Philip Nel > Courses > English 440: Harry Potter's Library (Fall 2011)

English 440: Harry Potter's Library
Required Texts
Message Board
Schedule of Assignments
Professor Philip Nel
Office Phone: 532-2165
Office: ECS 103
Office Hours: Tu & Th 12:00-1:30
p.m., & by appointment.




Tu & Th 2:30-3:45 pm
EH 021
Last updated Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Required Texts:


        This class will examine the Harry Potter phenomenon by reading the novels themselves and the works of Rowling's antecedents, influences and contemporaries. We will approach these works from a variety of critical perspectives, and we will also consult selected secondary sources. 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. So, during the course, you will:

  Points Due
Quizzes 100 In class, day reading is due.
Class Participation & 200 Daily.
Message Board Weekly.
Midterm Exam 200 In class, Oct. 20.
Paper 250 In class, Dec 1.
Final Exam 250 In class, Dec. 12, 9:40-11:30 a.m.
Total 1000  

Requirements: Paper | Quizzes | Class Participation and Attendance | Technology | Message Board | Assignments

       Paper: The paper must be typed (word-processed) and double-spaced; include a title, your name, the date; and have numbered pages that are stapled 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. 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. 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 questions, please ask. If you plagiarize, you will automatically fail this course. For more information on Kansas State University's Honor System, please visit <>.

        Quizzes: Approximately 12 times during the semester, there will be a quiz. Sometimes the quiz will be announced, and sometimes it won't. But the quiz will always address the reading for that day. Because everyone can have a bad day, I will 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 discussion for each assignment, you must have finished the reading and be ready to discuss it. "The reading" is all the text assigned for that day. We make sense of literature by discussing it. For this reason, class participation will count for 20% of your final grade. Discussion will take place both in class and out of it, via the Message 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 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. As you might guess, "I didn't know because I wasn't in class" is never an acceptable excuse.
        If you have medical reason for doing so, you may (if you provide documentation to me at the start of the term) use a portable computer for taking notes in class -- but that's all you may use it for. If you lack such a reason, then you must put your laptop away during class. Similarly, out of common courtesy, you may not text-message during class. Please turn off your cell phone. (If you're expecting an urgent communication, you may instead set the ringer to "vibrate.")

        Message Board: Post comments to the message board once a week (or more frequently, if you wish). An average posting should run 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 asses 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 your classmates' comments on the message board. Though extra postings to the message board will not automatically replace participation in class discussions, regular contributions above and beyond your weekly posting can improve your class participation grade.

       Access the message board via K-State On-Line.

  1. Log in to our class on K-State On-Line.
  2. At left, choose the "Message Board."

       Email: My email address is Please use the subject line. Due to the sheer volume of email I receive, messages without clear subject lines will be deleted unread. You can write with questions, send a thesis statement or outline for an essay, make an appointment to meet me in my office, or do anything else that could be handled with a quick exchange of messages. I check email several times daily, but I am not on-line at all times.


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: Influences and Antecedents
August Tu 23 Introduction. J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1998) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998, 1999).
  Th 25 Thomas Hughes, excerpts from Tom Brown's School Days (1857) [CP].
  Tu 30 Enid Blyton, First Term at Malory Towers (1946); Roald Dahl, excerpt from Boy (1984); Pratchett, excerpt from Pyramids (1984) [all CP].
September Th 1 E. Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet (1904), through Chapter 6 (p. 158); Rowling, "Let Me Tell You a Story" (2000) [CP].
  Tu 6 Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet, to end.
  Th 8 Clement Freud, Grimble (1968) [CP]; C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950), through Chapter 9.
  Tu 13 Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, to end.
  Th 15 Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach (1961); Rowling, "Foreword" to Families Like Us: The One Parent Families Good Book Guide (2000) [CP] and "The Not Especially Fascinating Life So Far of J. K. Rowling" (1998) [CP].
J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series
  Tu 20 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999), through Chapter 11 (p. 232); Harold Bloom, "Can 35 Million Book Buyers Be Wrong? Yes" (2000); Philip Hensher, "Harry Potter, give me a break" (2000); Jessy Randall, "Wizard Words: The Literary, Latin, and Lexical Origins of Harry Potter's Vocabulary" (2001); Nel, "You Say 'Jelly,' I Say 'Jell-O': Harry Potter and the Transfiguration of Language" [all CP].
  Th 22 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, to end.
  Tu 27 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), through Chapter 17 (p. 312).
  Th 29 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, through Chapter 28 (p. 563).
October Tu 4 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, to end. Also read at least two of the following: Westman, "Specters of Thatcherism: Contemporary British Culture in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Series" (2002); Ximena Gallardo C. and C. Jason Smith, “Cinderfella: J. K. Rowling’s Wily Web of Gender”; Schoefer, "Harry Potter's Girl Trouble"; Dresang, "Hermione Granger and the Heritage of Gender" [all CP]
  Th 6 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), through Chapter 14 (p. 306).
  Tu 11 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, through Chapter 28 (p. 623).
  Th 13 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003), to end. The Onion's "Harry Potter Books Spark Rise in Satanism Among Children" (2000); "Did you know??????" (email, 2001); Kimbra Wilder Gish, "Hunting Down Harry Potter: An Exploration of Religious Concerns About Children's Literature" (2000); Griesinger, “Harry Potter and the ‘Deeper Magic’”(2002); Nancy Churnin, "Easing Up on Harry Potter" (2005) [all CP].
  Tu 18 J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), through Chapter 9 (p. 194).
  Th 20 Midterm Exam.
  Tu 25 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, through Chapter 19 (p. 422)
  Th 27 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, to end.
November Tu 1 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007), through Chapter 12 (p. 222).
  Th 3 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, through Chapter 22 (p. 445).
  Tu 8 Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, to end.
  Th 10 Please read two articles from each category:
  • Literary Value and Marketing:
    • Jack Zipes, "The Phenomenon of Harry Potter, or Why All the Talk?" (2001) [CP]
    • John Pennington, "From Elfland to Hogwarts, or the Aesthetic Trouble with Harry Potter"(2002) [CP]
    • A.S. Byatt, "Harry Potter and the Childish Adult" [CP]
    • Sarah Green, "Letter to the Editor" (2003) [CP]
    • Donnelly, "Paperback Writer" (2004) [CP]
    • Philip Nel, "Is There a Text in This Advertising Campaign?: Literature, Marketing, and Harry Potter" (2005) [CP]
  • Rowling Speaks:
    • J. K. Rowling's website [W]
    • "The Leaky Cauldron/Mugglenet Interview with Joanne Kathleen Rowling": Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 (2005) [W]
    • "J.K. Rowling at Carnegie Hall": preliminary transcript (2007) [W]
    • Optional: For more details, post-Deathly Hallows, see Accio Quote's overview of interviews and articles for 2007
    • ... and a fan response from Rexluscus: “Snape’s Supposed Great Love, or, Why Book 7 Doesn’t Make Snape Any Less Interesting” (2008) [CP]
  Tu 15 Rowling, PotterMore (2011). Registration opens in October (I don't know what date). N.B.: If you do not register, you will not be able to access this site. Please register as soon as you can. You can learn more about PotterMore on the PotterMore Insider blog.
Friends of Harry: Contemporary British Fantasy
  Th 17 Jonathan Stroud, The Amulet of Samarkand (2003), through Part One (p. 133).
  Tu 22 University Holiday
  Th 24 Thanksgiving. NO CLASS
  Tu 29 Stroud, The Amulet of Samarkand, to end.
December Th 1 Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass (1995), through Chapter 5 (p. 97). Paper Due.
Tu 6 Pullman, The Golden Compass, through Chapter 17 (p. 302).
Th 8 Pullman, The Golden Compass, to end.
  M 12 Final Exam: 9:40-11:30 a.m.

Recommended Resources


  • Secondary Sources: For the most thorough bibliography of literary criticism on Harry Potter, see Cornelia Rémi's Harry Potter Bibliography / Bibliographie.
  • Novels (in addition to those listed above): Joan Aiken, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (1962); Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl (2001), Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident (2002), Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code (2003); 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), Linnets and Valerians (1964); Diana Wynne Jones, Witch Week (1982), The Lives of Christopher Chant (1988), The Dark Lord of Derkholm (1998), The Year of the Griffin (2000); Ursula K. LeGuin, A Wizard of Earthsea (1968), The Tombs of Atuan (1971), The Farthest Shore (1972); C. S. Lewis, the Narnia series (1950-56); William Mayne, Hob and the Goblins (1993); Terry Pratchett, Equal Rites (1987), Mort (1987), Wyrd Sisters (1988), Pyramids (1989), Witches Abroad (1991), Lords and Ladies (1992), Maskerade (1995), Carpe Jugulum (1998), The Wee Free Men (2003), A Hatful of Sky (2004), Wintersmith (2006), I Shall Wear Midnight (2010); Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife (1997), The Amber Spyglass (2000), The Ruby in the Smoke (1985), The Shadow in the North (1986), The Tiger in the Well (1991), Lyra's Oxford (2003); Jonathan Stroud, The Golem's Eye (2004), Ptolemy's Gate (2005); J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955); T. H. White, The Once and Future King (1958).


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