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CNN Features Harry Potter in Academia

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Posted by: sue
March 25, 2008, 12:31 PM

While many readers and fans of the Harry Potter novels have long delved into the deeper meaning and context of the books in broader relation to other subjects, it would seem college universities here in the US are now following suit. CNN has a special feature article now online, highlighting the use of Harry Potter as curriculum at some of the universities in the States, including at Yale Divinity School, where graduate student Danielle Tumminio is teaching a course called “Christian Theology and Harry Potter.” CNN reports the “course uses all seven Potter books and the students examine Christian themes such as sin, evil and resurrection.

“It was a struggle for me as I put the class together, because I knew if I didn’t construct this really well … that a lot of what I was doing would be missed or misconstrued. I certainly didn’t want to come across as someone trying to indoctrinate my students,” Tumminio said. “I also wanted to make it clear that it was a critical endeavor, and that it wasn’t … that you’d sit around all day talking about how great Luna Lovegood was.”The class was an immediate draw for students. Seventy-nine people showed up at the first session for the 18 open seats.”

The article continues to note that others, such as authors John Granger, Philip Nel, and Ed Kerns have long seen the benefits to using Harry Potter in an academic situation. “Edmund Kern, author of “The Wisdom of Harry Potter” and professor at Lawrence University, was originally attracted to the books based on his training as a historian of early religion, magic and witchcraft. For him, the books’ historical impact, rather than their literary context, makes for a more intriguing analysis.

“As a kind of global cultural phenomenon, Harry Potter in a sense is unprecedented. I think movies have been extremely popular around the world, I think that certain music has been extremely popular around the world, but never before has a single literary endeavor caught the attention of so many people,” Kern said. Lisa Lowe, professor of American Studies at Yale, has read all seven books not as a scholar, but as a parent.

“What [Rowling’s] really done is come up with a mode of captivating a whole generation: it’s a form of captive concentration that took place over a course of nearly 10 years,” Lowe said.”As an adult, you’ll be thinking, ‘What would Harry have done?’ “

If you are interested in this type of deeper analytical and thoughtful examination of the Harry Potter books, be sure to check out our forum, where our Obscurus section focuses on these types of discussions, as well as Scribbulus, which contains many wonderful academic essays relating to the wonderful novels by J.K. Rowling.

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