Harry Comes to Campus
Harry Potter currently attends the University of Virginia. Actually, a search for the name Harry Potter on Thefacebook.com , a popular online social network for college students, retrieves 32 profiles for "Harry Potter" at universities across the nation.
A work of magic? Hardly. The number who use the boy wizard's name as their screen name when they log in underscores the books' popularity with college students. As the Harry Potter generation grows up, they're bringing a dash of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the quads and classrooms of real universities.
Eighteen-year-old Emerson Spartz founded mugglenet.com , a popular Potter website that receives more than 15 million hits a month, when he was just 12. This fall, Spartz heads off to the University of Notre Dame, and he says he has already been flooded with E-mails from students there begging him to start a Potter club. If he decides he has time to get one going, it won't be the first. At the University of California-Berkeley, 907 students are members of a Potter group on Thefacebook.com, while 943 Harvard University students list the book series as one of their interests.
Vanishing act. The teen wizard also is showing up in the lecture halls. At Frostburg State University in Maryland, physics Prof. George Plitnik--occasionally known to dress as Hogwarts Headmaster Dumbledore in a black robe and pointed wizard hat--has taught four courses that examine the magic in Harry Potter using scientific theories. In one lesson, students investigated the possibility of using a wormhole through time to "apparate" --wizardspeak for vanishing from one place to reappear elsewhere.
At Kansas State University, English Prof. Philip Nel teaches the popular course "Harry Potter's Library," in which J. K. Rowling's books are read along with their literary influences, such as C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe . Writing teacher Cynthia Ryan of Middle Tennessee State University uses Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in her class. "There are so many ways to look at it," says Ryan. "I could see an entire course of Arthurian legends and myths compared to Harry Potter as the archetypal hero or a literary theory course studying Harry Potter through Marxist criticism."
As with children, though, Potter's real spell seems to be reminding college students that reading can be fun. "Remember when you were a little kid, and you used to like reading in your free time?" asks Amanda Morin, 21, a Yale senior and religious studies major. "Now I go to the bookstore, and I pull out other books and read them in my spare time. [Potter's] gotten me reading fiction again."
This story appears in the July 25, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.