23RD NOVEMBER, 2018
BOOKISH STUFF: Teaching Harry Potter
Some people have asked me about my Harry Potter seminar so I thought I'd share a bit about my experience of teaching Rowling's books at uni.
I first taught this seminar a year ago and because the demand was amazing I decided to offer it again this winter term. Last year it was called Tales of the Wizard, this term I added a 2.0. ;-) I had actually been thinking about doing a Harry Potter seminar for a few years but had always shied away from the sheer mass of material. I didn't think I could do justice to all of the little things that Rowling put in her books and that it would be hard to come up with some sort of course structure. Eventually, I did cave in though and decided to simply go for it. Yay!
The course is part of our MA programme and I must say that both times I've had wonderful students, some of who are real Potterheads and frequently amaze me by knowing the tiniest minor details like which colour a specific spell had in a specific scene both in book and film. I'm sometimes joking I'm going to ask them about the colour of a character's socks on the oral exam. Hehe!
What we're basically doing in this seminar is looking at the Harry Potter books, i.e. mainly books one to seven, from different theoretical angles. Topics include myth and religion, identity, desire, grief (mourning vs. melancholia), gender, family dynamics and much more. For each session I provide theoretical texts that - together with the novels - work as a basis for our class discussion, and so far the students had a lot to say about each theme. Particularly the debate on gender always proves both controversial and illuminating.
A lot of my students grew up with the Potter novels (whereas I read them in my twenties - yes, I was already that old when they were published) and it's interesting to see how they change from mere fans to active readers who think about the stories academically. One student said last year that they'd unfortunately lost a bit of their innocent view on Rowling's writing but that they had learned a lot of new things and now see aspects of the novels they hadn't considered before at all. I guess that means "Mission accomplished!" for me. I'm excited to see how the rest of this semester will go. I just finished reading Grindelwald's Crimes (review to follow) and really want to discuss it with them.
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