper involved exploring and evaluating Rowling’s reasons for using classical languages, mythology, and history. I argued that her use of Latin could, in fact, spur a renewed interest in the Classics. It would seem that Dr. Rudski’s daughter has vindicated my thesis.

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