“We’ve retitled your course this semester, Reginald,” said the dean. “Take a look.”

Reginald took a copy of the catalog and blanched. “This is too much, Fred,” he said. “It really is. Do we really want to reduce British literature to something so glib?”

“You’ve mentioned it in class before,” said the dean, bristling. “I’ve read the evaluations.”

“Only to keep the kids from sleeping,” Reginald continued. “Only as a low-rent, bargain-basement entry in the the greater world of literature. They have been producing fine literary works in Britain since the reign of Claudius, Fred. That canon has Beowulf and Chaucer and Spenser and Milton.”

“Well, who’s to say this won’t be in the canon?” the dean asked.

“It’s a bit early for that, wouldn’t you say?” snapped Reginald. “There were books considered absolutely essential a hundred years ago that no one reads now. I’m sure a deacon at Oxford would have thought teaching The Water-Babies was a good idea in 1914, but who remembers that soggy moralizing tripe now, popular as it was?”

“Well, when people forget about this, we can change the name of the course back,” the dean said icily. “Until then, in this climate of cuts for arts and humanities, hitching your carriage to something popular is the only way to keep teaching this course. Unless you’d like to take 5 sections of English 101, of course.”

“Welcome to ENGL 433: Harry Potter and Friends,” Richardson grumbled to his class six weeks later. “In this course we will look at British literature through the lends of boy wizards, and read texts that J. K. Rowling may have been influenced by, referred to, owned, or seen on a bookstore shelf at one time or another.”

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!
Advertisements