CentreTerm: Lee Jefferson teaches Theology of Harry Potter
The Harry Potter series is a story beloved by people of all ages, and this January, Centre College students spent an entire month understanding the theology of Harry Potter, thanks to Assistant Professor of Religion Lee Jefferson.
Jefferson’s Theology of Harry Potter is specific to CentreTerm, a January session between traditional semesters that gives students and faculty the opportunity to explore a single subject intensively.
“I enjoy CentreTerm since it’s short but intense, and students have just one course to pour all of their energy into,” Jefferson says. “It gives students an opportunity to really focus on one subject for a short period of time.”
In fact, this year’s course was inspired by an earlier CentreTerm course Jefferson taught to first-year students.
“I taught a course on comic book heroes and religion,” he explains. “The topic of fantasy novels came up in that class. The Potter series is a phenomenon that crosses generations and actually contains some deeply religious themes. As a reader, I enjoyed them, and as a scholar, I can see their pedagogical value.”
While students immersed themselves in the world of Hogwarts and witchcraft, they also expanded their understanding of theology and religious studies.
“We read more than just J.K. Rowling,” Jefferson says. “We looked at multiple books and articles that engage issues of theology and the ‘hero’ narrative.”
As per the storyline, the class of 30 students was sorted into four “Houses” akin to those of the Potter series. These Houses worked on group activities and projects — the most notable of which was a Quidditch tournament.
“I got some brooms for the students,” Jefferson explains. “And yes, there are actually rules to Quidditch, and many colleges have the game as a club sport.”
Jefferson arranged a match between his students and students at neighboring Transylvania University (pictured above).
Fun and games aside, the ultimate goal of the course was for students to understand better the themes and cycles in popular fiction and culture that have deeper implications than might be expected.
Students weren’t the only ones learning something new; Jefferson expects that this course will influence future classes he teaches.
“This course has been an interesting exploration of the issue of theodicy and the problem of evil,” he says. “We’ve been asking ‘where does Voldemort come from?’”
Learn more about CentreTerm.
By Mariel Smith