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Yer a class, Harry: DePaul offers three ‘Harry Potter’ classes Winter Quarter

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Heather Easley recalled being in line for a midnight release of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” the fifth installment of the “Harry Potter” series. The DePaul professor was just 22 at the time, but the memory stands out because of where  she was waiting — in London at the iconic Waterstones bookstore.

“I got to call my family members and friends at home, who were of course six hours behind us, and tell them I already had the book in my hand,” Easley said. “I’ve got a fantastic picture of me with the book and I look like a kid in a candy store. That’s how I felt.”

“I took the book with (me and fiancé) on our adventures when we went to Stonehenge,” she added. “I just remember thinking ‘these stones are interesting,’ but I really want to get back to my book that’s sitting on my tour bus.”

Even in 2015, Easley’s love for the “Harry Potter” series remains so strong that she’s teaching a class about it at DePaul. In fact, Easley is one of three professors to have a course about “Harry Potter” for the upcoming winter quarter — two of which are new.

The three classes being offered are “Harry Potter: Welcome to Hogwarts,” “Harry Potter and the Hero’s Journey” and “Topics in Popular Literature: Harry Potter.”

But also, each professor teaching their own courses comes from a different background. Easley normally teaches sociology courses while Rebecca Johns-Trissler teaches English and Christine Reyna teaches psychology.

“We’re in this fantastic position when teaching ‘Harry Potter’ and teaching it right now in that the kids who grew up with Harry were the same ages as Harry when the first book came out,” Easley said. “I’ve found that the students feel this incredible sense of ownership over the ‘Harry Potter’ series and there is a passion behind their love and interest that I don’t get the opportunity to see that with a lot of other subjects.”

Easley is the one professor who has taught about “Harry Potter” before. Her class, “Harry Potter: Welcome to Hogwarts,” ran as a focal-point seminar, a class designed for freshmen, twice last year. She said the course is separated into three different categories: business, religion and English.

For the two professors who are teaching their classes for the first time, both said they were excited to apply Joseph Campbell’s theory of the hero’s journey to the Potter series. While Reyna’s class is a focal-point seminar and Johns-Trissler’s is a literature course, both will examine what it means to be a hero and why it applies to the series.

“The ‘Harry Potter’ series provided a lot of fertile ground for creativity and exploring the Hero’s Journey,” Reyna said. “Unlike a single movie, like ‘Finding Nemo’ or whatever, each book is like a miniature hero’s journey. Each story arc profoundly represents the journey … There’s not just a single answer to every question. There’s many ways to look at these transformations with so many important views.”

Johns-Trissler said her students will read Joseph Campbell’s “Heroes of a Thousand Faces.” She said after reading the series to her daughter and hearing feedback from her students, Johns-Trissler was inspired to pitch the class to the English department.

(Graphics by KATIE TAMOSIUNAS AND CAROLYN DUFF / THE DEPAULIA)

(Graphics by KATIE TAMOSIUNAS AND CAROLYN DUFF / THE DEPAULIA)

“My students would often, when I’d ask them to bring in a piece of their favorite creative writing, bring in one of the ‘Harry Potter’ books,” Johns-Trissler said. “Some of the students really wanted the chances to study it in more depth. I figured ‘why not? Let’s give it a try.’”

All three classes, the professors said, filled up fast with each class being wait-listed, meaning students can’t enroll in a class unless another person drops it.

Freshman Madeline Obrzut said she’s taking “the Hero’s Journey” course because of her love for the series. Like Easley, Obrzut has her own memories of connecting with the series. Obrzut remembers seeing a back-to-back double feature for when “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” was released in 2011.

“Even though technically it’s a children’s series, or started as a young adult, I think there’s a lot you can learn from it,” Obrzut said. “When I read it when I was 13, 14, 15, I just got the storyline. I kind of want to see what’s deeper in the message.”

While they will dive deeper into the subjects, the classes will also incorporate elements from the novel to help with the students’ enjoyment of the class.

“We’re going to be breaking into houses just like the books,” Johns-Trissler said. “We’re going to be breaking into Gryffindors and Slytherins to have some interactions that have group work. I expect there will be a great amount of enthusiasm from the students and it’s pretty exciting when that happens.”

Students taking any of the three courses are already expected to have read the series by the time the class starts. Only Easley’s class is it not a requirement as they re-read the first book, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”   Easley said, though, that most of her students have read the series multiple times.

And while the classes are tailored to those who love the series, all three professors said they see the educational value in learning about “Harry Potter.”

“One of the things I think is really fascinating about the ‘Harry Potter’ series is that you get to spend so much time with these characters,” Reyna said. “You not only get to see them grow up and then mature, but as they matured the issues they had to deal with a lot more heavy and a lot more serious.”

Easley also said the number of novels gives her a lot of options.

“Given the breadth of this series, the themes presented and the sheer number of volumes and pages presented that we have to pull from, there are so many topics that we get to pull from,” Easley said. “These are topics that students love to talk about.”

 

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Yer a class, Harry: DePaul offers three ‘Harry Potter’ classes Winter Quarter