In recent years, post-secondary institutions around the world have been adding Harry Potter-themed courses to their curriculums. Fear not, University of Saskatchewan Potterheads — this idea might not be so far off at our own humble Hogwarts.
In 1997, author J.K. Rowling published the first Harry Potter book, sending the world into mass hysteria and launching one of the fastest-growing and most persistent fan bases ever seen. Fast-forward two decades, and those once beady-eyed kids wearing their school robes made of bed sheets are now university-age adults bumbling around the U of S campus. Most of us are probably still holding on to the belief that one day our Hogwarts letter will arrive in the mail.
Although you sadly won’t be taking Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall or Herbology with Professor Sprout, the chance to study Harry Potter while still receiving university credits could nevertheless become a reality that most have only dreamed of. Imagine attending a class where you’re encouraged to discover your Patronus, or applauded if you can binge-watch all seven movies in a few days. That is a world I want to live in.
For some skeptics out there who think the series is too juvenile, or possibly too hyped up, I argue that the stories are actually highly complex and deserving of a spot in academia. Every Potterhead will tell you there are subtexts that run deeper than just a fantastical world of “make-believe,” including friendship, forgiveness and loyalty — for the fans out there reading this, please pause now to wipe that tear from your eye.
Potter fan and professor Neil Randall of the University of Waterloo pitched his “Popular Potter” course in May 2016 in an attempt to make the English department more, well, popular. When questioned about the course, Randall reported to CBC News, “What I want to do is empower students who grew up with Harry Potter to not have to hide this as being something they loved. That there’s actual value to it.”
It makes sense that institutions like Swathmore College and Ohio State University have integrated the series into their English classes to teach literary themes like good versus evil, but the series extends even further into other unexpected disciplines as well.
A course at Yale University examines the books alongside Christian theology. The creator of the class uses it to discuss ideas in the books like salvation and grace, and even the presence of god-like figures. A philosophy class at Bridgewater State College assesses the series ethics next to the Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle to understand themes like morality and justice.
Frostburg State University has gone so far as to curate a science class based on Harry Potter. Ever wondered the physics behind Quidditch or the genetics of magical creatures? Of course you haven’t — me neither. Still, if science is your thing, they’ve found a way to give you university credits just because you’re a fan of the boy who lived.
In truth, it’s not surprising that the U of S hasn’t jumped aboard the Hogwarts Express quite yet. However, as the times change, updating course offerings to include relevant material is a good way to get and keep your students engaged. Just because the U of S is over 100 years old, the course material shouldn’t be. If the Harry Potter books can provide valuable content, why not give the people what they want?
Given that Harry Potter fans are pretty hardcore, it’s safe to say that attendance and lively in-class discussion would be unparalleled to most other classes. There’s also a guarantee of generation after generation of students with a profound love for Harry Potter who will continue to flow through the U of S.
Graphic and text: Paige Sutherland