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Academics to study Harry's Hogwarts

London, March 27: Academics from around the world are convening in Britain 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 1 billion euros at the box office and are now so ingrained in the public imagination that a group of academics is to devote three days in July to interpreting the books' textual subtleties.

The conference at Reading University will be attended by 350 delegates who have each paid up to 235 euros 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 organisers plan entertainments ranging from a mock Quidditch game, a 'Hogwarts feast' and a gnome-tossing competition. They 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.

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

Neither Rowling nor her publisher, Bloomsbury, has given backing to the event.

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