- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2005

LONDON — Academics from around the world will convene in Britain in July for the first Harry Potter conference.

The Harry Potter books, written by J.K. Rowling, have sold more than 200 million copies and the films have grossed more than $1 billion at the box office. The books are so ingrained in the public imagination that a group of academics plans to devote three days to interpreting the books’ textual subtleties.

The conference at Reading University will be attended by 350 delegates who have paid up to $440 a ticket.

They will enjoy an exposition of the “social problems of the wizarding community,” an investigation into “narratives of psychosis and prophecy and their relationship to the Harry Potter books.”

There will also be a presentation on “Is Harry Potter still a nice Jewish boy? A Jewish Perspective.”

The organizers plan entertainment ranging from a mock Quidditch game, a Hogwarts feast and a gnome-tossing competition.

They also will stage a mock trial of Snape, the potions master at Hogwarts’ School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

In spite of the Harry Potter books being aimed mainly at children, under-18s are banned from the conference because of its academic content and — more crucially — because there will be a bar.

“The appeal of the Harry Potter books is so wide-ranging that we felt a conference exploring the text was long overdue,” said Serena Culfeather, the spokesman for Accio, the fan group that is organizing the event.

Neither Mrs. Rowling nor her publisher, Bloomsbury, has given backing to the event but the organizers say they have ensured that no copyright is infringed.

The event runs from July 29 to 31 and is open to the public. Tickets can be bought from the group’s Web site, www.accio.org.uk.

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