University of Waterloo starts Harry Potter class

The University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada has developed a course where students make a close readings of the books in the Harry Potter series.

Harry Potter fans usually don’t need a reason to analyze their favorite books, but college credit might provide a nice incentive. Neil Randall, an associate professor in the English Department at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, starts teaching a course on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book series today.* It’s called “Popular Potter,” and it’s pretty much a guaranteed hit.

“We’re in a generation right now of people who grew up with Harry Potter,” Randall said. “These books mean a great deal to them…When I got these books I recognized what made them popular, but also that these are cleverly written, very tightly plotted,” said Randall. “I think we have a responsibility to study it.”

Randall isn’t the first academic to think this. Universities have offered Harry Potter-focused courses before—even Yale got in on the fun with a course called “Harry Potter and Christian Theology.” Still, Randall offered a defense of his course for people who might not think it has value.

I have no doubts whatsoever that some of my colleagues would be saying ‘Do we really want to doing a Harry Potter course?’ The fact is, this is exactly the kind of discussion we should be having. Universities tend to have a healthy, though sometimes over the top, attitude about the value of popular works. That if it gets popular, you should be suspicious. 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.

The course will be limited to the books—students will have to read all seven. Those who have already done that several times over may cruise to an easy ‘A,’ although that depends on the coursework.

For those who aren’t already enrolled at the University of Waterloo, the course will also be offered in the fall semester.

*Incidentally, on his University of Waterloo profile page, it says that Neil Randall supervises graduate students who are doing research into J.R.R. Tolkien, so it’s no surprise that he’d be up for teaching a course about a fantasy book series.

h/t CBC News