Professor Richard Howells is back from a conference in Tuscany, Italy, where he gave a refereed paper in which he inter-wove Harry Potter, the sorting hat, serpents, parceltongue and horcruxes, together with the “Fall”, Philip Pullman, the Republic of Heaven, Ernst Bloch, Utopia, Marxian Critical Theory, and atheistic Christianity.
The conference was the 20th International Conference of the Utopian Studies Society, held at the Monash University Study Centre in Prato.
Howells, who is our Professor of Cultural Sociology, argued that running human themes can be detected throughout both “high” and popular culture, provoking us to consider how things might be in the future as opposed to how they happen to be today. The disturbingly close relation between good and evil was running concern, culminating in the need for a human-centred universe.
More of his thinking on culture and Utopia can be found in his TEDx talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FHsKQZ_-r8 and his monograph A Critical Theory of Creativity: Utopia, Aesthetics, Atheism and Design (2015; paperback 2017).