My thanks to the prospective students of the Harry Potter elective for their positive feedback, it seems I’m on the right track regarding the issues they expect me to raise in class. Now, this post refers to a problem that I’m having regarding this subject in particular but that can be extended to any other university course: the bibliography.

You might think that the problem is the lack thereof considering that Rowling is not a literary author. Well, you’re dead wrong: the MLA carries more than 450 items though this list is by no means complete, as a quick check of confirmed. I’m speaking about academic publications and not the type of book aimed at fans (pop encyclopaedias, reading guides, personal essays, etc.). The complete list must be truly staggering. (You would be surprised, by the way, at the very high number of academic and non-academic publications that address Harry Potter from a concerned or censorious Christian point of view… yes, mostly by American authors. Vade retro Voldemort!!)

With the usual patience these things require, I have managed to produce a ‘reasonable’ bibliography which, nonetheless, includes 13 monographs (2 in Spanish), 14 collective books and 23 articles in academic journals. Of all these, my guess is that maybe 30% of the articles are available from UAB (‘downloadable’); the rest is not available, at least not near home, that is to say, in the Catalan universities (I have checked CBUC, which to my surprise does carry some of those non-academic titles but just one decent academic monograph).

Thinking of buying some of the collective books, at least, for the UAB library I spent some time checking Amazon prizes. Now I honestly don’t know what to do.

Prices run from £15 to £45, with Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter: Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text, which sounds perfect for my needs, reaching £200. At this point my Department has no money to pay for our phone bills (really) and I very much doubt we’ll have money for books. I think I should need to spend at least 150 euros on a minimally serious bibliography (I already bought Rowling’s series for my personal use –with my own money– and for the UAB library with public money). I will simply not invest that money on a subject I might teach just once in my lifetime and I am beginning to feel guilty that, if that’s the case, I should not ask the Departament to spend a single euro on it.

Then, there’s the option I won’t even mention considering that CEDRO has sued my incredibly impoverished university for thousands of euros on the grounds that we are damaging the rights of authors by uploading books or parts of them onto our Virtual Campus. I’m sure you understand why, though as a CEDRO member this is not a practice I should encourage (I don’t, but then I need to ask publishers why the price of academic books is so high).

I can always ask students to buy just one book for background reading, which might be, I think, Cynthia Hallett’s Casebook, J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter (2012) and which sounds at just £15 reasonable enough. The problem is that this choice puts the edition of the materials I need for my subject in her hands, not mine…

So, when I claim that this problem can be extrapolated to any other subject you can see what I mean: learning costs money and so does teaching. Students complain, rightly, that they cannot spend money on their education and we, the institution that educates them, are more and more constrained by lack of funding to provide what they can’t afford.

So… it’ll have to be the Casebook…??

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