Bonus track 4: 'Battling Against Voldemort' with Professor Melinda Finberg of Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania
These days, you don't have to be a wizard to have Harry Potter in your classroom. In colleges and universities across the U.S., Potter-themed courses are regularly offered -- and no, we're not talking about Defense Against the Dark Arts 101 or Care of Magical Creatures Lab (too bad!) -- but classes based on J.K. Rowling's book series and the movies they spawned.
In fact, so many institutions of higher learning have used Potter in their curricula, it's hard to keep track at this point. These courses are offered not just by English departments, but in medieval studies, theology and physics, among other fields.
While many schools use Harry Potter as a way to introduce students to subjects they might otherwise not pursue, these are not necessarily easy-A classes. By and large, they are, however, extremely popular, with fierce competition for limited seats. Naturally, the professors who originate the classes tend to be imaginative types, not unlike certain Hogwarts instructors. (And yes, at least one has worn wizard robes while teaching.)
From heroes and quests to magic and hidden identities, modern fantasy has looked to the literature of the medieval period for inspiration. Yet it has also consistently transformed and reshaped its source material, rewriting the significance of key motifs and ideas in order to address the issues of its own time and place of production. This module will examine the ways in which modern fantasy writing both adopts and adapts the culture, language, characters and narratives of medieval texts, and in so doing identifies its authors as an (albeit diverse) fandom. Although not fanfiction in the strictest terms, modern fantasy writing often shares with it the desire to extend and appropriate the plots and protagonists of earlier texts, and to challenge or re-examine them by writing in an avatar who explores the textual world in a metaphorical representation of the author¿s own discovery of the original work. This module will look at forerunners for this in the medieval period too, and will encourage students to analyse the communally-driven nature of textual production and circulation in the Middle Ages, as well as the communities of interest which have written fantasy in response, from the late nineteenth century to the present. The module will provide the opportunity to examine a range of fantasy writing, which may include texts from George MacDonald and William Morris through C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien to contemporary writers such as Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, J. K. Rowling and Ursula LeGuin.
This course will investigate literature, gender studies, pedagogy, and popular culture through the lens of the Harry Potter books and films. Rowling’s books make use of classical, Medieval, and Renaissance sources. They can be argued to fall into many different genres—bildungsroman, romance, quest, fantasy, British “school story,” fairy tale, and “children’s literature”—and they have become an important cultural phenomenon.
We will be covering a wide variety of topics, from the relation of Harry Potter to Shakespeare, Petrarch, and the Bible, to Harry Potter as a literacy tool, to the books as merchandise and media, and their future as a part of literary canon.
Students are expected to be familiar with all seven books in the Harry Potter series and the films. The texts will be studied and discussed in class sessions, but familiarity with all books will be presumed. Therefore, students will be expected to read, or to re-read, all books, and to watch the films, before the commencement of class.
THE COURSE: EN 2434 Literature and Film THE COLLEGE: Mississippi State University-Meridian
I'm James B. Kelley, an Associate Professor of English at Mississippi State University-Meridian. This semester I've already covered the first Harry Potter book and film in an undergraduate course (EN 2434 Literature and Film) that's concentrating on works dealing with the power of different forms of media, from print to film to electronic. My students have had a number of interesting exchanges concerning the muggles' computers, the wizards' newspapers, and even the Mirror of Erised.
THE COURSE: 'Harry Potter and the Law' THE COLLEGE: Morehead State University, Morehead, KY
Kelly Collinsworth is an attorney and assistant professor in the Legal Studies program at MSU. She taught the class in Spring of 2011 and is teaching the class again this Fall. The class, targeted towards non-legal studies majors, uses the Harry Potter series as a means for considering the role of the government and legal institutions, crimes and punishments, moral development, economics, and the legal profession. As a civic education service learning project, the students conclude the course by presenting a Harry Potter trial to community groups, with the community members serving as jurors.
THE COURSE: 'Harry Potter and His Predecessors' THE COLLEGE: Lenoir-Rhyne University
Amy H. Sturgis has been teaching her undergraduate/graduate Harry Potter and His Predecessors seminar for a decade now. This course discusses the ancestors to the Harry Potter phenomenon, examines the specific works and traditions that inform the Harry Potter universe, and, most importantly, considers why the Harry Potter books and films are so popular today. It takes both a theoretical and historical approach to popular culture in general and J.K. Rowling’s works in particular.
In this course we will discuss the ancestors to the Harry Potter phenomenon, examine the specific works and traditions that inform the Harry Potter universe, study the Harry Potter texts in depth, and, perhaps most importantly, consider why the Harry Potter franchise has achieved unparalleled global popularity today. In the process, we will take both a theoretical and historical approach to popular culture in general and J.K. Rowling’s works in particular.
THE COURSE: 'Battling Against Voldemort' THE COLLEGE: Swarthmore (Swarthmore, PA)
A couple of years ago, Professor Melinda Finberg taught this popular freshman seminar, as an introduction to literary theory. According to the course description, the class aimed to "understand why we are so driven to invent stories about battling inhuman powers to learn what it means to be human," by analyzing the Potter books. Students discussed the use of curses and Harry's not-necessarily-objective view of the world, among other things.
Dean of Student Life Mamta Accapadi came up with this inspirational-sounding class, part of a series designed to help freshmen get oriented to campus life. She thinks the Potter saga is great for teaching students how to deal with the various instructors they'll encounter, just as Hogwarts students navigated a wide (and scary) range of professorial personalities. (Hopefully she'll warn them about any Snape-like types lurking at OSU.)
THE COURSE: 'Christian Theology and Harry Potter' THE COLLEGE: Yale (New Haven, CT)
One of the most talked-about Potter university courses was conceived and taught by Yale Divinity School grad student Danielle Tumminio. While the class, which explored Christian themes such as sin, evil and resurrection in the Potter series, was not intended to counter those who believe the books and movies are 'anti-Christian,' it undoubtedly provided a well-informed argument to that view.
Professor Philip Nel's English class, last taught in fall 2009, seems pretty rigorous, with several required texts (including 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' and 'The Golden Compass') in addition to the Potter books. Per the course description, "This class will examine the Harry Potter phenomenon by reading the novels themselves and the works of Rowling's antecedents, influences and contemporaries ... I expect discussion, debate, and exchanges of ideas." Nel, who authored 'J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Novels: A Reader's Guide,' is obviously a Potter scholar who knows his pensieve from his polyjuice.
This very popular course, taught by Professor Carol Dover through the school's Medieval Studies Program, "explores the medievalism" of the Potter novels by comparing them to English, French and German medieval literature. As the course description reads, "They are all narratives about growing up and finding one's identity: a complex, mysterious, and sometimes arduous process that the hero/heroine experiences as a magical world where the natural laws governing human existence are suspended, the unexpected is bound to occur, and marvels are reserved for the chosen few."
THE COURSE: 'The Science of Harry Potter' THE COLLEGE: Frostburg State (Frostburg, MD)
One of the more intriguing HP-themed classes, this honors seminar was inaugurated in 2003 by Professor George Plitnik, who used the Potter series to teach students about basic physics and cutting-edge scientific research. Various problems were explored, such as apparating using Einstein's Theory of Relativity, levitating using diamagnetism or electromagnetic repulsion force, and whether antigravity research can produce an actual flying broomstick. Adding to the fun was Plitnik's habit of dressing in wizard garb, as a tribute to Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore. Now that's commitment.
In this Special Topics English class, taught in 2008 by Susie Kneedler, students read four HP novels, "looking at how solutions to their mysteries overturn first impressions." The class also compared each plot to those of popular English TV comedies, and contrasted the original British books with the American versions, as well as to the film adaptations. Meanwhile, Ohio State further celebrates Potter with its current exhibit at the Marion Campus Library, 'The Science, Magic, and Medicine of Harry Potter's World,' which runs through Dec. 11. The opening reception, which took place on Halloween, featured movie screenings, a Hogwarts workshop, and an edible book contest(!).
THE COURSE: 'Six Degrees of Harry Potter' THE COLLEGE: St. Catherine (St. Paul, MN)
This literature class taught by Professor Cecilia Konchar Farr is one of the most sought-after courses on campus. Students read (or re-read, in most cases) all seven books in addition to other materials, followed by class and group discussions. For a final project students may choose to write a research paper or create a Hogwarts character for a computer game, which sounds like a suspiciously easy choice to us!
THE COURSE: 'Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion' THE COLLEGE: Durham (Durham, England)
Interestingly, Potter college classes are more prevalent in the U.S. than in England, which is, after all, the home of Rowling and the series itself. Durham University, however, is now offering what's thought to be the first HP-themed course in the UK, which uses the series to examine prejudice, citizenship and bullying in modern society as part of a BA degree in education studies. Well done.
Students in this philosophy course will get a chance to take a critical look at the philosophy and ethics presented by the series. Using Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics as a guide, the course looks at the choices characters make and the guidance they receive to understand ideas of courage, justice, morality, and temperance.
The author of the Wisdom of Harry Potter book teaches this eponymous course at Lawrence University. The course addresses the books from a variety of angles, exploring them as a cultural phenomenon as well as addressing their relationship to myth, legend, and history and asking students to think critically about the moral and ethical lessons they contain. Enrollment for the course isn’t open to just anyone, however, and students who want to take it must have already read and possess in-depth knowledge of every book in the series.
This two-part summer course at Augustana gives students a chance to get out of the sun and spend time analyzing the final installment of the Harry Potter series. More fun than serious study, students will engage in a mock quidditch match, watch the accompanying film, discuss the books, and play a variety of fun games related to the series. Only three days long for each part, it can be a fun way for Potter fans to spend a weekend with like-minded individuals.
One of the earliest courses in the Harry Potter trend, this class uses scholarly essays and mainstream media reviews as a means to help look at the books in the series more critically and understand their construction. The course can be a great asset to students in education, as one project requires students to create lesson plans based on the books that could be used to teach math, science, and English to grade school students.
Most lit classes focus on classics by Hemingway and Nabokov, but this course takes an equally critical and serious look at the books in the Harry Potter series. Students can expect to read or re-read all the books in the series for the course and discuss them in a group setting. The course will look at the form of Rowling’s writing, try to puzzle out where she may have drawn some of her ideas, and analyze some of the major themes that run throughout the series. Additionally, students will study the impact the novel has had on literature and both British and American culture.
Rhetoric is the use of language with persuasive effect, and the Potter novels are full of this kind of speech. In this course, students will take a look at some of the most effective uses of rhetoric in the novels and the political and social implications it may have. Additionally, students will examine major issues like race, violence, and propaganda in the books and write essays and final projects on a theme they’ve selected from the course.
We will examine how the mythic is made and what purposes myth and magic serve in modern culture. Guided by classic psychoanalytic ideas, we will seek to understand both the conscious and unconscious power of myths. The seven volumes in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series will be the core texts for the course, and we will explore how these texts were transformed by the eight Potter movies.
An exploration of central theological themes (e.g. human dignity, free will, evil, social justice issues, etc.) in literature through the analysis of literary and theological texts. Literary works may include such writers as C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and/or J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
Literature written for adolescents is wildly popular right now: these books regularly show up on bestseller lists; critically-acclaimed authors are writing for this audience; and many adults are willing to identify themselves as avid fans of the Twilight series and the Harry Potter books.
Clearly, something is going on, and this is what we will explore in this class. What are these texts giving to their readers? What story, about growing up, about individuality, and about how we come to decide who we want to become, do these texts tell?
We will begin by reading a couple of novels that might best be categorized as children’s literature in order to give us a working definition of Young Adult Literature. We will discuss some classic adolescent novels to further refine our definition of this genre before we move into a consideration of several recent--and very popular--young adult novels.
The reading list is not yet complete, but it will include the following: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, A Bad Beginning, The Chocolate War, one of the Harry Potter books, Twilight, A Northern Light, Speak, Slam, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
This course examines the fantasy fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien—its contexts and its influences. Students will begin by reading the renowned Lord of the Rings (either in its entirety or the first volume along with selections from the other volumes) in conjunction with some shorter works by Tolkien and his own explication of fantasy theory. We will consider Tolkien—in the words of Tom Shippey—as “the author of the century,” as a pivotal force in the growth of twentieth and twenty-first century fantasy literature and theory. Selections from modern fantasy theorists—many of whose ideas are heavily influenced by Tolkien’s works—will be read alongside fantasy texts of both “high” and “low” fantasy (including ironic fantasy, historical fantasy, and urban fantasy). We will also consider the role of other media such as art and film in the evolution of fantasy and in the representation of Tolkien’s works. A selection of films clips may be considered, not only from Peter Jackson’s LOR films, but also from films such as George Lucas’s Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, and we will watch, in its entirety, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Students can anticipate a voluntary field trip (outside of class time) in November to view Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.
This course explores religious themes in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Topics include ancient Greek, Roman, Celtic, and Norse mythological themes, the relationship between religion and magic, and reactions to the books among various religious groups.
This course will use concepts from narrative theory, particularly, worldmaking, character, perspective, plot, temporality, ethics, and aesthetics to give students a deeper understanding of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels - and why most people like them so much. Toward the end of the course, we will also examine the adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban to film. Students will do in-class reports and write two short papers, the first using the tools of narrative theory to offer a close reading of a favorite passage, and the second dealing with a larger issue of the student's own choice - or a creative imitation of Rowling.
THE COURSE: Harry Potter and Philosophy THE COLLEGE: Marymount Manhattan College, NY, NY
Abstract ideas can be brought to life through the moral imagination provided by good works of fiction. In this course we will examine the popular culture phenomenon of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga, which literary scholar John Granger calls our “shared text” of the twenty-first century. As we work through philosophy of literature, ethics, political philosophy, and metaphysics in relation to the narrative structure and content of Harry Potter, we’ll grapple with issues such as character, love, friendship, truth-telling, heroism, justice, law, war, punishment, identity, meaning, death, and free will. My name is Carrie-Ann Biondi and I’m an Associate Professor of Philosophy.
A new cultural phenomenon began in 1997 when Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was released. Copies flew off store shelves as readers of all ages were captivated by Harry’s story. It was as though the novel had been rediscovered and reading became everyone’s favorite activity. Subsequent volumes continued to mesmerize readers, and soon thereafter they listened to audio versions and watched cinematic adaptations. Why was the Harry Potter series so appealing? What was it about Harry’s story or that of Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Hagrid, Dumbledore, Dobby, or Neville Longbottom that resonated with such a diverse populace? How and why did readers develop deep personal connections to the series? How was Pottermania created and sustained? In this course we will analyze the Harry Potter series for the insights it provides on friendship, loyalty, finance, the law, social justice, ethnicity, social media, sports (Quidditch), music (The Weird Sisters), and our relationship with animals and their world. Through a close reading of the novels we will consider their place in the literary canon. We will also pinpoint where influences from this canon can be found in the novels. Finally, we will study the Harry Potter series as a cultural phenomenon. We will analyze the impact the series had on readership and popular culture in America and Great Britain. This course is taught by Donna S. Parsons.
Now that the seven-book series is complete and eight movies have been screened, Harry Potter fans have a chance to step back and delve more deeply into the saga which experts have called "the shared text" of this generation. Participants in this unique Harry Potter immersion will learn to use interpretive keys such as alchemy to read the books at a deeper level and will experience how it helps our reading to learn traditional literary archetypes, such as the shapeshifter and the shadow. We will concentrate on Deathly Hallows, comparing and contrasting how the book and the movies complement one another in exploring the deeper meanings of scenes and characters. Along the way, you will have a chance to discover your Patronus, use a Marauder's Map on a Hogwarts scavenger hunt, walk a labyrinth, and even play a bracing game of Quidditch.