Oyster Review: Muggle Studies – Beyond Hogwarts, Real Classrooms

f38696422The Oyster Review online has published a feature story called ‘Beyond Hogwarts: Muggle Studies‘ which argues that “At Hogwarts, young wizards study magic. In the Muggle world, students read Harry Potter.” I was interviewed for the piece and two University professors I know — Linda Pershing, California State – San Marcos, and Philip Nel, Kansas State — offer their experiences teaching the Hogwarts Saga in real world classrooms.

I suppose there is residual resistance to the value of teaching the world’s best selling novels in university settings so these articles serve some purpose. I’m glad, too that Prof Nel’s explanation for the series’ importance and popularity was used as the article ‘closer’ and reader-take-away, especially because of their use of a certain phrase I don’t think the journalist picked up from Prof. Nel:

The Harry Potter phenomenon forced us to legitimize these books as more than just a kid’s story—it was something much bigger, and more gripping. The reason behind this, Nel argued, was J.K. Rowling’s perfect literary alchemy.

Alchemy Burckhardt“There’ve been earlier great fantasies, realist novels, school stories, and mysteries. But her combination and transformation of these traditions sets her work apart. Her fully imagined alternate world truly transports us, her psychological realism makes us care about the characters, and the mystery narrative keeps us turning the pages,” Nel said.

It is in this combination that we can locate the beating heart of the series, and what draws all of us—from casual readers to intrepid scholars—to get so willingly wrapped up in these books. With J.K. Rowling’s gentle guidance, we’re able to consider big questions and witness, as Nel says, “the kinds of work literature can do.”


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