Fantasy buffs from Arkansas, the U.S. and the world will gather together to celebrate and analyze fantasy literature and entertainment during the “Hidden and Fantastic” conference Sept. 23-24 hosted by the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith and featuring some of the top fantasy scholars in the world as keynote speakers.
The conference will include presentations by students and scholars of the fantasy genre, highlighted by two keynote speakers: Dr. Michael Ward, senior research fellow at the University of Oxford and one of the pre-eminent scholars on C.S. Lewis, and John Granger, who TIME called “the Dean of Harry Potter scholars.”
Dr. Dennis Siler, director of the Honor International Studies Program, said other presenters at the conference will be an eclectic mix of academics from the U.S. and abroad, with submissions received from countries such as the United Kingdom, India and the Ukraine. A session for undergraduate students will also be available to provide students an opportunity to present papers and research in a public forum.
Topics of presentations range from the works of J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien to pop culture fantasy icons such as Joss Whedon, novelists such as Medeleine L’Engle, Toni Morrison and Flannery O’Connor, and even examinations of fantastic elements in the cultural writings of Bulgaria or Indigenous Mesoamerica.
“Surely there is something for everyone in this mix,” Siler said.
The conference is an effort to elevate fantasy novels, television shows and movies as a legitimate art form, Siler continued.
“Authors like C. S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and certainly J.K. Rowling have become major cultural and artistic influences worldwide, but scholars and academics don’t always treat them as they do other authors,” Siler said. “We want to expand the scholarly conversation about this popular literary genre and delve more deeply into the wonderfully complex and sometimes esoteric nature of these works, which are sometimes unjustifiably dismissed as ‘mere children’s books’ or somehow less worthy of academic analysis.”
This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The conference fee for the general public is $70, while public school teachers and students can attend for $15 per day. Registration is required prior to the conference.