OUTLINE Course Title:
Harry Potter as Literature and
Cultural Studies
Subject Area/Catalogue #
ENG 327
CS #:
September 2013
Prepared By:
Melissa D. Aaron
Last Day of Revision:
February 23, 2014
I. Catalog Description:
ENG 327: Harry Potter as Literature and Cultural Studies (4)
The Harry Potter series as literature as understood within the context of literary history, myth,
children’s and young adult literature, cultural studies, and education. Emphasis on critical
reading, thinking, and discussion. 4 hours lecture/discussion.
II. Required Background or Experience:
Completion of courses in Areas A and C: sub-areas 1, 2 and 3 is required.
III. Expected Outcomes:
Justification as a C General Education Course:
Executive Order 1065 states that “in [their] Area C coursework, students will cultivate
intellect, imagination, sensibility and sensitivity. Students will respond subjectively as well as
objectively to aesthetic experiences and will develop an understanding of the integrity of both
emotional and intellectual responses. Students will cultivate and refine their affective,
cognitive, and physical faculties through studying great works of the human imagination.”
According to the Curriculum Guide, courses in Area GE-C4 “emphasize the humanistic or
expressive aspects of culture. Synthesis offerings should provide temporal and cultural
context that will illuminate contemporary thought and behavior-global, regional, and local –
showing the bonds between the past, present, and future.”
While relatively recent, the Harry Potter books have become a shared text for most students.
Many state that they became interested in reading through the Harry Potter books; they are
predisposed to be open to the development of “intellect, imagination and sensibility.” The
Harry Potter books are works of great imagination and creativity, and have in turn stimulated
further expressions of intellectual and creative activity. They are also rooted deeply in literary
and cultural history, including, but not limited to, Western Europe; they make extensive use
of myth and have observable, traceable antecedents in classical, mediaeval, and Renaissance
literature. Students’ comfort and familiarity of the texts feed lively discussion and class
participation, and demand comprehension and recall of a large segment of material. These in
turn provide an opportunity for a more sophisticated analysis of this text, texts in general, and
a critical approach to culture.
The texts are also strongly concerned with issues of social justice, including gender studies,
considerations of discrimination and social class, and the influence of government and the
media. They also explicitly engage with education and with pedagogy itself.
ENG 327 use a particular, relevant, and appealing lens—the Harry Potter books by J.K.
Rowling—as a departure point for inquiry into the full spectrum of literary and cultural
history and its relationship to what it means to be an individual human, and a member of
humanity. Its seemingly simple surface, familiar to many students through stories of magic
candy and scarlet steam locomotives, covers complex topics: quest narrative, sacrificial love,
racism, classism, and social justice, to name only a few.
After taking ENG 327, students should be able to evaluate, analyze, think, and write
critically, taking skills learned from lower-division courses on literature and applying them
in-depth to a particular work and in breadth to the works to which it is related and the cultural
framework in which it is situated.
In this course, students investigate literature, gender studies, pedagogy, and popular culture
through the lens of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books and films. It is already offered as an
alternative to ENG 326: Young Adult Literature.
Its focus on the works of one author enables an engagement with many larger issues of
literacy, literary knowledge, and pedagogy. It is suitable as a C4 synthesis course in its multidisciplinary focus on media studies, cultural studies, sociology, and philosophy.
Upon completion of the course, students should:
A. Be able to identify major literary themes as used in J.K Rowling’s novels, with special
reference to historical literary tradition.
B. Be able to identify and analyze literary genres-- bildungsroman, romance, quest, fantasy,
British “school story,” fairy tale, children’s literature/young adult—to which the Harry Potter
books belong.
C. Be able to compare and contrast the texts with earlier and contemporary counterparts.
D. Be able to use evidence—in this case, textual evidence--to support interpretation.
E. Be able to relate the texts to relevant historical and cultural topics, such as myth, religion,
history, and literary tradition.
F. Be able to relate the texts to relevant contemporary issues, such as popular culture, gender
studies, GBLT issues, censorship, and activism.
G. Be able to engage with issues of pedagogy, academics, and education, including critical
self-reflection on the students’ own education.
H. Be able to write well-argued critical essays about literary texts, using textual evidence and
knowledge of literary history.
I. Be able to conduct research on topics relevant to literary history, genre, and/or
popular culture with reference to the works of J. K. Rowling.
IV. Instructional Materials:
The following texts are required:
Rowling, J. K.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Scholastic, 2001.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Scholastic, 2008.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1997.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Scholastic, 1998.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Scholastic, 1999.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Scholastic, 2000.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Scholastic, 2003.
Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. Scholastic, 2005.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Scholastic, 2007.
These texts must be read or re-read prior to the commencement of the course. The texts will
be studied and discussed in class sessions, but familiarity with all books will be presumed.
This is consistent with other courses centered on the Harry Potter texts, including Philip
Nels’ at Kansas State University, James Thomas at Pepperdine, and Edmund Kern’s at
Lawrence College.
Instructors may assign additional texts, including but not limited to the following:
“Una candida cerva,” Rime Sparse, Francis Petrarch
“Whose List to Hunt,” Thomas Wyatt
Henry V, William Shakespeare
Le Morte d’Arthur, Thomas Malory
King James Bible
T. H. White, selections from The Once and Future King, The Book of Beasts
Selections from Sabine Baring Gould, Montague Summers
Judith Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick, Marjorie Garber.
Perry Nodelman and Mavis Reimer, The Pleasures of Children’s Literature
Newspaper articles, interviews, and reviews
Anatol, Giselle Liza, ed. Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays. Contributions to the Study of
Popular Culture 78. Westport, CT, and London: Praeger, 2003.
---. Reading Harry Potter Again: New Critical Essays. Westport, CT, and London: Praeger,
Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York,
New York: New York University Press, 2006.
Pinsent, Pat. “The Education of a Wizard: Harry Potter and his Predecessors.” Whited, 27-50.
Teare, Elizabeth Butler. “Harry Potter and the Technology of Magic.” Whited, 329-343.
Tucker, Nicholas. “The Rise and Rise of Harry Potter.” Children’s Literature in Education
30:4 (1999) 221-34.
Whited, Lana A., ed. The Ivory Tower and Harry Potter: Perspectives on a Literary
Phenomenon. Columbia and London: University of Missouri P, 2002.
Selected short clips from the films.
V. Minimum Student Materials:
Required texts in paper or electronic form, writing materials.
Word processing software, printer.
Online access to course management software, blog entries, online materials, electronic
library databases, relevant external sites.
VI. Minimum College Facilities:
Smart classroom with projector and DVD capabilities. Blackboard/whiteboard.
Seating for 30 students, with sufficient room to sit in a circle, which is necessary for
effective discussion.
VII. Course Outline:
Week 1
The Boy Who Lived: Origins of Harry Potter. Lecture and discussion of sources and
background material: the Bible, Shakespeare, The Once and Future King, Spenser,
Wyatt/Petrarch. Explanation of course procedures and responsibilities. Blog entry due at
end of week.
Week 2
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Lion in the Wardrobe and the Cupboard Under
the Stairs: relation to Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, and their common sources.
Classical, medieval and Renaissance literary references; discussions of alchemical
composition and other relevant Renaissance cultural concepts. Blog entry due.
Week 3
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. “I open at the close”: the end of the story. Literary
structure, both book-specific and overall series; parallels to the Gothic and the detective
story; genre, including the British school story. Blog entries.
Week 4
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. “Other
beasts and beings: J.K. Rowling’s bestiary.” Werewolves, centaurs, unicorns, fairies:
mythological beings. Their portrayal in Harry Potter, their sources in history and cultures,
their relationship to religion and myth. Research paper topics are due this week.
Weeks 5-6
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
Week 5: “Educational Directives: Harry Potter, pedagogy and censorship.” Harry Potter as a
teaching tool and its function in promoting literacy; models for pedagogy and academic
administration, positive and negative; and the issues surrounding banned and challenged
books. Blog entries.
Week 6: Scheduled session at library on research methodology and materials. Class session
on Harry Potter and academia, scholarship, and the growing field of “Potter Studies.”
Week 7
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. “’My own line of hair care products’: Harry Potter
and merchandising.” The Harry Potter franchise and consumer culture, including film, tie-ins,
and theme parks. Popular culture and its official packaging and merchandising of
entertainment product, as distinct from week 9, below. Preliminary paper due.
Week 8
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince . “’All the wrong people”: romance novels,
“queering” Harry Potter, Harry Potter and gender studies.” Treatment of “the other,”
acceptance and rejection in general, and GBLT issues in specific: why have many GBLT
people, especially young people, found such validation in the books? Controversy and
activism through groups such as the HP Alliance. Group exchange of papers.
Week 9
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire .“Pay no attention to the Quill”: Harry Potter and media
coverage. Journalism, positive and negative coverage; fandom, fan conflict, and Fan-created
works, as opposed to licensed merchandising, such as Wizard Rock (or “Wrock,”) fanfiction,
fan art, convention, and the extent to which the fandom creates or “writes” the text. Draft
Week 10
The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Pottermore. “Quo vadis: do the books have a future?” Are
they classics? Do they have a permanent spot in children’s and Young Adult literature, in
schools, and in the literary canon of “serious books?”
Finals week: Portfolio due, optional final exam.
Adaptation to the semester system for calendar conversion:
This course is valuable to the EFL department, which intends to keep it. It also has a very
heavy reading load. While students are expected to have read the required books before the
beginning of class, they will also need to re-read them in preparation for class sessions. The
multiple submission of a cumulative portfolio will be enhanced by the additional time
provided by a semester. The fourteen week time scale is also much better for discussing the
seven key books of the series, some of which are several hundred pages long: approximately
two weeks per book.
VIII. Instructional Methods:
Lecture with Powerpoint presentations
Class discussion
Individual readings
In-class presentations and group activities
Analyses of texts and multimedia
For organizational purposes, each class session may begin with the book under discussion
and then move to the related focus.
IX. Outcomes Assessment:
A. Evaluation
Attendance and participation: Attendance taken, participation noted. Informal oral
presentation required and in-class work in small groups.
Blogs: Cumulative online journal, or “blog,” with regularly scheduled entries and defined
Quizzes: Short objective quizzes on content and comprehension administered at the
beginning of each week.
Research paper: Paper containing a research topic of the student’s choice and approved by
the instructor. Topics may relate to cultural studies, pedagogy, literary acquisition, literary
analysis, or literary history, among others. Multiple submissions are required, collated into a
portfolio. Each submission is required for final grading. Students are subdivided into work
groups by topic similarity for collaborative purposes.
1. Topic submitted for approval: fourth week of classes.
2. Literature survey and annotated bibliography: seventh week of classes.
3. Group exchange of papers: eighth week of classes.
4. Draft due: ninth week of classes.
5. Portfolio with all pre-writing, multiple submissions, final draft, and cover letter: exam
Optional final exam on exam date.
B. General Education Outcomes Assessment
Students will complete departmental evaluations, both quantitative and narrative.
Students will also respond to at least one evaluation during the term, so that the instructor
may address concerns and adapt to student needs. The EFL department has recently
developed a new evaluation instrument that is very good at assessing student learning
patterns and development and means of improving student learning.

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