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TNT OFFBEAT | Kolkata, October 24, 2018
Potterheads take note! A law university in Kolkata is offering a new course on Harry Potter which will encourage students to explore legal aspects of JK Rowling's fictional world and its many real life lessons. The course titled "An interface between Fantasy Fiction Literature and Law: Special focus on Rowling's Potterverse" will be offered as an elective to 4th and 5th year students of the B.A LL.B (Hons) programme at the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) in Kolkata.
The course, designed for the winter semester by assistant professor Shouvik Kumar Guha, attempts to serve as a breather from the orthodox law school curriculum.
"This course is meant to be more of an experiment. It will take both me and the students out of our comfort zones," Guha told PTI in a phone interview.
"In law schools, people get a very specific set of subjects. The curriculum revolves around the hard letter of the law, case laws etc. Given the fact that this course lasts about five years, students also get bored," he said.
Students will learn to apply legal principles in a completely new scenario, and understand how things will work through insights into a wizarding world constantly under government surveillance.
Given the many societal, legal and political changes, including the slew of landmark Supreme Court judgements, law students need to learn to adapt and respond to events unfolding around them, Guha said.
"I could have designed the course based on our real political situation but it is not necessary that all my students will share my political leanings," he said. Guha decided instead to turn to a fictional universe, which would not create political controversies but help students learn to apply their legal knowledge to a completely alien set of scenarios.
According to a statement by NUJS, the Harry Potter series vividly exposes the limitations of laws and institutions.
In Potterverse for example, The Ministry of Magic uses its representatives to torture children for daring to tell the truth, and imprisons or even executes its citizens without the benefit of due process of law.
Its infamous prison Azkaban is designed to drive inmates to despair and suicidal tendencies without any hope of reformation In numerous instances, the wealthy control and influence government policy.. Freedom of the press in Potterverse is curtailed, and the major newspaper 'The Daily Prophet' is used to spread propaganda.
The series thus provides a unique platform for students to reflect and compare the legal situations with their own government. The course aims to cover legal traditions and institutions, crimes and punishments, economy, politics, contracts in the Potterverse.
Guha says his assignments to the students would be very creative in nature, and hopes that some of the works can eventually be published.
"I was introduced to Potterverse in my tenth standard. Since then I have read the books multiple times. I am familiar with each and every line of all the seven books. So it will come to me naturally," said Guha, quipping that he probably knows Harry Potter literature better than Company Law.
Classes for the course are due to start this December. This is not the first time in India that a professor has turned to the magical world of Harry Potter to pique student interest.
Rashmi Raman, a former student of NUJS, first started a Potterverse-centric elective law course at the Jindal Global Law School in Sonipat in 2012.
The course was one of the most popular among students in the law school, Raman told PTI.
"I have not offered it for the last two semesters because it always exceeds the class limit, and I end up having to teach a class of 40-45, when I could teach another elective and get away with 15-20 students," she said.
Raman said she plans to bring back the course again in the spring semester.
Rowling's series of seven books — which were made into eight films — about the boy wizard Harry Potter and his friends Ron and Hermoine has already found its way into classrooms abroad. The Kansas State University in the US, for instance, offers a class called "Harry Potter's Library," where students have the opportunity to examine political themes that reoccur in the series. Frostburg University, also in the US, offers "Science of Harry Potter" which teaches students about the scientific concepts behind the magical events in the series.
For example, students explore the physics that makes Quidditch possible and the possible genetics associated with magical creatures.