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Area college instructor finds the meaning in Harry Potter

Associated Press

Kirstin Cronn-Mills, an English, speech and creative writing instructor at South Central College, uses props in teaching a Harry Potter class.

Associated Press

NORTH MANKATO, Minn. -- In Kirstin Cronn-Mills' literature class at South Central College, it's a pretty good bet that all the students have done the reading.

That's because Cronn-Mills and her students are plumbing the depths of Harry Potter, the wildly popular series by J.K. Rowling about a boy who plays Quidditch and fights dark wizards, among other adventures.

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"When I read the series, I thought, 'Wow, this would be fun to teach,"' said Cronn-Mills, who teaches English, speech and creative writing.

Her first version of the class in summer 2004 drew 10 students; this time around, Cronn-Mills has more than 30 students for "The Mythos of Harry Potter."

Students discuss the books -- the sixth of seven was released last year, as was the file of the fourth book -- plus movies, merchandising and the popular phenomenon.

In one recent class, students mulled whether the Potter books should be classified as works for children -- or for adults. And they chewed over the film versions, plot points in the books, and inconsistencies or unanswered questions.

Jeremy Franklin, 24, of Lake Crystal, is one of the few students who hadn't read any of the Potter books before the class began. He initially took the class simply to fulfill a general education requirement; now, he's quick to defend the concept of an entire class built around the boy wizard.

"There are classes on Moby Dick, and that's just one book," he said.

Cronn-Mills said she didn't get any resistance from administrators to a Potter course. A colleague did question the literary merit, she said.

"For me, the main argument goes back to ... the monomyth, found in every culture on the planet, and that's the hero's journey," she said. "Harry Potter is just seven little hero's journeys comprising one hero's journey."

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Cronn-Mills said one purpose of the course is to show students how much fun it can be to read. Many of them grow up reading in school only because they have to, she said.

"Harry Potter bucks all that," she said. "It's fun, it's funny, it has some serious literary merit to my eyes."

She added, "Some times when you treat popular novels and fiction as a valid form of literature, people say, "Oh, wow,' and they really enjoy themselves. And maybe they read Moby Dick."

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