Examining literature from traditional literary, feminist, cultural, historical, or psychological contexts is a fairly regular feature of most English courses at the University of Waterloo. However, a new course, ENGL 108P – Popular Potter, attempts to change the way we understand these contexts. This course looks at the Harry Potter novels – a series many have grown up with and loved. Created by professor Neil Randall, the course examines all seven novels in hopes of introducing students to new ways of considering the place of literature in our culture, as well as, critically interacting with literature we are both familiar with and interested in. It’s one course amongst many other themed courses in the Faculty of Arts that were created with students’ interests in mind.
Professor Randall explains it’s important to study the language, plot, narrative, character, cultural values, gender issues, and issues surrounding race of popular texts because it develops interests beyond that particular piece of work. Harry Potter is specifically important because it has experienced an unmatched impact on popular culture over the past few decades. This course is about understanding the context of the books, in addition to the cultural impact the books have had.
“This Harry Potter phenomenon that happened in the late 1990s and early 2000s was the first one that I remember where people actually lined up outside of the bookstores. If you go to a new Star Wars movie people will line up outside of the movie theatre. But what about books? When does Chapters have midnight line ups?”
Students ready to take the Popular Potter course can look forward to gaining a deeper understanding of the books themselves, the reading experience, and how these particular books fit into a larger literary culture. As professor Randall says, “we broaden people’s minds by showing them things they don’t know.” Whether this comes from novels that individuals think they already know everything about or something they have never read before – the message is still the same. University, and specifically Arts subjects, is about studying the contexts that a culture arose from and how it impacted society. Who better to show us that, than Harry Potter and his wizarding world.
Visit the Faculty of Arts website or visit the University of Waterloo’s undergraduate admissions site.