A whole generation of readers waited impatiently for owls to swoop on their stoops and deliver much-coveted Hogwarts acceptance letters, proof that the wizarding world detailed in J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books was real. Those letters never came, but real-world colleges stepped in to make up the deficit.
Now, enough time has passed that incoming college freshmen for 2017 will have, by and large, been born after the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, celebrating 20 years this summer. And the magical offerings at universities around the U.S. — not to mention the Quidditch leagues holding strong on campuses — prove that the magic is still alive and well.
Check out these nine courses dedicated to exploring various themes and lessons culled from “Harry Potter.” And pay attention! Looking at you, Weasley.
Defense Against the Dark Arts
Yes, there’s really a course named after the chronically cursed class at Hogwarts that saw a new professor each year. It’s taught at College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, and compares the experience of being a “Harry Potter” fan to that of a religious devotee. “Why does imagination give permission to miracles but dismiss magic as fantasy?” asks the course description. “How and why are faith and fantasy different? How does the mind distinguish what is ‘real’ from what is not? And how does the mind defend itself against dementors, chaos, and spiritual darkness?”
Knights of Old and Harry Potter
It’s not hard to see the parallels between our bespectacled wizard’s journey through Hogwarts and the classic hero’s quest. Think about it: Both feature themes of growing up, following a noble purpose and overcoming obstacles along the way. A Georgetown University course tackles this idea head-on, with students exploring medieval storytelling of Latin, French and English origin and contrasting it with Rowling’s work.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Soul
The description for this course, offered at Illinois’ Monmouth College in Fall 2015, begins by introducing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. “Although Rowling was referring to the stone of alchemy supposedly able to turn base metals into gold, her novels also perform a sort of literary alchemy.” In the course, students took a closer look at the text of the seven “Harry Potter” books for themes of moral judgment and transformation, and supplemental reading included pieces such as “Hermione Granger and the Charge of Sexism” by Sarah Zettel, or “Love Potion No. 9 ¾” by Gregory Bassham. Better yet: Students were partially graded by their scores on O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s.
The Creative Impact of Harry Potter
If you’ve wanted to write your own global phenomenon of a YA series, you’ll wish you had a Time-Turner to go back and take this Summer 2016 class at the University of Pennsylvania. Here, students were able to examine “what makes a simple novel so good” and begin crafting one themselves, completing writing exercises for critique and finessing three opening chapters by the term’s end.
Topics in British Literature — Harry Potter’s Real Parents
Sadly, this course offered at Utica College in New York isn’t a retrospective on James and Lily Potter. Luckily, it is an examination on the British fantasy series that came before, including J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth books and C.S. Lewis’ “Chronicles of Narnia.” (Maybe you can figure out why fantasy authors love using their first initials?) The course culminates in a reading of two “Harry Potter” books to determine how the previous series influenced Rowling’s work.
“As admission to Hogwarts is selective, so will be admission to this course,” reads a syllabus from Chapman University’s 2014 course, which took place in Oxford, England. Along with a deeper examination of the “Harry Potter” series, students also had the chance to experience first-hand the culture that shaped Rowling’s wizarding world, as well as the effects the series had on the cultural landscape. Students were sorted into “houses,” each with a different focus — one handled philosophical and religious interpretations, while another delved into sociopolitical readings.
Ethical Leadership in the Wizarding World
How does a leader make decisions — especially when faced with a menace like Voldemort? This class from Drake University in Iowa uses the “Harry Potter” series as a jumping-off point for discussions on ethics and personal morals as a means for decision-making. We hope there are heated discussions over the effectiveness of the several Ministers for Magic over the course of Harry’s time at Hogwarts.
Muggles, Mermaids, and Metaphors: Race in Harry Potter
This student-initiated Stanford University course aligns the divisions between purebloods, muggles and all types of wizards with the experience of race and racial tensions in the U.S. It identifies literature as a means for social change, and asks how characters’ experiences of race affect a story.
Topics in Literature: Harry Potter’s Objects
Don’t forget to bring your wand to this course, which was offered at the University of Maine in Fall 2016. According to the course description, students studied how Rowling used objects such as wands, brooms, a golden Snitch, etc. to convey meaning and develop characters across her seven “Harry Potter” books. As all “Harry Potter” fans know, sometimes things aren’t exactly as they first appear.
From June 1 to 30, HuffPost is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the very first “Harry Potter” book by reminiscing about all things Hogwarts. Accio childhood memories.