English 3604E - Special Topics in Language and Literature:
J. K. Rowling
Section 051 CRN 60395
Special Topics in Language and Literature: J. K. Rowling 1300-1535 MTWR
We will study the seven-part Harry Potter story. This means reading the books closely, examining Rowling’s achievement in various ways: structures, themes, sources and analogues, world view. Perspectives we are likely to bring to bear on the books involve theories of adolescent development; issues of race, class, and gender; the appeal of myth, medievalism, and Victorianism; Rowling’s life; and the impact of a mass audience. We’ll also consider reading strategies: the values and problems associated with reading aloud, repeat reading, watching films, etc. We’ll watch three or four films on Wednesday afternoons/evenings, the times depending on class members’ schedules. You’ll be assigned a project according to your individual interests, and report to the class on your discoveries. I expect that our approaches and strategies—and perhaps even the syllabus—will evolve as the semester progresses.
Unofficial prerequisite: I’ve read the books many times, listened to Jim Dale’s recordings, watched the movies, and read Rowling’s associated texts. I expect that many people taking the class have done much or all of this too, and that some of you know the books in greater detail than I do. Even so, I plan to spend many hours reading for each class and assume you’ll do the same. It’s hard for me to imagine someone taking another class at the same time. If you haven’t read the books before, you can expect to spend a great many (extremely pleasurable) hours keeping up. While the class focus will always be on the reading assigned for a particular session, participants shouldn’t always have to pretend they don’t know what happens later.
Assignment #1, for the first class: read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone—even if you’ve read it before; it needs to be fresh in your head—, find out what a “philosopher’s stone” is, and think about why the title was changed to Sorcerer’s Stone for the American edition.
Requirements include picky reading quizzes, two short papers, an independent project, a final exam, avid reading, and an eagerness to discuss. (Group 5)