Academics and Research

Professor unravels magic of Harry Potter

No Harry Potter fan could miss J.K. Rowling’s references to witchcraft and wizardry, but M.E. Warlick, associate professor of art history, will reveal remarkable scientific and spiritual details woven into Rowling’s books as part of DU’s Humanities Institute Salon series March 31 and April 7.

Based on the 18th century tradition of intellectual debate and discourse, the salon program offers the community a leisurely opportunity to meet with a member of the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences faculty to discuss topics of mutual interest. Salons are open to the public and hosted in private homes.

Warlick’s salon, “Harry Potter in Perspective,” looks at the seven-book series through the lens of the history of alchemy and other Western esoteric subjects including witchcraft, magic, herbal lore and astrology.

“Alchemy has a strong basis in Greek and Arabic philosophy and science,” Warlick says. “There is a long history that’s been buried in Western culture.”

For example, Warlick points to a character in the book named Nicolas Flamel. Flamel, a real person who lived in the late 14th century in Paris, is said to have made the “Philosopher’s Stone” with his wife, Perennelle. The “Philosopher’s Stone,” according to the history of alchemy, is a stone that had power to transform lead into gold and to create a magical elixir that bestows immortality.

“The first Harry Potter book was called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in England,” Warlick says. “American publishers didn’t think that a book with the word philosopher in its title would sell in the U.S., and so the novel changed to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

“Rowling plays with all these wonderful disciplines,” Warlick says. “While she might interpret them creatively, they all have a rich history.”

Space is available in the “Harry Potter” Salon series. Reservations are $55 per person for the two-session series that meets March 31 and April 7 from 7–9 p.m. Call 303-871-2466 to register.

Warlick’s research into the Harry Potter books will be offered as a for-credit course this summer and winter of next year.

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