In this course, we will critically examine the literature of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling's incorporation of astronomy, astrology, and Greek mythology. By the end of the course, students will have a solid understanding of the differences between astronomy and astrology, how astrology originated from Greek Mythology, and how all of these topics are incorporated into the Harry Potter Universe.
Part 1: Astronomy vs. Astrology
In our first session, we will analyze two Harry Potter professors and the subjects they teach at Hogwarts. Our first character case study will be Professor Aurora Sinistra and her Astronomy Class. She teaches a core class at Hogwarts, and yet this professor and the contents of her class are somewhat of a mystery. Second, we'll study Professor Trelawney and her Divination Class. She also teaches about the stars and planets, just like Professor Sinistra, but instead of calling in astronomy, she calls it astrology. What's up with that? By the end of class, students should have an understanding of how these two topics taught at Hogwarts are the same, and how they're different.
Part 2: Planets
This week will be an analysis of the incorporation of the planets in the Harry Potter books. Are these examples of astronomy, or astrology? How does J.K. Rowling incorporate allusion and the historical context of the planets in both astrology and astronomy into her works? We'll also introduce the subtle - but important - connection J.K. Rowling makes with Greek mythology, and this mythology's inseparable ties to astronomy and astrology.
Part 3: The Moon
The moon has a great deal of symbolic value in the Harry Potter series. We'll discuss how J.K. Rowling incorporated a history of superstitions and beliefs about Earth's moon as the backdrop for many Harry Potter events. We'll examine what professors Sinistra and Trelawny teach about the moon. This week also includes a character study of Luna Lovegood and her relationship to her namesake (Luna, the Roman goddess of the moon).
Part 4: More Mythology
Our understanding and appreciation of the depth of Rowling's characters will be enhanced by our analysis of their names. For instance, Minerva McGonagall, Quirinus Quirrell, and Remus Lupin are all named after characters from Greek and Roman mythology - and the similarities to their Greek and Roman namesakes cannot be a coincidence!
Part 5: Stars and Constellations
In this class, we'll focus heavily on J.K. Rowling's use of the star and constellation names as a means to incorporate allusion and symbolism into her works. For instance, we'll discuss Sirius Black's connection to the star Sirius (the dog star). We'll examine why Rowling chose to use the names of specific stars (those named after pureblood characters in Greek and Roman mythology) as names on the Black Family tree, in order to further emphasize the "Pureblood Pride" that the Black family valued so highly. Merope Gaunt's story from Harry Potter is exactly the same as the story of Merope from mythology; we'll discuss the intended symbolism behind the author's choice of story. We'll also tie what we're learning back to Professors Sinistra and Trelawney; how do they view the sky differently in their own fields of expertise?
Part 6: Stars and Constellations, Continued
In the final class, we will conclude our exploration of the night sky. This inscludes discussion of the literary device known as "foreshadowing" in J.K. Rowling's books. For example, Sirius' younger Regulus - why was he named after a star in a lion constellation (the mascot for Gryffindor) when he comes from a Slytherin family? Answer: because J.K. Rowling was using his name as foreshadowing! We'll also look at how Rowling used foreshadowing in the story of Remus Lupin, Delphini Diggory, and Andromeda Tonks, as well. Some other characters we'll analyze this week (all named or modeled after stars and constellations) includes Corvus Lestrange, Scorpius Malfoy, Firenze (an allusion to Chiron/Sagittarius), Fawkes the Phoenix, and possibly Frank the Thunderbird (if time).