I had a conversation with a Fine Arts professor today; I was preparing the section of English 108P: Popular Potter I’ll be teaching this fall and asked him if his children were fans of the Harry Potter books. We talked about their reading, and then he commented on listening to his students discuss the books, marveling “The way they talk about Dumbledore dying–it’s like their generation’s JFK.” I get what he meant, what his students meant; children immersed in the book, who had come to revere Dumbledore as Harry did, felt their world was momentarily destabilized. They had been ideal readers, swept away by the vicarious emotions of immersing themselves in a text.
It’s this experience of immersion that has facilitated the ongoing popularity of the series, which has taken on a life of its own beyond the books, spawning movies, amusement parks, and–notably–volumes of fan fiction. The English Department’s own Dr. Neil Randall was interviewed by The Walrus recently about this phenomenon. Read what he has to say, or consider enrolling in our course. Unlike the one offered by another university, University of Waterloo’s is capped at forty students, substantially increasing the chance the professor will learn your name. That means no napping in the back young Weasley!