Teaching Batman and Harry Potter in College

Nov 2, 2015

Nervous about how your son or daughter will do at the big university?  Now, what if she found this assignment on her syllabus: "Understand Batman as an historically and culturally specific character," with one lecture called "Batman: The Long Halloween."  Or how about this assignment: "Does Harry Potter have a role in shaping your decision-making?"  Or this essay assignment: "Loyalty and Wit: Friendship and the Formation of Dumbledore's Army."

These are parts of two courses now being taught in Iowa: "Batman and Cultural History" (Drake University) and "Harry Potter and the Quest for Enlightenment" (University of Iowa).  This hour we learn about the hows and whys of teaching popular culture in college.  Is there more to Batman than one might think?  Drake University Associate Professor of English Jeff Karnicky has done his homework on the subject, going back to the 1930s when Batman first appeared in Issue #27 of Detective Comics in "The Batman: The Case of the Chemical Syndicate."   There's been more Batman connections with popular culture of all kinds that you can believe. 

And what about Harry Potter?  Donna Parsons, lecturer in popular music at the University of Iowa, says for Millennials, "It's their version of Beatlemania, in terms of how excited they are and how invested they are in the Potter novels--the characters in the books are their friends."  Parsons, an authority on the Beatles, says she didn't even read her first Harry Potter novel until about 2011 when she realized that most of her undergraduate students were obsessed with J.K. Rowling's characters.  Now she loves them as well (well, maybe not as much as the Beatles....). 

This hour, a conversation on Batman and Harry Potter with Jeff Karnicky and Donna Parsons.