What do they teach them in these schools? College courses in Harry Potter and Reading Selections we Actually Enjoy

Last week, I worked late registration at my college, helping students as they tried to get everything sorted out for their semester. Although I think our classes are plenty fun, some of the larger institutions obviously are way ahead of the game with classes that, at least in title, connect to Harry Potter. Even in non-Harry-themed courses in colleges, universities, high schools, junior high, and elementary schools across the country, students this fall will be reading some of the books we discuss here. In my own Expository Writing classes, my students will be reading The Hunger Games, which I began implementing a year ago. Join me after the jump to see a list of Fifteen Fascinating College Course for the Ultimate Potter Scholar (as posted on the Best Colleges Online website) and for some conversation about the books teachers are assigning this fall.

On the blog for the Best Colleges Online website, there is a list of fifteen Potterphile courses being offered at colleges and universities across the country; among those courses are literature classes, leadership training, and some just for fun classes, too. It was nice to see that number 3 on the list was the Theology course offered at Yale by friend of this blog the Rev. Danielle Tumminio, and that later down list is the ground-breaking course at James Madison, the university where several of the HogPro gang will be participating in their “Replacing Wands with Quills” Symposium in November. I did notice some missing courses from the list, most notable among them the Harry Potter course at Arizona State University, an institution with an absolutely amazing Harry Potter Society. Are there other courses you know of which did not make the list? Tell us about them!

Of course, many colleges, like my own, can’t really offer whole courses devoted to Harry or any of the other books we love. But we can incorporate those books into the required classes. Last summer, I decided to implement The Hunger Games into my ENG 111 (Expository Writing) classes. I was profoundly impressed by how well the book worked, and the impact it had on my students. I am interested in seeing how this new batch of students responds.

When I was on a plane earlier this year, I began chatting with a teacher who was considering using The Hunger Games with her high school students, and now Scholastic is clearly reaching out to teachers who are using the book. I’m beginning to think I should have a sign made up: “I started teaching The Hunger Games before it was cool.” Seriously, it is exciting to see this book being used by so many teachers. So, on that note, I thought it might be interesting to see if folks would like to chime in about The Hunger Games, Harry, or another of the books we discuss here being used in an academic setting, or even to compare the use of these books to other assigned reading. We all, after all, have been expected to read books that we found far less engaging than those that we discuss here. It always amuses me when students are surprised that they enjoy the book they were required to read. Bless me, what do they teach them in these schools…


  1. I taught a course called “The Theology of Harry Potter” at the University of Sioux Falls, SD during J-Term 2010. The course description read as follows: “The wildly popular Harry Potter series has been condemned by much of the Christian community as promoting a fascination with magic and the occult. This class will explore that criticism and will critically examine a variety of theological topics (death, sacrifice, community, love, the moral life, etc) imbedded within the Harry Potter books.”

    Thanks for keeping us updated on all things Potter!

    Christina Hitchcock, Ph.D.
    Associate Professor of Practical Theology
    University of Sioux Falls
    1101 W. 22nd Street
    Sioux Falls, SD 57105

  2. This is a little off topic, but might well be of interest/use for the interface between various strands in an academic setting and using Harry Potter as a ‘gateway’ to other studies. Ralph Fiennes in an interview for the BBC on Potter and Shakespeare:

    I really enjoy reading yours and John’s blog entries, especially Twilight related topics

    many thanks
    Gabrielle Malcolm

  3. Thanks, Gabrielle! We enjoy having you stop by with little goodies like this! I find it amusing that the urbane (and quite attractive) Mr. Fiennes is often cast as ugly villains these days (and of course, his brother, Joseph, made a lovely Shakespeare; he comes to my class every semester thanks to the magic of DVD! 🙂

  4. Hi Elizabeth! I’m with you. I started teaching The Hunger Games back in 2009 and STILL find new and exciting things to discuss with my students. I think it’s necessary for teachers to select reading materials that appeal to their students, otherwise the students simply won’t read; which, of course, is a greater travesty than choosing a book that isn’t a “classic.” You can stop by my blog to see what we’ve been doing in class lately: http://www.hungergameslessons.com 🙂 And kudos to you for going against the grain. Your students are very fortunate to have you as their teacher!

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