That’s right, starting next year, Harry Potter will be a semester-long essay course offered through the English department. But will this kind of course have academic merit at Western?
This is undoubtedly a tough question to answer. After all, Harry Potter was initially written for children, so how can a mature, university crowd be challenged to find hidden meaning in J.K. Rowling’s seven-book wizarding saga?
This isn’t the first course in the English department that strays away from the classics. There are half-courses on fantasy literature, sport in literature and children’s literature. So is creating a Harry Potter course problematic?
Now, on the one hand, bringing in this course can be looked at as a joke that can potentially be a mockery of university and academics. If you are studying English, you are there to study the classics. Some may say authors such as Shakespeare, Hemingway and Joyce provide the reader with a much deeper, denser text that actually involves and requires the aid of a professor to find the deeper meaning, while Harry Potter’s journey through Hogwarts is just too simplistic. This is a slippery slope and if this can be a course for academic credit, then where do we draw the line?
But who’s to say there is not deeper meaning in Harry Potter as well? Although it was originally written for children, the later books were written when many of us were in our late teens, and the themes certainly reflect this. With adult themes such as challenging authority, self-sacrifice, tolerance and genocide, these books following the boy who lived should not be pushed aside as “just for children.” After all, the whole point of the English program is to develop your critical thinking skills and find the meaning in certain texts, so if the Harry Potter series accomplishes this, then clearly it has academic merit.
Additionally, English literature is always evolving, and what we study in English classes should evolve as well.
Regardless of its merit and its credit count, this course is sure to attract Potter fanatics, English majors and all of those hoping for a bird course alike.
— The Gazette Editorial Board