Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
May 22, 2006
DeKalb, Ill. — As self-proclaimed Harry Potter freaks, Karley Adney and Caresse John certainly know quidditch from Quirrell, Hagrid from Hermione and the Weasley brothers from the Weird Sisters.
The Northern Illinois University faculty members have read the Harry Potter series many times, know the characters and culture, have seen all the movies and even use the books as an instructional tool in their freshman composition and literature courses.
Now Adney and John are turning their attention to a younger audience in launching the first ever NIU Muggle Academy, an academic summer camp that will be modeled after Hogwarts, the fictional school of witchcraft and wizardry where Harry Potter comes of age.
The Muggle Academy will run from June 18 to June 23 and is geared for junior high and high school students. Campers will meet peers who share a passion for Potter, play a mortal version of quidditch, participate in trivia contests, attend a Yule Ball and watch and study the four Harry Potter movies.
Participating students will reside and eat in the Summer Conference Center, a residence hall on NIU's campus. Cost and registration information can be found online at http://www.niu.edu/clasep/Camps/.
Adney and John, who are both working on their Ph.D.s in English, came up with the idea for the Muggle Academy after attending the Witching Hour symposium held last fall in Salem, Mass. Adney was a presenter at the academic meeting, which explored the Harry Potter books and culture.
“It was a 12-hour drive home, and we basically planned the whole camp,” John says. Although there is some debate among academics, both she and Adney consider the Harry Potter series to be great literature.
“J.K. Rowling is a much more complex writer than people think on their first read,” John says. “She has a big plan in her head, is good at foreshadowing and knows a lot about science, math and mythology. On top of all that, she's just a good storyteller. You can't put the books down.”
Adney, who is publishing a scholarly paper this summer on teaching Harry Potter to college students and goes by the e-mail moniker of “muggleprof,” calls the series an instant classic.
“I teach it because I think everyone can relate to it,” she says. “Whether they like the books or not, the students relate to the issues of friendship, race, gender and class. The characters and themes are very diverse, so there's usually something that speaks to a reader.”
Adney also notes that Rowling's books pay homage to the great works of western literature. For instance, in the fourth book, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the band that provides entertainment at the Yule Ball is known as the Weird Sisters, a clear allusion to the three witches, also known as the weird sisters, in Shakespeare's “Macbeth.”
The NIU Muggle Academy will not only focus on literature but also will incorporate interdisciplinary lessons. NIU professors from various departments will serve as guest speakers on topics related to the science and mathematics of the Harry Potter series. As at Hogwarts, campers will be sorted into houses. Each house will work on a group project, designing a new wizarding school, quidditch team or shop for Diagon Alley (a favored shopping district for wizards).
“The activities are designed to make campers combine their writing, science and math skills,” Adney says. “We want students to learn more about regular school subjects through the magical lens of the Harry Potter series.”
Deborah DeRosa, an NIU professor of English with an expertise in children's literature, will serve as faculty adviser for the NIU Muggle Academy, and NIU students who are also Harry Potter enthusiasts have volunteered to help with the camp.
“The intent is to bring the literature to life,” DeRosa says. “It'll be a complete immersion. The students should get a lot out of this learning experience, and I think they'll have a great time as well.”