Harry Potter and the Sacred Text is a podcast-based class for students ages 11-14. The aim of this class is two-fold: 1) to discuss the "Big Questions" of life such as good vs. evil, friendship, loyalty, loneliness and isolation, sacrifice, bullying, generosity, or the nature of forgiveness, and 2) to introduce middle-schoolers to the type of close reading they will have to do in high school and college.
Each week students will be asked to read (or re-read!) one or two chapters of the first Harry Potter book and to listen to one or two episodes of the podcast Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. The podcast is hosted by two divinity scholars who approach the Harry Potter books the same way they have been trained to read sacred texts such as the Bible: by paying close attention to the text itself (whether or not they agree with it), and then by discussing its major themes and deeper messages together in a group.
Despite the word "sacred" in the title, this is not a religion class! What it shares in common with religion classes, however, is a deep engagement with a particular book and a commitment to discussing philosophical questions that transcend time and place — questions we consider universal to the human experience. Too often, high school students are asked to do this for the first time using books that are difficult and unfamiliar. In this class, middle-schoolers will become comfortable with higher-level textual analysis using a beloved book from elementary school. This will help them develop a more sophisticated approach to literature that they can use later when they encounter more complex texts.
For more information about the podcast, read “Our Team” and “Our Methodology”. You can also listen to a few episodes if you'd like to know more before you enroll.
NOTE: Students must turn 11 by September, 2019, to enroll in this class. Although many younger students are avid Harry Potter fans, our focus is not on the plot of the books, but rather on reading and discussion strategies that will be useful in high school. To that end, they should approach this as a literature and philosophy class, not as a book club or fan group.
Instructor: Laura Fokkena
Age range: 11-14
Outside work: 1-2 chapters of the first Harry Potter book and 1-2 podcasts each week. Because the focus is on “close reading,” students should commit to re-reading the book even if they’ve read it before.
When & where: Fridays at Voyagers in Chelmsford (directions) from 10:00-11:00, Sept. 20-Dec. 13, 2019. No class Nov. 29 (Thanksgiving break).
Fee: $150 for the semester, which includes a non-refundable registration fee of $10. Students should own their own copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (not a library copy) and be willing to mark it up with highlights and inked notes in the margins. Please read our media policy. $10 discount for Voyagers members. Payment plans available. Fees waived for families with financial need. (Waivers and payment plan information.)
Photo credit: Laura Fokkena