HARRY POTTER GOES TO COLLEGE

From: Media Relations

Dr. Elisabeth Gumnior
July 12, 2005

Like Harry Potter fans around the world, Elisabeth C. Gumnior of James Madison University is anxiously awaiting the clock's stroke of one minute after midnight on Saturday, July 16.

That, of course, is the appointed, official time for the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth book in the wildly popular adventure series by British author J.K. Rowling.

While the Harry Potter books are aimed at young readers, about ages 8 to 16, Gumnior and many other adults find the series well-crafted and just plain fun to read. Beyond the pure reading appeal, Gumnior has found the Harry Potter books worthy of academic merit so much so that she developed an honors section course for JMU's Critical Reading and Writing general education course.

Gumnior, an associate professor in the university's Writing and Rhetoric Program, taught "The World of Harry Potter: A Critical Cross-Disciplinary Examination" in JMU's spring 2005 semester and will again teach the course in the upcoming semester, which begins Aug. 29.

Gumnior read the first two books in Rowling's award-winning series to determine if the wildfire of popularity was just a fad or whether there was actually something more to it. By book three, Gumnior was hooked on the series and its author's writing prowess.

"I'm just amazed how well she constructs," Gumnior said. "She keeps her thread through all the books. She's extremely consistent."

Gumnior's students study Rowling's books through various critical lenses and read scholarly essays and mainstream media reviews to learn more about critical writing and thinking. One class assignment requires students to write teacher guides and sample lesson plans based on the Potter books that math, biology and English language arts teachers could use to tap into the Potter phenomenon to encourage learning.

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