Applications in the Classroom: The Potential of Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter in Higher Education

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Book Review

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Of what use is a book about the Harry Potter series that was published before the series was complete? Having taught an upper-division college course on Philosophy in Harry Potter multiple times, I believe that the early publication of Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter actually increases its potential utility in the classroom. Not only does this book include thoughtful and insightful scholarship, but it is also pedagogically valuable. It raises thought-provoking topics that can serve as the basis for research papers and class presentations, as well as providing important resources for students to use while conducting such research.

Because the book was published before the last two books in the series, a number of the chapters lend themselves naturally to assignments in which students study the later books in the Potter series carefully to see whether the claims made by the chapter authors still remain valid. Students may write papers on Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows (the sixth and seventh books of the Harry Potter series), addressing questions such as “Does vision feature significantly in Rowling’s ongoing description of the boundaries between the Muggle and Wizarding worlds?” (Chapter 3) or “Do Fred and George continue to enact the dual role assigned to the harlequin?” (Chapter 6). Moreover, the chapters address a wide range of topics and can be used for students from various disciplines and at various stages in their educational careers. For instance, some would be accessible to college freshmen and sophomores, while others would provide a challenging read for juniors and seniors. I find this diversity of levels especially appropriate because the students in my course on Harry Potter range from first-semester freshmen to last-semester seniors.

Most of the chapters that are especially conducive to student assignments are in the first portion of the book, “Serious Scholarship and Academic Hocus-Pocus.” The second portion of the book, “Conjuring Harry Potter into the Canon,” is less directly useful to students, but by offering lively examples of the ways in which the Potter series has been used in the college classroom, may provide inspiration to teachers who wish to use the Potter texts in their courses.


Smith, A. C. (2015). Applications in the classroom: The potential of scholarly studies in Harry Pottery in higher education. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2005. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2(2).http://journaldialogue.org/issues/applications-in-the-classroom-the-potential-of-scholarly-studies-in-harry-potter-in-higher-education/



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