Philip Nel > Courses > English 440: Harry Potter's Library (Spring 2002)

English 440, Sec. A. Harry Potter's Library: J. K. Rowling, Texts and Contexts
Tues. & Thurs., 2:05 - 3:20 p.m.
Eisenhower 016
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: 208 Denison Hall
Office Hours: Th., 3:30-5:30 p.m. & by appointment.
Virtual Office Hours:
Syllabus last updated on 20 April 2002  
Paper Assignment | Bulletin board

This section of English 440 is now fully enrolled. There was a waiting list of people who hoped that a second section would open. However, as of 5 November 2001, there will be no other section of this course in the Spring of 2002. If you are one of the people on the waiting list, then take heart. Given the overwhelming response to this year's section, the course will likely be offered again in future semesters.

Required Texts | Prerequisites | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Bulletin Board | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources
Required Texts:
David Almond, Kit's Wilderness (Laurel-Leaf/Dell).
Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach (Puffin).
Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays(Oxford).
Diana Wynne Jones, The Lives of Christopher Chant (Beech Tree/Wm. Morrow).
C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (HarperCollins).
E. Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet (Puffin).
Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (Knopf).
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Scholastic).
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Scholastic).
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Scholastic).
J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Scholastic).
Class Pack for English 440.
Prerequisites for taking English 440 are at least one of the following: English 125 (Honors English 2) or English 200 (Expository Writing 2).
        This class will examine the Harry Potter phenomenon by reading the novels themselves and the works of Rowling's antecedents, influences and contemporaries. We may also watch the film and consult selected secondary sources, such as book-length studies by Allan and Elizabeth Kronzek, Philip Nel, and others; or articles by Joan Acocella, Kimbra Wilder Gish, Pico Iyer, Alison Lurie, Polly Shulman and A.O. Scott, and Jack Zipes. In this class, education will not be a passive experience: I expect discussion, debate, and exchanges of ideas. This requires that you not only be present but that you be an active presence.





100 (total for all quizzes)   

In class, day reading is due.


Class Participation &   



Electronic Bulletin Board    


Midterm Exam


In class, 5 March.



In my office (Denison 208) by 12 noon, 3 May.

Final Exam


In class, 9:40-11:30 a.m., 16 May.




Requirements: Paper | Quizzes | Class Participation and Attendance | Computing | Assignments
        The paper must: be typed (preferably word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, and the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled or paper-clipped together. Late papers will be penalized one grade (e.g., B+ to C+) for each day late.
        Sources: Use the MLA method for documenting sources. And don't plagiarize. When you turn in a paper, you pledge that you have faithfully abided by the guidelines for documenting sources -- most grammar handbooks provide guidelines for documentation. Always remember: you must cite the sources of any ideas that are not your own. If you quote, paraphrase, or use another's ideas, you must give credit to the person whose ideas you are using. If you have any questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <>.
        Approximately 12 times during the semester, there'll be a quiz. Sometimes the quiz will be announced, and sometimes it won't. But it will always address the reading for that day. Because everyone can have a bad day, I'll drop the lowest quiz grade.
        Class Participation and Attendance:
        Read everything, and come to class prepared to talk about what you have read. On the first day of class discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. By "the reading," I mean all of the text assigned for that day. This class will be based on discussion, so class participation is expected, and will count for 20% of your final grade. Discussion will take place both in class, and out of it, via the Electronic Bulletin Board (explained below). I reserve the right to assign homework or in-class writing projects that are not listed on the syllabus.
        Class attendance is required. Since the class meets twice a week, you are granted two absences, but more than two will lower your final grade by one grade increment for each absence (e.g., B+ would become B). I appreciate your offering explanations for absences; however, the only way to excuse an absence is to provide me with an official letter from the dean. You cannot earn credit for work missed in class. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to discover what went on that day. "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
        Computing -- the Internet, the Electronic Bulletin Board, and Email:

        The Internet: For your reference, a hyperlinked version of this syllabus is on-line. Go to <> and click on "Courses." I have linked authors' names to relevant webpages, listed web and library resources, and I plan to provide a link to the paper assignment.

        Electronic Bulletin Board: Post comments to the bulletin board once a week. An average posting should run about one or two paragraphs in length. In other words, your postings do not need to be long, but they must be substantive -- long enough to convey clearly the problem you are taking up and your point of view, connecting your comment to others' comments, as appropriate. I will monitor these discussions and assess a grade (at the end of the semester) based on the thoughtfulness of your comments, their ability to foster discussion among your classmates, and their responsiveness to both our readings and to your classmates' comments in class and on the bulletin board. You may respond to an existing thread of the conversation or initiating another; weekly postings will count towards your class participation grade. I may participate in these conversations, but I see the bulletin board primarily as a way for you to raise issues we haven't addressed -- or addressed fully or to your satisfaction -- during our regular class meetings. Though extra postings to the bulletin board will not automatically replace participation in our class discussions, regular contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can certainly improve your class participation grade.
        How to use the bulletin board:
  1. First, click on this sentence. If you receive a message like "Authorization Failed. Retry?" then click on "Retry."
  2. A window will pop up, asking for your username. Type engl440. (Be sure to use all lower-case letters.) Next, type in the password that I gave you in class.
  3. To see all the messages posted to date starting with the newest ones first, click on "Preferences" and set the options to "12 months" and "Mixed Threaded, Reversed." Click on the "View Messages Index" button. You should be able to see all the messages posted to the threaded bulletin board. (If a grey box pops up with the title "Security Information," just click "OK.")
  4. To post, choose to reply to a message or to post a new message. You will have to enter your name, your email address, and the subject of the message. You can preview your message before sending it; then, click "Post Message."
        Email: My email address is If you need help establishing an email account and learning to use email, please visit the Office of Telecommunications at 109 East Stadium or <> to find out what you have to do. Although I do not require you to use email, I encourage you to use email as a way of touching base with me. You can write me with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in person, or anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I tend to check email several times a day, but please keep in mind that I am not on-line at all times. You can access email at the various computer labs around campus: 21 Nichols Hall, 22-25 Seaton Hall, 1-1A Dickens Hall, and 325 Justin Hall and in some residence halls (visit <> for more details about resident hall labs).

Schedule of Assignments
Subject to Change
[W] = Web. [CP] = Class Pack. [R] = On Reserve (at Hale Library).
Note: "through" means "to the end of" (not "up to"). Page numbers refer to the editions assigned.
Harry's Family Tree: Rowling's Influences and Antecedents
Th 17

Tu 22

Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (1857), through Part I, Chapter VI (p. 134).

Th 24
Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays, through Part II, Chapter III (p. 263).

Tu 29

Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays, to end.

Th 31
E. Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), through Chapter 6 (p. 158).


Tu 5

Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet, to end; J. K. Rowling, "Let me tell you a story" (2000) [CP].

Th 7
C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), through Chapter 9 (p. 99).

Tu 12

Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, to end.

Th 14
Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach (1961); J. K. Rowling, Foreword to Families Just Like Us: The One Parent Families Good Book Guide (2000) [CP]
Harry Potter

Tu 19

J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998), through Chapter 9 (p. 162).

Th 21
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, to end.

Tu 26

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999), through Chapter 10 (p. 181); Rowling, "The Not Especially Fascinating Life So Far of J. K. Rowling" (1998) [CP].

Th 28
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, to end; Philip Hensher, "Harry Potter, give me a break" (2000) and Harold Bloom, "Can 35 Million Book Buyers Be Wrong? Yes" (2000) [both CP].


Tu 5

Midterm Exam

Th 7
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), through Chapter 7 (p. 140).

Tu 12

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, through Chapter 14 (p. 290); Christine Schoefer, "Harry Potter's Girl Trouble" (2000) [CP].

Th 14
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to end.

Tu 19

Spring Break

Th 21
Spring Break

Tu 26

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), through Chapter 8 (p. 116); A.O. Scott and Polly Shulman, "Is Harry Potter the New Star Wars?" (1999) [CP].

Th 28
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, through Chapter 14 (p. 227).


Tu 2

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, through Chapter 20 (p. 362); first three articles from the "Christians in Fantasyland" section of the Class Pack.

Th 4
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, through Chapter 26 (p. 508).

Tu 9

Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, through Chapter 30 (p. 604); Jack Zipes, "The virtue (and vice) of stolid sameness" (2001) [CP].

Th 11
Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to end; Karin E. Westman, "Harry Potter and the Spectres of Thatcherism" (2002) [CP].
Friends of Harry: Contemporary British Fantasy

Tu 16

Diana Wynne Jones, The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988), through Chapter 11 (p. 112).

Th 18
Jones, The Lives of Christopher Chant, to end.

Tu 23

Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (1995), through Chapter 5 (p. 97).

Th 25
Pullman, The Golden Compass, through Chapter 11 (p. 203).

Tu 30

Pullman, The Golden Compass, through Chapter 17 (p. 303).


Th 2

Pullman, The Golden Compass, to end; Pullman, "Portrait: The Dark Side of Narnia" (1998) [CP].

F 3
Paper DUE in my office (Denison 208) by 12 noon.

Tu 7

David Almond, Kit's Wilderness (1999), through Part Two, Chapter 14 (p. 126).

Th 9
Almond, Kit's Wilderness (1999), to end.
Conclusion and Review.

Th 16

Final Exam, 9:40-11:30 a.m.
You must take the final exam on the day and at the time scheduled.


Recommended Resources

In the Library

  • Secondary Sources: Lindsey Fraser, Telling Tales: An Interview with J. K. Rowling (2000); Philip Nel, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Novels: A Reader's Guide (2001); Allan Zola Kronzek and Elizabeth Kronzek, The Sorcerer's Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter (2001); Elizabeth Schafer, Beacham's Sourcebooks for Teaching Young Adult Fiction: Exploring Harry Potter (2000).
  • Novels (in addition to those listed above): Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl (2001); Susan Cooper, The Dark Is Rising (1973), Greenwitch (1974), The Grey King (1975); Roald Dahl, Matilda (1988); Paul Gallico, Manxmouse (1968); Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse (1946); Diana Wynne Jones, Witch Week (1982), The Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998), The Year of the Griffin (2000); Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968); C. S. Lewis, the Narnia series (1950-56); Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (2000); J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937); T. H. White, The Once and Future King (1958).

On the Web


Required Texts | Objectives | Grading | Requirements | Bulletin Board | Schedule of Assignments | Recommended Resources

Philip Nel | Courses | Crockett Johnson Homepage | Don DeLillo Society | Links | Books | Self-Promotion | Site Map | FAQ
Program in Children's Literature | Department of English | Kansas State University

Copyright © 2001-2005 Philip Nel. Please read the Disclaimer.

This page was last updated on Wednesday, August 16, 2006.