HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Conceptualizations of Disability in the Wizarding World: The Case of Neville Longbottom  
Millie Gore

Disability has historically been conceptualized in a number of ways including: the Monster; the Sub-human; the Second-class Citizen; God's Special Gift; and the Brave Overcomer. Often, in literature, a character starts as one conceptualization and metamorphoses into another as a result of the events in the story.

One such character is Neville Longbottom. Neville is the archetypical child with a learning disability (LD). Although he is bright, he has so many difficulties with wizarding, (e. g. casting spells) and nonwizarding (e. g. memory) tasks that his family believes that he might be a squib. He is clearly characterized as having a learning disability, and as a result, a Second-class Citizen.
However, in the course of the series, Neville, like so many other people with learning disabilities, finds his gift: herbology. He also discovers that he has the ability to lead when the situation demands. By the end of the novel, by hard work and brave acts in the face of his own fear, he has morphed into the quintessential Brave Overcomer.

First, I will introduce the audience to the Conceptualizations of Disability.  Then I will present some relevant characteristics of learning disabilities. I will then quickly lead the participants through the four books, helping them identify the characteristics of LD that Neville typifies. I will then have the participants discuss in groups which of the Conceptualizations they believe that Rowling employed with Neville; I hypothesize that most groups will identify the conceptualization as the Second Class Citizen.

Next, I will lead the participants through the last three books, showing the passages that demonstrated Neville's transformation from an incompetent, to a competent person who has found his strength. I will then have the participants work in their groups to discuss the conceptualization that they think best describes Neville at the end of the book. I hypothesize that all groups will identify him as the Brave Overcomer.


Dr. Millie Gore is Hardin Distinguished Professor of Special Education at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. At Portus 2008, she presented Conceptualizations of Disability in the Wizarding Word: The Dark Lord, The Squibs, and the Mad Auror. She is Faculty Advisor and Faculty Founder of The Harry Potter Alliance at Midwestern State University. She has lectured at university and conferences on the work of JRR Tolkein and JK Rowling.
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