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Wizards, Muggles to celebrate Harry Potter Day

March 30, 2011

Academics and popular culture will collide on April 7 at Arizona State University’s West campus during a celebration of Harry Potter Day. Students enrolled in the Harry Potter and American Culture course, offered by the American Studies program in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, have taken the lead in planning a full schedule of events ranging from a Quidditch tournament to children’s activities to discussions of Harry Potter and sexuality and race.

All events, at 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix, are free and open to the public. Visitor parking on the West campus costs $2 per hour.

“The Harry Potter course that spawned this event has been successful beyond our wildest expectations,” said Monica Casper, director of New College’s Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies. “Clearly, we have tapped into a cultural phenomenon that is also intellectually rich and provocative, whether the analytic focus is on myth, religion, play, gender, generation gaps, magic, friendship, or hope in the presence of darkness.”

Shannon Lank, the New College faculty associate who teaches the course, describes her group of students as one that every educator dreams of having.

“They are enthusiastic and hard-working, and they pose meaningful questions and engage in open, honest debate during class,” Lank said. “We have more than 80 students in the class. The number was higher when the semester started, but a few people quickly dropped the class when they realized that it would be academically rigorous.”

Casper said she understands it can be easy to ridicule academic examinations of popular culture as lacking rigor.

“As a sociologist, a mother of two young daughters, and a Harry Potter fan, I believe it’s a mistake to underestimate the power of popular culture,” she said. “Books, movies, art, music, digital media and games reflect and refract cultural meanings and politics; these shift across time and space, making the study of American pop culture always relevant to defining who ‘we’ are. The fact that something makes us smile and laugh doesn’t mean profound insight is not wrapped up inside the fun.”

Lank said Harry Potter Day activities are designed to showcase New College and the West campus, with faculty and student involvement in discussions and a Harry Potter scavenger hunt designed to acquaint participants with campus amenities.

“Education majors from the Teachers of the Future club will be helping with the Kids Zone activities, and students in the Las Casas residence hall will compete in a dorm room decorating contest. The campus has really united behind this event. The community is involved as well, with Quidditch teams from local high schools and some local recreational teams participating in the tournament,” Lank said.

The day’s activities include:

Wand-making Workshop

9:00-10:15 a.m., basketball courts west of Sands Classroom Building

House Points Tournament with students from the Harry Potter and American Culture class

10:30-11:45 a.m., University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom A

Muggle Studies Presentation: “Death Eater Attack,” “Order of the Phoenix Rescue”

Noon-1:30 p.m., University Center Building, Delph Courtyard

Harry Potter Video Gaming

1:30-5:30 p.m., Classroom Lab/Computer Classroom Building, Room 239

Potter Scavenger Hunt

2:00 p.m., across the campus

Discussion: Harry Potter and Race

New College faculty member Bertha Manninen will lead the discussion.

2:30-3:30 p.m., University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom A

Quidditch Tournament

3:00-7:30 p.m., Fletcher Library Lawn

Discussion: Defense Against the Dark Arts – The Impossible Horcrux

New College faculty member Tuomas Manninen will lead the discussion.

3:30-4:30 p.m., University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom A

Kids Zone featuring face painting, bounce house, puppet making, kids’ wands, coloring tables, reading circle and more

3:00-8:00 p.m., outdoors between the University Center Building and Faculty/Administration Building

Wizards Play

3:00-7:00 p.m., University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom B

Wand-making Workshop

4:00-5:00 p.m., basketball courts west of Sands Classroom Building

Discussion: Harry Potter and Sexuality

New College instructor Shannon Lank will lead the discussion.

4:30-5:30 p.m., University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom A

Comedy Night, featuring Harry Potter Puppet show and multiple performances of Potterness

8:00-10:00 p.m., University Center Building, La Sala Ballroom A, B & C

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