The Newman University English department presented its annual Literature Festival, “Magic Happens: A Celebration of Harry Potter,” April 12 and 13.
Also known as, “Lit Fest,” the celebration is a two-day event featuring readings from academic papers, various forms of creative writing, live performances and even prestigious guest speakers.
To kickstart the Harry Potter themed event, keynote speaker and author Travis Prinzi traveled from New York to present his work, “Saving Dumbledore: Moral Imagination and Forgiveness in Harry Potter’s Death.” Prinzi writes and speaks on the intersection of fantasy and politics, myth and culture in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. John Granger, also known as the “Hogwarts Professor,” has said, “There is no more insightful commenter on the Harry Potter novels than Travis Prinzi.”
On Friday, several Newman students also debuted their works. Associate Professor of English Susan Crane-Laracuente, Ph.D., featured students’ brief written pieces as part of her Short Story class.
Junior Maria Somes, who read an excerpt from an original short story titled “Happenings,” said this was her first time presenting and performing at Lit Fest.
“There were so many highlights of my experience,” Somes said. “One was working with some of the most passionate and dedicated professors, Dr. Crane-Laracuente and Dr. Regan, who worked all hours of the clock not only helping to put the Lit Fest together but helping and preparing their classes and individual students for their presentations and performances as well.”
Following lunch, complimentary copies of the student literary journal, Coelacanth, were handed out and students read aloud from their officially published works.
Senior Corbin Riley, this year’s editor-in-chief of Coelacanth, said he thoroughly enjoyed his experience.
“The Coelacanth team was very effective with communication, working together and getting tasks done on time,” Riley said. “We had several great submissions and published most of them, and I felt the actual event went really well. A lot of really great people come up and read, and I was just thankful that they were able to share their work and had the confidence to do so.”
Students in Crane-Laracuente’s Latin II class also performed original live skits. The twist? They performed each scene first with English dialogue, then to a translated Latin dialogue.
Somes is also a student in Latin II and said she enjoyed performing alongside her classmates, hearing and watching them and other talented Newman students perform.
“Additionally, (I liked) being able to use literature and academia as a platform to discuss and explore gender problems and women’s rights and issues still prevalent in today’s society, (because) it is a topic that I am passionate about,” she said.
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Digital Art Laura Scholl gave a presentation, “Creative Design of the Wizarding World: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” Scholl explained her experiences in working with the graphic designs and effects used in the movie — particularly with the famous Quirrell’s Mountain Troll, which she helped bring to life on the big screen.
Professor of English Bryan Dietrich, Ph.D., also read poems from his recently published book, “Single Bound.”
“I think that (Dr. Dietrich) just has a really amazing way of presenting his own work to everybody,” senior Rachel Adducci said. “The way he speaks is so engaging and imaginative. I really loved how everyone seemed to be captured by the way that he was speaking, his words and follow-up explanation of what he was thinking when he wrote it. It was really interesting.”
To top off the evening, the Sloppy Joe Improv Troupe performed a show titled, “Harry Joes and the Goblet of Sloppies.” The group took suggestions (some of which were Harry Potter themed) and provided a final segment of entertainment for literature lovers to watch.
“Overall, it was an incredible experience,” Somes added. “The work, dedication and the passion that the English department and other Newman faculty, staff and students put into the Lit Fest every year reminds me of how truly rewarding my education and experience as an English major is, has been and will continue to be in my last few semesters here at Newman.”