New course on best-selling novels to launch in spring
As school starts Monday, students will file into English professor Amy Becker-Chambless’s classroom and start to dissect the tale of a bespectacled boy with a peculiar scar.
Becker-Chambless named her class Harry Potter and the Heroic Journey to match the format of the titles for the seven books and eight movies, which in sum form a worldwide phenomenon. The series, penned by British author J.K. Rowling, follows the orphaned Harry as he struggles to save the wizarding world from his parents’ murderer.
“The class is full so apparently it does resonate,” Becker-Chambless said about the book series, which was first published in the United States in 1998. “Now there is this generation (of college students) that grew up with the Harry Potter books as the books were being written.”
And those college students better know their Polyjuice Potions from their Golden Snitches, because Becker-Chambless wants her class to come in already well-versed in the Potterverse.
“People dropping in on Harry Potter for the first time – this is not their course. I expect a familiarity with all the books, and a bit of familiarity with the movies, too,” she said about the ENG 2308 course.
This is the not the first time a Harry Potter course has been taught at UTPA. Ted Von Ende also taught upper and lower-level English courses until three years ago, but it was as an introduction to British literature. The new course will pull from the series, the movies, and interviews with the author to examine Harry’s journey from Privet Drive to the Final Battle.
Students will be required to reread fairly lengthy passages and lead discussions, as well as create a script and act out a scene from the series.
“All of the great mythological and folkloric superheroes… they follow a particular pattern in their stories,” said Becker-Chambless, who decided to teach the course after discussing it with Von Ende during a Library event. “It is easier to create these creatures that can discuss the issues of the time than to research past human beings and figure out how they fit into it.”
The crystal ball is a bit fuzzy when it comes to the future of Harry Potter and the Heroic Journey. If this semester goes well, other courses might be in store, Becker-Chambless said.
As for her teaching style, the Ravenclaw paraphernalia-clad professor took a minute to consider which of Harry’s fictional classes the UTPA course would most resemble.
“Not Binns. I hate that technique. There’s a practicum to it, but I can’t do scary McGonagall, let alone Snape,” she said, referring in turn to the droning History of Magic Professor Binns, the stern but fair Transfiguration Teacher Minerva Mcgonagall and the sardonic Potions Master, Severus Snape. “I suppose (Charms Professor) Flitwick would be the closest to my style, with hands-on practice some lecture and some presentations from folks.”