Romance Languages and Literatures' Kathryn Lorenz indulges her imagination through the Arthurian aspects of the Harry Potter tales.
And as Potter creator J.K. Rowling makes her first U.S. book tour in seven years, this Romance Languages and Literatures field services associate professor is working on some sorcery-sprinkled writing of her own.
Lorenz, who has been writing about the beloved teen since 2001, will present a paper on Harry Potter and the literature of the Arthurian Grail search in Kalamazoo next May, at the 2008 International Medieval Congress.
"I’m also at work on a compendium (or abcedarium, as I call it) of all things Arthur in the Harry Potter stories for publication in a larger volume about Harry Potter and medieval literature," says Lorenz, who has noted Harry's similarities with the Arthurian figure of Perceval.
|Kathryn Lorenz, Romance Languages and Literatures|
Back before Pottermania entranced a world of readers, Lorenz completed a BA in French at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., an MA in French at Colorado State University and her PhD at UC, where her first role was that of teaching assistant. She has worked as a coordinator of the Basic French program, as director of Basic Languages, and now, is RLL director of curriculum.
"I have taught French in classes from the kindergarten to the Elderhostel level and I love the ability to explore all these levels by being a part of the UC faculty," says Lorenz, who holds an affiliated position with CECH.
A native of Downingtown, Pa., Lorenz and her have family lived in Loveland – where she is president of the school board – since 1982. She and her husband, Richard, have two children, Nick and Victoria, and two "wonderful" grandchildren with whom to share her love of books – Victoria's children, Avery, 2, and Colton, who is 5 months old.
Her interest in the Harry Potter books and films was, in fact, piqued through a child. "I first became interested in Harry Potter because I offered it to a young family friend as a way to encourage him to read," says Lorenz. "I read the books myself and found them to be entrancing."
She first collaborated with Heather Arden on an NEH summer program about the Romance of the Rose. The two have since presented at the International Medieval Congress and have been published in Arthuriana and the proceedings of a Conference for the Society for the Interdisciplinary Study of Social Imagery.
"Heather was actually my dissertation director here at UC," Lorenz says. "We share a love of French medieval literature and eclectic natures – we have many interests and find many ways to relate them to the literature we love."
Are there many Potter experts out there?
"There are many adult Potter lovers out there and a substantial number of serious researchers," Lorenz notes. "There are many ways that the Potter tales relate to many folktales and literary forms. There are (were) even some scholars in University College who published an edited volume about Harry Potter a few years ago."
As for why the Potter novels struck such a chord with, well, everyone – young and old, boys and girls – Lorenz has several ideas.
"First, I think J.K. Rowling has an engaging style. I think she can really spin a yarn," says Lorenz."I think her timing was excellent with tales that touched boys of a certain age and got them interested in reading when there weren’t many other new books for them to buy. But I think all her characters are sympathetic – there are many young girls who find the Harry Potter tales relevant as well. The stories are fun to read, but they don't avoid problems or unpleasant situations, so readers can relate to the characters and events. I do think they have staying power – I think we’ll always be interested in magic!"
The perfect day off: "Being free to read whatever I want – not papers that need to be graded or syllabi that need to be created." And yes, she was happy with the seventh and final Potter installment, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
"There are others of the series that I like better – I don’t know if you can ever like one better than the first one that introduced us to Harry in the first place," Lorenz says. "And my interest in werewolves leads me to be especially tied to Professor Lupin. But I recognize what Rowling wanted to do in the final book and I respect her feelings in that matter."
She has enjoyed the Potter movies, too – especially the differences with the different directors, she adds.
"I usually don't like movie versions of books, because I prefer the world of my own imagination, but I have been quite impressed with some of the movies' creations of what I imagine Harry Potter's world to look like," she says.
Back in the "real world," her flights of fantasy are helpful.
"As a teacher, I’m very concerned about my students. I want to be sure that their experiences in the classroom are of good value to them. I feel that I am a good 'facilitator' of learning," she says. "I also love to travel and to provide travel experiences for students. Getting out of our daily comfort zone can allow us to learn much more than a textbook can offer."
And for someone who considers her imagination her strength, that space outside the zone is a magical place for research.
"I think I am attracted to ideas and questions that others may not consider," Lorenz says. "Some might feel that my research interests are less serious than others, but I enjoy finding the serious and weighty in ideas and stories that seem light at first appraisal."