UI to offer Harry Potter course

BY SARAH BULMER | MARCH 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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One future University of Iowa course may be more magical than the rest.

UI Honors students will get the chance in the spring of 2012 to delve into the renowned Harry Potter series in a new class.

UI Honors Program Director John Nelson said the course arose from “demonstrated interest” in the series as well as observed participation in the activity fair last fall in Daum Residence Hall. Last semester, residents competed in quidditch matches, the House Cup, and attended the Yule Ball — events based on the book series.

In order to hold to the rigorous standards of the Honors Program, Nelson said, the course will rely on a “high degree of interaction and intellectually engaging questions” between the teacher and students. Nelson, who teaches courses related to the politics of fantasy, said the UI course will focus on “dynamics of power” in a way that is “intellectually stimulating.”

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College courses based on Harry Potter aren’t new.

The theme courses at such institutions as Georgetown and Yale vary in content and depth of analysis. For instance, Yale offers a course titled Christian Theology and Harry Potter, which targets whether “the Harry Potter series supports a Christian worldview,” said Danielle Tumminio, a Yale Divinity school graduate and instructor of the course.

Since the course began at Yale, students have viewed it positively, she said.

“[The series’ author] J.K. Rowling has created a fantasy world that is incredibly detailed and thus allows readers to lose themselves in the series,” said Robin Rosenberg, one of the authors of The Psychology of Harry Potter.

She said when the first book in the series hit American shores, “interest in Harry Potter increased; the fact that movies have been made of the films seems to have heightened interest,” Rosenberg said.

The series has sold more than 400 million copies and has been translated into 69 languages since the first book’s release in 1997.

UI freshman Chris Buck was disappointed that the course will only be offered to Honors students.

“I would be highly interested in taking such a course,” he said. “I feel that such a course will be very advantageous for students because it allows people to start reading again. I know a lot of my peers [won’t] read if they don’t have to read for a class, but there are a lot of Harry Potter fans.”

Nelson said the course will be taught by Donna Parsons, a lecturer in the Honors Program. It will be discussion-based and will have room for approximately 19 students, Nelson said.

Parsons could not be reached for comment on specifics.

Students who have read the books and are enrolled in the course will be beneficial to the class, said Nelson. Those students will have a “terrific advantage.”

UI freshman and Honors student Kaitlin Wren didn’t hesitate to say she’d be interested in taking the course. Standing outside the Blank Honors Center, she said she thinks other Honors students would enjoy it as well.

“Harry Potter is pretty big,” she said and laughed.

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