EBH: Are you Smarter than an Eighth Grader?

At my college, we had an open house for local eighth graders earlier this week. The folks in charge came up with a theme of finding the “treasure” of learning, so the different areas of the college gamely went along to do pirate displays about their areas. It was great fun, with some terrific displays and games for our visitors. I always love a chance to dress up like a pirate, wave a sword at people, and threaten to have them all flogged (that just doesn’t fly in the classroom, I’m afraid).

As part of our Arts and Sciences Department table (decorated with props I snagged from my son’s room, including a treasure chest full of books), we had a literary treasure hunt game, for which students could supply answers as they came through the displays. I intentionally chose questions about books I would have read myself were I in eighth grade now (shudder!), using those to help students realize they do know what some of these literary terms mean. What’s a protagonist? Oh! Frodo Baggins! Got it! [Read more…]

‘Hunger Games’ Interview at Muttations.com!

Bretney and Josh at Muttations.com interviewed me for their Hunger Games podCast last week — and posted it tonight — Enjoy this Hunger Games PodCast.

We talk about my multi-layered interpretation of Ms. Collins first two Hunger Games books and the Pearl Plot theory throughout so check out those posts before or after listening.

Thank you, Bretney and Josh, for the invitation to chat and for the fun we had talking about Panem and our friends there!

Northwestern and Villanova Harry Potter Classes

Two pieces of news today from the ‘Harry Potter in the Ivory Tower’ front: both Villanova and Northwestern University are offering classes on our favorite boy wizard — and neither is a literature course, per se. Villanova’s class, described in some detail in the article ‘Department debuts Harry Potter course: International relations class topics explained via J.K. Rowling books,’ is essentially about politics, and the Northwestern class (see Harry Potter required reading for new class) is an introduction to Medieval Studies. I wrote Daniel Nexon at Georgetown, the editor of Harry Potter and International Relations (2006), to ask id they were using his boo in the Villanova class; he responded that he didn’t know — but that there were two other classes on this subject being offered at other schools.

I’m not surprised. Harry Potter and Twilight as shared texts are natural vehicles for professors to use as “delivery systems” or “points of entry” for otherwise dreadfully dull and only-for-subject-majors classes. Note the end of the Villanova.com article in which it is reported that the class is already full for next fall and the professor will offer it in future semesters if “interest remains high.” Given the number of Hogwarts gimmicks in the course design, I’m sure it will! [Read more…]

Harry Potter Inc. Taking a Big Downturn?

In today’s news we find three pointers to the end of Harry Potter’s dominance of the book trade and cultural landscape: a Publisher’s Weekly report on sales of children’s books for fiscal year 2009, Time-Warner’s stock being downgraded in anticipation of the last Potter films from Warner Brothers, and scrape-the-barrel publishing tactics by Bloomsbury to milk the Hogwarts Saga of every dollar. One by one — [Read more…]

EBH: C.S. Lewis College to begin Classes in 2012

In case you haven’t heard yet, the C.S. Lewis Foundation, along with corporate sponsor Hobby Lobby, is opening the C.S. Lewis College on the campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts. Plans are currently underway for the college to begin classes in Fall 2012 pending accreditation. The vision for the college, according to the official website, is that it will “be a fully accredited Christian institution of Great Books and Visual and Performing Arts.” The college hopes to attract “mere Christians” of various backgrounds to study and advance scholarship on Lewis and his fields of interest.

 I am really looking forward to seeing what the course of study will be like at the C.S. Lewis college. My poor students tolerate all my Lewis references, and one dear creature suggested I make my Milton, Spenser, and the Chronicles of Narnia required reading in ENG 111 (shudder! I had a colleague who tried using The Abolition of Man  in a Freshman Orientation class, with predictably dismal results), but I am intrigued to see what courses and texts the college will use.

  And, in a world where academe is constantly struggling to retain relevance, I wonder what a person will do with a degree from this college, which sounds just delightful, but not terribly practical. (In The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis wrote that witches are “terribly practical”; guilty as charged, I suppose, lead me to the stake. I’ve spent years helping students to enjoy writing but also showing them that it is a practical skill as they study to be nurses or  law enforcement officers.) [Read more…]