COURSE: “Critical Approaches to Harry Potter”

ENGL 131 D: Composition: “Critical Approaches to Harry Potter”
Winter Quarter 2010
TTH 10:30-12:20 PM

THE CENTRAL QUESTIONS for our class are: What is academic writing? What is close reading? And what might Harry Potter, when read through the critical lenses of James Loewen or Mary Louise Pratt, tell us about our world? Much like gazing into the Mirror of Erised, what does reading, thinking about, and writing about J.K. Rowling’s famed series–both books and films–offer us? What do we see, know, desire? Can we read Harry Potter as more than children’s literature or fantasy? How do we engage Harry Potter as an academic text, an object of analysis? Harry Potter, here, serves as the occasion for academic inquiry, research, and writing. In the first half of the quarter, we will engage the question of why teach Harry Potter at the university in the first place, and in the second half of the term, we will develop critical approaches to and arguments about Harry Potter as a cultural text.

A REQUIREMENT for this class is a well-developed curiosity about the world, about the culture we live in, and about the cultural productions we imagine, produce, and consume. Martin Lister and Liz Wells, authors of “Seeing Beyond Belief,” argue for just this kind of curiosity, a methodology for unpacking cultural productions. They say, “Cultural Studies allows the analyst to attend to the many moments within the cycle of production, circulation and consumption of [a text] through which meanings accumulate, slip and shift” (459). They argue that our understandings of identities, meanings, and power, as well as the intersections of cultural and social locations like race, gender, class, nation, and sexuality, can be excavated through the analysis of the texts we create and consume. This class will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about various academic perspectives routed through Harry Potter, and how and what these texts argue, reveal, narrate, hide, perpetuate, and complicate the world we live in.

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