John is available to speak on: Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis, Food, Home Schooling and the Virtues of Memorized Prayer and Scripture among others. Learn more »
Beginning with his explanation of the Harry Potter books and phenomenon, and continuing in fields as diverse as diet, language, memory, and the education of children, Granger’s entertaining and uplifting work has been focused on challenging contemporary popular assumptions concerning the nature of man and how we know.
This has meant shining a light into the blind spots of our historical period to see what lies just out of sight in our shared experience of books, schools, food, and thinking. Granger with good humor refuses to yield to the dominant scientism of the age which insists we approach all subjects as human phenomenon or “just matter and energy.” Granger sees no reason for this narrow perspective and every reason to listen instead to the traditional sages and saints. As a lively tour-guide to the application of ancient wisdom for modern living, John’s aim is to open the hearts and minds of his audiences to a larger view of themselves and reality.
John Granger is best known for explaining the artistry, meaning, and popularity of Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. His four books, How Harry Cast His Spell (Tyndale, 2008), Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader (Zossima 2007), The Deathly Hallows Lectures (Zossima, 2008), and Harry Meets Hamlet and Scrooge: A Literary Companion to Harry Potter (Penguin, 2009) are used in University classrooms from Princeton to Pepperdine because they are the only books in print that discuss the literary merits and cultural impact of Ms. Rowling’s novels. He has been a Featured Speaker at six academic and fan conferences and his theories and thoughts have been written up in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition to almost one hundred radio talk show appearances, John has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, and A&E. The DVD of the Order of the Phoenix movie even includes an interview with John in the DVD extras.
As an ordained Orthodox Christian Reader (Psalte) and classicist trained at Phillips Exeter and the University of Chicago, John takes his bearings from the western and eastern traditions, spiritual and philosophical. In addition to talks on Harry Potter, John has also been a Featured Speaker at a C. S. Lewis International Conference (Past Watchful Dragons, 2005) and the New York C. S. Lewis Society (February, 2008) as well. He delights in explaining the relevance and brilliance of the medieval imagination and traditional psychology for understanding not only the popularity of Lewis, Tolkien, and Rowling but how we are meant to live in order to be fully human. John believes great authors help us achieve with story what Lewis said was the end of human existence, that is, “conforming the soul to Reality.”
John, though, is not your typical egghead talking about intellectual concepts that aren’t important outside of books and classrooms. He was a Marine Corps sergeant years ago and still focuses on the practical. As father of seven children that he home schools, John’s day to day focus is less on literature than living a life of Word observance with them to “conform the Soul to Reality.” He talks about these efforts to “see God everywhere” and live and think and make choices about everything from what to eat to how to birth children as means to Communion in his lectures about home schooling, cooking, and memory.
John’s talks include:
- Spotlight: A Close-Up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of the Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Novels in which he reveals the allegorical meaning, literary influences, and Latter Day Saint backdrops of these best sellers.
- The Eyes of
Joanne Rowling told a reporter in 2007 that the “key” to her seven book series, the lines she waited 17 years to write, were Dumbledore’s farewell to Harry at what Harry thinks of as King’s Cross station in Deathly Hallows. uses the predominant eye symbolism of the series finale to explain this “is it real or just in my head?” conversation and why it opens up both the “power beyond any magic” of children’s tales and the meaning of the world’s best selling books. Granger describes the Symbolist or Inkling stream of English literature in which Rowling writes and how Coleridge’s idea of imagination and Christian images of of eyes, light, and mirrors inform this work.
: ’s Corrected and Transforming Vision
The Hidden Key to C. S. Lewis: “The Universe is Mental” C. S. Lewis wrote important works of philosophy, social criticism, literary scholarship, Christian apologetics, satire, and symbolist fiction. Suggesting there is a common thread joining his thought, an idea running though all his books and essays, consequently, is to invite dismissal as a Da Vinci Code crank. But Lewis suggests as much himself. In examining the work of the “master” which Lewis said “baptized his imagination” and the ideas of his professed “Wisest and best of my unofficial teachers” that Lewis said most changed him, we find the “cosmic Logos” that Lewis challenges his readers in every work to see behind and within all things and their own minds. John Granger surveys Lewis’ “greatest hits” to show the various forms this idea takes and to suggest its importance for readers of all beliefs in a materialist age.
Unlocking Deathly Hallows: Five Keys for the Serious Reader
Ms. Rowling is a brilliant writer who uses specific tools to craft her meaning and create the effects in her readers that she wants – tools she borrows from Austen, Shakespeare, Dickens, Lewis, and Dante! John raids Ms. Rowling magic tool chest and shares how she wields the tools of narrative misdirection, literary alchemy, the hero’s journey, postmodern themes, and traditional symbolism to engage and entrance us well beyond suspended disbelief. Always a hit with Potter fans of all ages, this lecture (and the book that it comes from) opens up the mystery of fine writing and its place in the life in Christ.
- Why Reading Matters: Good Books and the Life in Christ
John begins his explanation of the importance of reading in the Christian walk by exploring the question “What makes a book a ‘Great Book’?” C. S. Lewis offered one answer on which John expands using illustrations from Lewis’ popular Narnia novels, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. John argues that the questions addressed in a book, the artistry with which the themes are developed, and, in English literature at least, the implicitly Christian answers of a book are the best tests of what make a book ‘great;’ these qualities, because of the effect stories have on the faculties of the soul, help foster our living “right-side up,” which is to say, God and soul first. If you have felt guilty about your love of movies and reading fiction or if you have ever wondered, “So what’s the big deal about Harry Potter?” or “Why did the Lord teach with stories rather than just telling us what He meant?” this is a talk you won’t want to miss.
- The Christian Content of ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’
Ms. Rowling told reporters in 2000 that the last book would answer all their questions about her faith – and Deathly Hallows was no disappointment in that regard. John Granger was the first serious reader of the books to argue the stories were Christian in conception and meaning back when some Christians were burning the books. In this popular talk, he explains how the series finale is Ms. Rowling’s story about the difficulty and importance of faith, what we shouldn’t believe, and the transformations right belief make possible. The seventh book delivers on all the foreshadowing and themes of the previous books and John explains this in inspiring fashion.
- Harry Potter is the Gateway to English Literature
For several years Harry was accused of being a gateway to the occult. The numbers have shown no increase in the rise of real world occult membership but we do know for sure that millions of readers have read Ms. Rowling’s 4100 page novel – and that this novel is filled to bursting with allusions and borrowings from Classical, Medieval, and centuries of English Literature. John introduces the Big Seven on Ms. Rowling’s bookshelf – Dante, Shakespeare, Swift, Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky, and Lewis – and explains how Harry Potter is, in Ms. Rowling’s words, a “compost pile of everything” she’s read. Audiences at these lectures invariably clear the shelves of these authors’ books in their eagerness to discover what so excited Ms. Rowling in her reading and writing.
- Literary Alchemy in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’
Of the five keys that unlock Harry Potter, the strangest and most fascinating door-opener is Ms. Rowling’s use of alchemy in her books. She said in 1998 that alchemy “sets the magical parameters and establishes the internal logic of the series” and, sure enough, everything from the titles, character names, and the transformations Harry goes through in each book have alchemical roots. John explains the tradition of this artistry from Shakespeare to C. S. Lewis and the four alchemical stages in the series finale. The Keynote Lecture at the Prophecy 2007 International Conference in Toronto, this talk stuns even the most serious readers with what they missed on their first four readings.
- Food as Sacrament: The Traditional Christian Alternative to Dieting and Carnal Mindedness
The modern idea of food is either pleasure focused or one of energetic or material quantities, that is, how much carbohydrate or chemical nutrient we eat or how many calories we consume and expend. Our growing waistlines and the national plagues of obesity, diabetes, and degenerative disease suggest there is something missing from or broken about this food paradigm. John Granger, the father of seven healthy children and a Reader in the Orthodox Church, shares his twenty-year experience eating an alternative diet based on a qualitative standard and a sacramental understanding of food and human life. His “spiritually minded” approach of seeing meals as an extension of the Eucharist supports rather than restricts or undermines his family’s life in the Church. Good health was never so delicious, satisfying, and easy.
- Home Schooling For Souls in Conformity with Reality
Many parents have recognized the dangers of turning their children’s mental formation over to authorities whose spiritual beliefs contradict their own or just haven’t taught them anything. After parents have pulled their families out of the schools, what are they to do then? John Granger, home schooling daddy to seven, explains the several ways both to avoid just “doing what the schools do” at home and to foster a “right-side-up” human person in the home schooled student so child and parent become more rather than less human.
- Traditional Christians and Memory: The Virtue of Memorized Prayer and Scripture
Traditional Christians neglect memory, some say, because they think that memorizing “proof texts” and Gospel passages is something that fundamentalists do, the Christians without icons, chant, or sacraments (Mysteries). In fact, memory is Patristic and memorizing scripture and prayers was the rule of spiritual formation well over a thousand years before our times. John, a Reader in the Orthodox Church who teaches his children memory aides, explains the great help it is to have prayers by heart and shares some tricks for remembering enormous parts of the Bible.