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English department creates “Harry Potter” study abroad program

Ben Conboy and Dirce Toca

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DePaul students, all aboard the Hogwarts Express! DePaul’s English department recently announced the creation of a new study abroad program for Harry Potter fans.

The program curriculum will include two classes that will be available to take in the Spring 2018 quarter. English 286, “Topics in Popular Literature,” will consider the “Harry Potter” series’ literary precursors. MCS 363, “Topics in Fan Studies,” will examine various media fandoms, such as “Trekkers” and “Gleeks,” Star Trek and Glee enthusiasts, respectively.

Students will take the classes in the Spring quarter and will then travel to the U.K. during the summer.

The study abroad program will have students visit Harry Potter-related sites like Platform 9 3/4. (Ally Zacek/The DePaulia)

The two-week abroad portion will have students visit both London and Edinburgh, and will incorporate a number of Harry Potter and British literature-related activities. A “Muggle” walking tour of London, visits to the British Museum and Parliament and a trip to the “Harry Potter Experience” at Warner Bros. Studio in Leavesden are all on the agenda.

“The purpose of this program is to enhance students’ understanding of the ways in which the unique cultural and literary history of the United Kingdom has impacted the “Harry Potter” series, beginning with the writing of the novels, and to apply that understanding to contemporary audiences,” the program’s description reads.

Rebecca Johns-Trissler, associate professor and director of the Graduate Program in Writing and Publishing, has been teaching a Harry Potter version of Topics in Popular Literature and realized a lot of the discussions in class would turn to the cultural, educational and political differences between the U.S. and the U.K.

“It started to occur to me that it was a subject that probably would benefit a great deal from a study abroad program where we could really delve into what those differences are and how the “Harry Potter” books are a product of Great Britain’s culture,” Johns-Trissler said.

Johns-Trissler teamed up with Paul Booth, an associate professor of Media and Cinema Studies in the College of Communication, after realizing that their courses overlapped in the topics they were covering. Johns-Trissler and Booth spent last year developing the program. They will be the two professors teaching the spring courses and will travel overseas with the students.

“It’s a fun possibility for students to get some of their requirements and learning domains out of the way,” Johns-Trissler said. “(Students) can learn more about the U.K. culture as it relates to “Harry Potter” in particular.”

Caitlin Stout, a junior majoring in English, says the idea for a Harry Potter study abroad program is “brilliant.”

“The program is a fantastic way to celebrate geekiness and literature, considering the phenomenal journey of “Harry Potter” as a children’s literary series and film franchise,” Stout said.

Those who participate will have the opportunity to visit several sites that inspired the films and books including King’s Cross Station to take the train up to Scotland.

While the study abroad program is heavily Harry Potter based, a portion of the visit will also be a day trip to Oxford where other classic fantasy works were filmed. Also on the agenda is a trip to the pub where and J. R. R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to meet to discuss their writing.

“It’s not just a vacation tour,” Booth said. “(Students) will learn about the history and culture of the U.K. They will learn its literary traditions and fandom traditions.”

Students who are interested in participating in the program are recommended to apply early. There will only be 20 spots available.

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English department creates “Harry Potter” study abroad program