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Harry Potter 101

English 105W: Introduction to Issues in Literature and Culture: the Cultural and Literary legacy of Harry Potter

In 1997, Joanne Rowling published Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first of what would be seven books chronicling the adventures of a young wizard and his friends. More than a decade later, the Harry Potter series has sold more than 400 million copies, been translated into 67 languages, been made into 8 motion pictures, been made into a theme park, became a, if not the, catalyst for an entire generation to rediscover the love of reading and has made J.K. Rowling not only a household name, but the first ever billionaire author. There is no denying the cultural impact and importance of the Harry Potter series. Over the course of this semester we will be exploring issues related around this cultural impact, from the literary conventions used in the series to the “fandom” created by Harry Potter to the difference of genres between film and literature to the historical literature dealing with magic and witchcraft. Whether wizard or muggle, witch or squib, there is something for everyone in this course.

WQB – Breadth Humanities, Writing

Pre-Requisites: None, though it is highly recommended that all students have read through the Harry Potter series at least once before taking this class.

Required Texts: Books 1-7 of the Harry Potter Series (for reference), Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and the Tales of Beedle the Bard

Class Requirements:
Tutorial Participation (10%)
Pre-reading Quiz (10%)
First Paper (1000 words) (25%) (10% for Draft/Peer Editing, 15% for Final Product)
Second Paper (1500 words) (35%) (10% for Draft/Peer Editing, 25% for Final Product)
Final Exam (20%)

Week 1: “Charms”
– Exploring the appeal of the Harry Potter series to its intended audience as well as an overview of the literary conventions and themes found in the series.
– Pre-reading Quiz (in lecture): To make sure you’ve actually read the books
– Topics for First Paper distributed in lecture

Week 2: “Potions”
– Continuing our discussion of literary conventions, we will examine the key “ingredients” of the series and genre, comparing them to other similar works.

Week 3: “History of Magic”
– We look into historic examples of literature and how magic and witchcraft were portrayed, comparing them with the series.
– Supplementary Reading: The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Week 4: “Care of Magical Creatures”
– We examine the mythology behind the numerous creatures in the Harry Potter series as well as the use of Symbolism throughout the books.
– Supplementary Reading: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
– Draft of First Paper due in Tutorial

Week 5: “Quidditch”
– We will begin a broad overview of the world within the Harry Potter books and the broader implications of such a society.
– Supplementary Reading: Quidditch Through the Ages
– First Paper due in Tutorial

Week 6: “Herbology”
– The use of Character in the Harry Potter novels, categorizing the tropes of different characters as well as segregation and racism within the Harry Potter universe

Week 7: “Divination”
– We discuss the use of Foreshadowing and Suspense within the series, as well as predictions made about Books 5, 6, and 7 before their publication.

Week 8: “Ancient Runes”
– The majority of spells and incantations of the Harry Potter universe find their roots in Latin, we examine the linguistic significance of this.

Week 9: “Astronomy”
– Names are not given lightly in the Harry Potter universe (for example, the Black family are all named after constellations). We examine the significance of names, tying back to our discussions in Weeks 4 and 6
– Topics for Second Paper distributed in lecture

Week 10: “Arithmancy”
– It is estimated that the Harry Potter brand is worth 15 billion GBP. We will discuss the economics of the Harry Potter series as well as the issue of commercializing literature.

Week 11: “Defense Against the Dark Arts”
– Exploring the literary criticism leveled against the Harry Potter series as well as the religious controversies over the publication and distribution of the books.
– Draft of Second Paper due in Tutorial

Week 12: “Transfiguration”
– From books to movies, we look at the process of turning literature into film as well as the differences between the mediums and its implications.
– Second Paper due in Tutorial

Week 13: “Muggle Studies”
– We examine the Harry Potter “fandom”, from internet (Mugglenet, Leaky Cauldron, Lexicon etc.) to Fanfiction tropes to the Harry Potter Theme Park

Finals Period:
– Final Exam (t.b.a)

You have no idea what I would give to take this course if it were actually real…

2 responses

  1. …This course seems stupid; it’s studying the Harry Potter books, not actual magic. It’s basically one really long book-review.

    TBH I’d think this is pretty boring….

    Might wanna revise the curriculum a bit :P

    2010/11/20 at 19:53

  2. uni’s supposed to be boring cause you actually learn stuff

    not like high school when you can just goof around-and still learn stuff

    2010/11/20 at 21:50