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“… So teach us something worth knowing, Bring us back what we’ve forgot, Just do your best, we’ll do the rest,
And learn until our brains all rot.“
(The Hogwarts song, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling)
Larger life lessons offered at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, as gleaned from the Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling, have made their way into the curriculum of a National Law University.
The National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata now offers an elective course on Harry Potter and its interface with Law.
Formally titled An Interface between Fantasy Fiction Literature and Law: Special Focus on Rowling’s Potterverse, the course will be offered to fourth and fifth year students of the BA LLB (Hons.) programme by faculty member, Shouvik Kumar Guha.
However, as informed in the course outline, only limited seats are available for sincere Potterheads who have read all seven books of JK Rowling’s magical saga at least twice, although watching the movies is only optional.
On what prompted the venture into such fantastic realms, the course outline points towards the understated significance of fictional narratives, although they often mirror socio-economic realities and mould generations of future citizens.
“It is true that fantasy fiction literature and children’s literature in particular have often been neglected by several law and literature scholars as well as literature critics for lacking in socio-cultural significance. However, there are others who believe that children are not simply spellbound by the plot-twists and inherent excitement of such fiction; they represent the future and all over the world, it is our future leaders, thinkers and bringers of change, who are being exposed to the wealth of social values and cultural mores intrinsically posited within such literature – therein lies its significance.”
Whereas the course curriculum is still a work in progress, it would focus on the following broad areas:
– Legal Traditions and Institutions in Potterverse (including role of law and rule of law in a magical society, moral choice and liberty in Potterverse and the role of bureaucracy in the Ministry of Magic)
– Crimes and Punishments in Potterverse (including Unforgivable Curses, Wizengamot Trials, Innocence of Sirius Black and Persecution of Tom Riddle)
– Morality, Social Values, Identity and Class Rights in Potterverse [including (human?) dignity and enslavement of House Elves, marginalization of Werewolves, Giants, Centaurs and Merpeople, Mudbloods and Squibs, militant literacy and misuse of texts]
– The Potterverse Economy (including Gringotts, magic of money and economic growth and entrepreneurship)
– Politics in Potterverse (including bases of authority, terror and counter-terror, resistance, intelligence and secret societies)
– Contracts and Agency in Potterverse (including Unbreakable Vows, Agents of Good or Servants of Evil, express will and loyalty, Snape and the Order of Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Man through and through)
– Family in Potterverse (including blood relationship, familial ties, testamentary law)
– Miscellaneous (including Quidditch and sports law, religion and destiny, Rowling’s legal battles and reflections, philosophical significance of Potterverse characters, technological anarchism and the hi-tech, low-tech wizarding world, archetypes and stereotypes, from ‘Mars is Bright Tonight’ to Horcruxes in Faerie Land and ‘Just behind the Veil’: Influences of Dante, Edmund Spenser and George MacDonald on Potterverse)
As part of evaluation for the course, students would have to write essays and present written assignments (or in the alternative, perform magic tricks for 15 minutes) apart from writing an end semester exam.
A reading list (apart from the mandatory seven Harry Potter novels) has also been prescribed for the course. However, it appears that the most important requirement for being eligible to participate in this new venture is enthusiasm.
As highlighted in the course outline statement,
“… it is expected that each student opting for this course would have already read all the books at least twice, if not more. Watching the movies is optional, though. It is also expected that the students would be enthusiastic and eager not only to merely participate in class discussion on related topics, but also to initiate such discussion and therefore, would turn up for the classes from the very beginning of the semester, if only to comment, ‘Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!'”
Read full Course Outline: