If One Only Remembers to Turn On The Light (More Light!)

by Nicole Crashell on March 12, 2017

Over the past ten weeks, I’ve taken a class that has over 4,000 pages of prerequisite reading, and almost 20 hours of prerequisite films. We’ve examined the internal consistency of all that material and examined its cultural impact, including the way it’s effected our own lives. The final project is a ten- to twelve-page research paper. The name of this course? Thinking About Harry Potter.

Believe it or not, this class wasn’t the reason I decided to come to Lawrence—I didn’t even know about it before the winter of my freshman year, though it certainly would have made me try even harder with my application. But once I did hear that it existed, I was sold.

The first day of the class—which is listed as History 281, appears on the syllabus every other year, and meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays—was a little surreal. Most of the people sitting around me were strangers—how had I managed to walk around campus for a year and a half without knowing that I was brushing shoulders with a bunch of people who were just as nerdy as I was? Within the hour, several people had mentioned Harry Potter minutiae that I had been sure I was weird for knowing. Yet here I was, in a class of almost thirty, realizing that everyone else in the room shared that knowledge—and probably the dawning realization, too, that we were all gigantic dorks.

And it only got better from there. We’ve had discussions about our experiences growing up with the series, the way the books and movies fit into different literary and film genres, and just what would have happened if (spoiler alert) Harry really had died at the end of Deathly Hallows. The readings we’ve done for homework have explored the true nature of Sirius Black’s mind—when he’s Padfoot, is his brain human or dog?—and analyzed what the series says about the state of education in our modern world. From the lighthearted to more serious topics, it’s been a blast to look at the series in a new way, from a multitude of angles that most people would never consider applying to a series written largely for children.

The final paper requires us to pick one of those topics that we’ve touched on in class and develop it more thoroughly. My paper (due on Wednesday) is on the way fans respond to the series through fanfiction; my friend is writing about the portrayal and biology of magical creatures in both the books and movies, and the student who originally told me about the class wrote her essay on the representation of female characters. There’s definitely something for everyone: if you like Harry Potter, you’re already halfway there.

So, no, I didn’t know about Thinking About Harry Potter before I made my admission deposit, but I wasn’t surprised when I found out that Lawrence offered a course like this. It seems to fit with the vibe Lawrence gives—love what you love, and be proud of it.

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