Harry Potter Scholarship

harry-potter-joel-hunter-ravenclaw-readerI’m delighted to announce that a new anthology of Harry Potter scholarship has just been published. Hogwarts Preparatory Academy has details about the book launch.

You’ll note that this anthology has emerged from a remarkable conference at St Andrews University in 2012. It was easily the most enriching, challenging, and rewarding conference experience I’ve ever had. I hope that enthusiasm for the book will encourage other institutions and societies to plan another international Potter conference in the near future. Cultural and literary analysis of the Hogwarts saga has evolved considerably since the earliest criticism, ca 2001.

I think a conference in 2017 organized around the 20th anniversary of the publication of the first book in the series is an excellent idea. I’ve had a lot of success teaching an advanced Honors course on Harry Potter because so many of my Honors students were Potter devotees. I believe that an Honors program, or consortium of Honors programs, would be able to draw scholars from all over the world and are better positioned to garner national attention and general interest than those of specialized professional meetings (e.g., studies in popular culture, American culture, young adult literature, and so on).

My main contribution is chapter 5, “Folktale Structure, Aesthetic Satisfaction, and the Success of Harry Potter.” An earlier version of the essay is available on my Academia.edu site (it’s been my number one download in both papers and conference presentations). This is a literary analysis of each book in the series using the folktale structure model of Vladimir Propp, which I argue is sufficient to explain reader enthusiasm for the series. I also show why readers find some of the books more satisfying than other books within the series. For example, why is Prisoner of Azkaban enjoyed more than Chamber of Secrets? I created an empirical method for measuring aesthetic satisfaction, and point to further applications of this research.

The book has a “dynamic dialogue” structure, so each main contribution is accompanied by a response essay. The response to my “Folktale Structure” essay is “Venturing into the Murky Marshes” by Prof Gabrielle Ceraldi. I haven’t yet read her response, but look forward to doing so and offering comments in due course over at Hogwarts Prep.

My second contribution is a response to Dr Jessica Tiffin‘s essay on pedagogy at Hogwarts. I was delighted to be asked to write this response as I so enjoyed Dr Tiffin’s talk at the conference.

Barrett Honors College Recognition

Very proud to see my teaching alma mater, Barrett Honors College, getting national recognition yet again. In “A Prudent College Path,” Frank Bruni quotes John Willingham at length in the article, who refers to Barrett as the gold standard in public Honors education. Bruni discusses in particular the benefits of a public Honors education.

The public nature of the institution is critical, in my view, to avoid the worst effects of the unavoidable elitism in an Honors program. As I’ve written in my Honors tutorial, Barrett’s founding Dean, Ted Humphrey, reflected carefully on this core principle in his essay, “The Genesis of an Idea” (pdf). Barrett Honors College main entrance

Willingham’s excellent site includes loads of good material on the subject, and, if you’re an entering student, is worth a visit to get a great view of the enormous opportunities that are going to be available to you at Barrett and other Honors programs and colleges. Willingham regularly ranks Honors programs and publishes his research in A Review of Fifty Public University Programs. In the first edition (2012) of the Review, Willingham calls Barrett the “Best Value-Added Impact in the Nation.” And in his 2014 edition, only Barrett receives a perfect 5 out 5 points in the same category. This shows a consistently excellent program that is improving in order to compete with the other excellent Honors programs and colleges in the country.

So a big high-five to the Deans, Faculty, Staff, and Students of Barrett Honors College.

As for the busyness around these parts, I’m looking forward to delivering lots of new material in conjunction with the new academic year. I’ll be teaching a handful of courses this year and plan to continue to share my experiences, tips, and other goodies as the Fall unfolds. Barrett Honors College Refectory aka Hogwarts Great Hall

Technology and Education

A happy graduation to the class of 2015, and to all other students and teachers, congratulations on completing another academic year!

Summer will be busy around here as I have lots of new content to post and some important revisions to old content that I’ll make available in shiny new packaging. So you can expect regular posts for a change. I’m aiming for no less than two per week. If you have specific requests, please do dash off a note to me.


To whet your appetite, I bring to your attention an article that appeared in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education, “Why Technology Will Never Fix Education,” by Kentaro Toyama. In a subsequent post, I’ll take a closer look at his argument, so for now I’ll highlight one of his key claims and leave you to cogitate upon it:

The real obstacle in education remains student motivation. Especially in an age of informational abundance, getting access to knowledge isn’t the bottleneck, mustering the will to master it is.

In my first-year Honors Seminar, The Human Event, the assignment my students had the strongest reaction to, both positive and negative, was the E-Medium Fast (download pdf). In my next post, I’ll connect the goals that I had in this assignment with Dr. Toyama’s article.

Core Texts + 2000 years

Okay, so I’m off to a slow start on this series of posts intended to give you a teacher’s perspective on some core texts you’ll encounter in your Honors seminar. Given that the Fall semester is wrapping up, I’m going to shift to post-Renaissance with my next post. Shan’t be long now.

Newly Uploaded Thesis

I had paused the tutorial on how to succeed in an Honors Seminar to scan and format my Masters Thesis. The pdf and a new abstract is available on my Academia.edu page. It’s called “Uncovering the Prejudice in Modern Science and Theology,” and was presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for my MA degree in Philosophy from Georgia State. Its central claim is that Galileo’s method of interpreting the Bible to defend his empirical findings was fundamentalist in its technique and rationale. The thesis falls within the broad category of “Science and Religion.”

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…


This is the academic and professional site of Dr. Joel Hunter. This is the home of his academic and scholarly work while at Barrett Honors College at ASU, the University of Kentucky, and Georgetown College, as well as his professional work as an environmental and electrical consulting engineer. My current project on this website is a multi-part tutorial on how to succeed in an Honors Seminar.