Guest Post: Harry Potter Brings Magic to Clayton State with the “Potter Talks” Series


The following article was written by Dianne Hill, Jordan Knight, Bre’auca Thompson, Keondra Walters, and Evelyn Tran, students in Dr. Margaret Fletcher’s ENGL 1102 Spring 2017 classes as part of the library’s partnership with the university’s PACE initiative. In addition to this article, the students created a series of research guides to accompany the Harry Potter’s World exhibit. Find more information about the Harry Potter’s World exhibit and the PACE initiative following this article.


Harry Potter’s visit to Clayton State brought out students who have been reading the series since middle school as well as professors who also enjoy and search beneath the surface of the complex fantasy series.   The exhibition which was brought by the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health was sponsored by the Clayton State Library under the leadership of Erin Nagel, Assessment & Marketing Librarian. The exhibit invited students and professors as well as the general public to join in exploring Harry Potter’s world and its roots in Renaissance magic, science, and medicine.  One important part of the program was the “Potter Talks” series, in which Clayton State professors and their kin led us deeper into the realms of magic and meaning that inspire Potter fans. Those of us who attended the talks learned that Potter’s world is fun and intriguing, but it is also extremely complex.

Valuable vs. Priceless; The Invisibility Cloak; blank slide

Real picture of an invisibility cloak, from Dr. Pratt-Russell’s talk

The first speaker was Dr. Kathryn Pratt Russell, a professor in the English Department, who spoke on the convergence of Renaissance and contemporary monetary policy in the world of Harry Potter.  In an interview, Dr. Pratt Russell stated that she usually writes on British Romantic literature, mentioning in particular the work of Walter Scott, a British novelist whose work was often concerned with how regular people survived the harsh world of 18th and 19th century British economy.  She pursued the topic of money in Harry Potter’s world because of her interest in how Harry appears to be much more financially privileged that many of his friends.  She also felt that a focus on money would expand the interests covered in the exhibit.  In explaining her research methods, she talked about how she looked up every source dealing with Harry Potter and money.  Although she already had ideas of what she wanted to talk about, she explained that academic writers do extensive research to avoid plagiarism that can occur even though the writer hasn’t seen someone else’s work.  She stated that if someone else had already written on the ideas she had in mind, she wanted to be sure to give them credit.

Dr. Pratt Russell said that she felt the Potter books are mainly for children and teenagers; however, because author J. K. Rowling is so knowledgeable about general folklore and British and Irish legends, the books are educational.  She explained that she saw many influences from periods other than the Renaissance.  The book she found most interesting was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and her favorite movie in the series was the Prisoner of Azhabn, which showed a shift in tone from the other films.  Dr. Pratt Russell concluded her interview by saying that one of the best things for people to take away from the exhibit was the fun of studying history.  Many people will leave the exhibit motivated to learn more about history and to expand their reading both in the fantasy genre and perhaps other areas of British literature also.

Your Potion Mistresses; Antoinette with cartoon image; Mary with cartoon image

Artist rendering of presenters Antoinette and Mary Miller

The series’ second speaker, Dr. Antoinette Miller, psychology professor at Clayton State, demonstrated the multi-generational interest in Harry Potter by bringing her teen-aged daughter Mary with her as a co-presenter.  The topic of their talk was potions and their links to various psychological phenomena.  The mother-daughter duo shared information about a number of potions including the “Amortentia” or love potion; the “Drink of Despair” which includes fear, delirium, and extreme thirst; and the “Felix Felicis,” also known as liquid luck. All potions can bring disaster or bad luck if used incorrectly.  In the world of psychology, Dr. Miller and “Mistress” Mary related these potions and the need for them to humanistic explanations of psychological disorders and self-actualization undermined by unhappy relationships and unfulfilling jobs.

In an interview, Dr. Miller said that one of the most interesting aspects of the study of potions is Wolfsbane which helps in inpulse control when given to a character like Lupin, a werewolf, for  control of his wolf side so that he wouldn’t try to kill people when he was transformed.  She also enjoyed the idea of the placebo effect taking place when Ron imagined that he mistakenly believed a drug had made him more relaxed.  Even though potions are magical in Harry Potter’s world, they bear a resemblance to the real world of psychological needs and cures.

Image of Professor Seth Shaw presenting in front of screen

Professor Shaw talks about Immortality and Memory in Harry Potter’s World

Professor Seth Shaw of the Archival Studies Department discussed “Immortality through Memory.”  He explained that maintaining archives is all about acquiring and preserving records in perpetuity which is a type of immortality.  A major theme in Harry Potter is the quest for immortality, which Professor Shaw compared to using records to create memories that will endure, which is the purpose of an archive.  Our physical bodies are not immortal, but what can endure is the record of what we do and the things we think.   Records are really the closest that we will get to immortality, barring spiritual notions and beliefs in immortality. Based on what we can see and understand in the physical world and the academy, memory is the closest that we can come to physical immortality.  A huge plot point for the Harry Potter series revolves around Voldemort and his attempt for immortality through the horcruxes.  In an interview, Professor Shaw explained that in terms of research, he watched Dr. Kathryn Pratt Russell’s presentation, and talked with her about some of her resources.  She mentioned a book of academic writing on the topic of philosophy in Harry Potter, which she lent him.  He found the book invaluable to his presentation on immortality; also, he gave his interviewers an important lesson on how scholars work together and learn from each other when researching ideas.

In terms of the overall series and J. K. Rowling’s artistic success, Professor Shaw noted that “you can see the progression and complexity that develops in her ability to discuss very complex topics that arose as the Harry Potter series went on.”   He felt that her knowledge of various myths and legends as well as magical practices of old definitely comes through in the series.  He stated that “you can tell as you read her material the things that are consistent with theory and philosophy and previous modes of thought and that she must have been well read in those areas” based on the progress she makes as the series develops.

Image of Dr. Furlong in costume presenting in front of screen

Professor McGonagall (AKA Dr. Furlong) talks about genetics in the wizarding world

The fourth and final speaker in the series was Dr. Michelle Furlong, professor of science.  The title of her presentation was “The Mendelian Genetics of Wizards.”  She defined scientific terms such as phenotype, genotype and alleles, and used interactive techniques to get her audience involved.  In terms of Harry Potter’s world, there are squibs, which are nonmagical children born to magical parents; there are magical children born to or raised by Muggles (nonmagical people).  Hermoine is an example of a magical child born to Muggles, and Harry is a magical child raised by Muggles.  Dr. Furlong explained how environment plays a part in magical development.  Although Harry had magical genes, his magical powers didn’t truly develop until he began school at Hogwarts.  Children born in the same family, such as the Dursley children may have varying degrees of magical power; for examples, Ron’s powers were weak while Ginnie’s were strong.  Dr. Furlong noted that this was an example of incomplete dominance.  Although the magical gene is recessive but usually strong in the offspring of two magical parents, traits can blend so that children in the same family may have differences in magical abilities.

Dr. Furlong explained that evolution and mutations can play a part in the strength of magical traits.  She also explained the existence of regulatory genes that can turn traits on and off.  She concluded her presentation with an explanation of magic that delighted her audience who had been working hard to understand how mutation changes can create the ability to talk to snakes. Most people, and certainly most readers of Happy Potter, believe themselves to be common Muggles.  Actually though, because the magic gene is recessive and because the regulatory gene is recessive, we may not develop magical powers, but the magic, and the potential for magic, exists in all of us. Thus her audience left the final presentation feeling that they too had some connection to the incredible magical universe of Harry Potter and the use of magic to make positive changes in the world.

Writers:  Dianne Hill, Jordan Knight, Bre’auca Thompson Keondra Walters, Evelyn Tran


The Clayton State Library hosted the Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine traveling exhibition in March and April 2017.

Clayton State Library exhibit announcement
Clayton State Library exhibit website
ENGL 1102 PACE students’ research guides (pathfinders)
Potter Talk recordings
National Library of Medicine exhibit website

The Clayton State University PACE initiative, Partnering Academics and Community Engagement, focuses on student engagement through community projects that enhance learning. This Plan is aligned with our institutional Mission of cultivating an “…environment of engaged, experienced-based learning, enriched by active community service, that prepares students of diverse ages and backgrounds to succeed in their lives and careers” and Strategic Plan emphasis on providing students with an “engaged, experienced-based learning, enriched by active community service.”

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PACE – Library partnership pt. 3 of 3

This blog post features guest contributors Jordan Knight and Evelyn Tran, students in Dr. Margaret Fletcher’s Fall 2016 ENGL 1101 PACE class. To learn more about PACE, visit: http://clayton.edu/PACE.


In the News: Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle

On the 13th of September, the Clayton State Library Department presented the Freedom Summer film which is one of a five-part film series in the Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle program. A large audience of students, professors, and community members were present to view the film, listen to the panel discussion, and participate in the open discussion which followed.

The film focuses on the struggles that African Americans had to endure during Freedom Summer of 1964 in Mississippi.  During this time African Americans were oppressed by Jim Crow laws such as literacy tests and poll taxes which kept them from voting. Civil rights activists like Fannie Lou Hamer and Robert “Bob” Moses as well as civil rights organizations such as the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), began hosting voter registration drives and local sit-ins to protest the unequal exclusion of minorities in the democratic voting process.

If you would like to learn more about the events and people highlighted in the film or the discussion, we suggest the following resources:

http://clayton.libguides.com/CreatedEqual/FreedomSummer (Event covered at Clayton State University).

http://crdl.usg.edu/events/freedom_summer/ (Civil Rights Digital Library – Freedom Summer)

Freedom Schools

Throughout the summer of 1964, Freedom Schools were opened in black communities to provide a richer educational experience than was offered in Mississippi public schools. African American children learned of their own heritage and the heroes such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass who fought for freedom and equal rights.  In addition they improved their basic skills such as reading and writing, which enabled them to better understand the historical movement that was taking place.  These schools allowed them to gain the knowledge and courage to become a force for change in their local communities. Some further readings on Freedom Schools include the following sources:

http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/ED_FSC.html  (Freedom School Curriculum website)

Adickes, S. (2005). Legacy of a Freedom School. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Electronic book available through GALILEO*

Emery, K. (2007). The lessons of Freedom Summer. Race, Poverty and the Environment, 14(2), 20-22. Available via JSTOR* or online open access.

Emery, K., Gold, L.R., and Braselman, S. (2008). Lessons from Freedom Summer: Ordinary people building extraordinary movements. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. Available via InterLibrary Loan request.

Freedom Summer

From the achievements, the suffering, and the determination of civil rights activists during Freedom Summer, the Civil Rights Movement grew, and ultimately the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 radically changed the South to legally eliminate Jim Crow laws.

If you would like to learn more information about the influence and impact of Freedom Summer (1964), the Clayton State Library suggests the following resources:

Burrows, N., Helton, L.E., Levy, L.B., and McDowell, D.E. (2014). Freedom Summer and its legacies in the classroom. The Southern Quarterly, 52, 155-172.*

Edmonds, M. and Haller, S. (2014). Images from Freedom Summer, 1964. The Southern Quarterly, 52, 51-63.*

McDaniel, H. N. (2016). Growing up civil rights: Youth voices from Mississippi’s Freedom Summer. The Southern Quarterly, 53, 94-107.*

Norman, B. (2014). What are all these bodies doing in the River? Freedom Summer and the cultural imagination. The Southern Quarterly, 52, 173-178.*

Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle was made possible through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Bridging Cultures Bridging Cultures initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

For more information about the Created Equal program, please visit: http://createdequal.neh.gov.

We invite you to look forward to the upcoming A Place for All People poster exhibit which will be presented at Clayton State University Library in 2017. This artistic presentation will celebrate the opening of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture by displaying A Place for All People, an exhibit of posters that exhibit the African American story through images of “pain and glory, power and civility, enslavement and freedom.” For more information about the future event, please visit the following link: www.sites.si.edu/exhibitions/exhibits/AfricanAmericanPosters/index.htm and stay tuned to the Clayton State Library blog.

 

PACE – Library partnership pt. 2 of 3

The following article was written by Evelyn Tran and Jordan Knight, students in Dr. Margaret Fletcher’s Fall 2016 ENGL 1101 PACE class and is the 2nd in a 3 part series of collaborative posts. See the first post here. To learn more about PACE, visit http://clayton.edu/PACE.


Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle

by: Evelyn Tran, Jordan Knight

Throughout the course of several decades, we, as a nation, have become disconnected from the history of our national consciousness/national identity. In order for our country to progress and strive to achieve true equality for all, it is extremely necessary that we learn to accept our past history, seek to gain a better understanding of others, and challenge ourselves to engage in open, honest conversations among our fellow peers. In the Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle program hosted by Clayton State University Library, the main focus was to analyze the adversities that African Americans had to endure.  The final program in the series, Freedom Summer, dealt with the struggle for minorities to gain the freedom to vote.

The Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle program has spanned to encompass over 130 years of American History through their community programs. In the five-part film series, the Freedom Summer event specifically focused on the importance of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project and the immediate effects of Freedom Summer. The program, which consisted of panelists Dr. Jelani Favors, Mr. David Peña (in lieu of Dr. Joshua Meddaugh), and hostess Ms. Erin Nagel, showcased the Freedom Summer film as an opening, followed by a panel discussion between the students and panelists. The Freedom Summer film displayed the harsh reality of racial violence that African Americans had to endure across the United States.

Dr. Favors, Assistant Professor of History at Clayton State University, focused on the long legacy of education, democracy, and citizenship from Black Colleges to Freedom Schools through his interpretation of several civil rights activists, such as Herbert Lee and Fannie Lou Hamer. Dr. Favors’ initial goal concentrated on inspiring young activists to challenge themselves to learn about the “missing pages of American History and to have dialogue around American history. This dialogue, in turn, could lead to enlightenment and hopefully to civic engagement as well.” From this, he was able to inspire the audience to want to gain a voice within their local communities as well as a sense of appreciation for the impact that voter registration drive in Freedom Summer  left on American history.

Another panelist of the evening was Mr. Peña, Lecturer in Political Science, who exhibited Dr. Meddaugh’s (Professor and Coordinator of the Political Science program at Clayton State University) presentation, which concentrated on the State and Supreme Court’s reactions and decisions to the voting movements. It was through the Supreme Court’s decisions such as the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the true struggles in the fight for basic human rights were highlighted. Additionally, Mr. Peña’s focus on the legal and political reaction to the African American movement allowed for students and professors to educate themselves from a different perspective. This scholarly approach allowed the attending individuals to understand and observe how the American educational system was manipulated in order to favor a white majority. On the other hand, for Dr. Meddaugh the Clayton State University event was key for students to comprehend and be aware of how America has become a more inclusive society. He stated that it was “a multitiered event that allows for the dissemination of information on the Civil Rights Struggle throughout the campus and throughout the community.” This was the key: Freedom Summer and the panel’s presentations provided the individuals who attended the opportunity to enhance their views on the historical events as well as focusing their attention on current day racism and discrimination.

Following the panelists’ presentation, the audience was given three questions to spark discussions among both the students and the panelists. One of the questions raised was the objective of the Freedom Summer organizers’ motive in prioritizing education and voting. The Freedom Summer Movement played a key role in addressing the racially segregated school systems through the creation of Freedom Schools. The main purpose of the creation of the Freedom Schools was to educate the black community on the idea of black empowerment which in turn led to a greater voice in political participation. From this, these individuals were able to gain political liberation by breaking the barriers imposed upon them by Jim Crow laws. Overall, the 1964 Freedom Summer Project was a stepping stone in expanding not only African Americans’ right to vote but also their education, a fundamental right which they had been deprived of throughout history.

In the Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle program, the panelists brought awareness to the concerns that modern society may face today, and the significant role that American history has played in defining equality in America. Education is the key to moving away from a racially profiled society. Even though the panelists had different approaches and tendencies towards activism and change, they all had one common goal: to end racism.

Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle was made possible through a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of its Bridging Cultures Bridging Cultures initiative, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. For more information about the Created Equal program, visit http://createdequal.neh.gov.

PACE – Library partnership pt. 1 of 3

In the Fall of 2016, the Clayton State Library partnered with Dr. Margaret Fletcher’s ENGL 1101 class as part of PACE (Partnering Academics and Community Engagement), the university’s initiative to connect academic work with community engagement opportunities. Dr. Fletcher’s students attended the library’s film screening and discussion event, Freedom Summer, and conducted follow-up research on the events and people featured in the film and those discussed by the presenting scholars. In addition to course assignments, the products of this research include a visual display of the history of voting rights in America, an article summarizing the event, and blog post with recommended library resources for researchers. All artifacts will be featured here on the library blog.

Over the next week, we will highlight their contributions here to share the work of your fellow students.

Today, we are featuring the visual display. You can see it in person on the whiteboard in the Lower Level of the Library.

Visual depiction of the history of voting rights in America with

Constitutional amendments and Jim Crow laws related to voting and civil rights. Images and description of the Selma to Montgomery march and text from Dr. King's Letter From Birmingham Jail. Images and short biographies of individuals who died during the fight for Voting Rights in America: Rev. George Lee, James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Henry Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, Herbert Lee, Lamar Smith, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer

Quote from Dr. Jelani Favors: "When we inspire people, we can't just inspire them to say 'I'll vote at the next presidential election,' but we have to look at local politics, local issues, and we’ve got to find a way to improve our immediate community: for students at Clayton State that means not just Morrow, not just Atlanta, but that means Clayton State as well. How can we improve Clayton State, make it more inclusive, make it speak to our dreams, our desires? The whole theme of this year and last year was ‘Dreams. Made Real,’ but what are those dreams? When we think of the Civil Rights Movement, of social movements, these were really predicated upon the idea of Freedom Dreams, wanting to aspire and move our nation towards a more free society. Well, we can have a more than just a free campus; what other interests do students have? We can actually make those interests come real through activism, engagement, dialogue, but also through learning, which is another important part. I cannot tell you how many times that I’ve spoken with or consulted with local activists, students who become engaged. I tell them it is important that you read so that you can arm yourselves with history, knowledge of what has taken place before you, and by doing so, you can see the missteps that people have made, you can understand the failures that they’ve encountered, you can also understand their successes. In doing so, we can create better and more effective forms of social activism even today.” Summaries of the effects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 including increased voter turnout and greater diversity in Congress. Summary of the 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder decision which overturned key elements of the Voting Rights Act. After effects of the Holder decision included voting roll purges and increases in new restrictions in states previously covered by the Voting Rights Act.