Celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter

The “Harry Potter” series has been republished multiple times with new cover art, including new illustrated editions with full-page artwork by illustrator Jim Kay. Photo by Ren Friemann

The “Harry Potter” series has been republished multiple times with new cover art, including new illustrated editions with full-page artwork by illustrator Jim Kay. Photo by Ren Friemann

Author J. K. Rowling’s story of Harry Potter has captivated the imaginations of generations since the first book of the seven-book series, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was published in 1997 by Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom.

The book made its American debut as “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in 1998, and since then Rowling’s wizarding world has been brought to life on screen, on stage in the play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” and at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, as a themed area.

The “Harry Potter” series’ influence can even be seen on UMD’s campus.

Quidditch Club is an an on-campus organization in which students can play “Muggle Quidditch,” or an on-the-ground version of J. K. Rowling’s fictional sport. In the “Harry Potter” series this is played in the air on broomsticks.

President of Quidditch Club and captain of the Hufflepuff Quidditch Team Nathan Gasmen offered insight into what a typical Quidditch practice looks like. It’s a sport that combines physical activity with something he had always wanted to do from watching the “Harry Potter” movies, Gasmen explained.

“When it’s warmer out, we meet out on the field,” Gasmen said. “We start out with 15 minutes of warm-up. [During the warm-up] I talk about a drill I’d like to try out, whether it’s new—something the team hasn’t seen yet—or just an old drill. Depending on how long the drill goes we either do another drill or hop into scrimmages.”

The Quidditch seen in the “Harry Potter” movies is a little different from the Quidditch played at UMD.

“It does have modifications, but it’s the same premise as in the movies,” Gasmen said. “They can fly but we can’t. The [Golden Snitch] is played by an unbiased person.”

The organization even hosts Harry Potter-inspired events.

“In the winter, at the beginning of spring semester, we throw a Yule Ball,” Lizzy Crosby, the treasurer of Quidditch Club and captain of the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, said. “People can dance. People can dress up. We have a raffle, free food.”

Members of Quidditch Club enjoy its welcoming environment.

“You don’t have to be a ‘Harry Potter’ nerd to join,” Quidditch Club member Naseem Farahid said. “Quidditch has such a nice and inclusive environment. It truly feels like family and was one of the reasons why I feel UMD is home… I think it is a fandom that we can all bond over.”

Quidditch Club isn’t the only place Harry Potter is seen around UMD. A new class on campus, Harry Potter: Texts and Contexts, is centered around the best-selling series.

Professor Carolyn Sigler provided background on the course over email.

“We’re reading the entire seven-novel series (just under 4200 pages!) over the course of the semester,” Sigler said. “Student response has been positive—the class filled up quickly—and at this point, the plan is to offer ENGL 2333 [Harry Potter: Texts and Contexts] each fall.”

One of the reasons behind the “Harry Potter” series’ success is that the books combine accessible style and relatable characters with opportunities to read and think about the books more deeply for readers who are inclined, according to Sigler.

“[The novels have] complex plots and character development, many levels of thematic meaning, and a challenging range of literary allusions that include classical mythology, Chaucer, fairytales, Austen, and Dickens, which reward thoughtful reading,” Sigler explained. “The novels are written so that they can be enjoyed on many different levels and in a variety of ways simultaneously.”

Some may draw comparisons between themes in the novels and issues we face in real life.

“The ‘Harry Potter’ novels develop themes that speak to very contemporary cultural and political concerns,” Sigler said. “As the series develops and Harry matures, the books become increasingly complex and rich in their treatment of social issues such as power and authority; friendship and loyalty; the importance of education; the use of fear and terror to control and manipulate; the consequences of oppression and discrimination; the potentially corrupting effects of fame and celebrity.”

With movies like “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” expanding the wizarding world, it seems that the magic of the series will continue for years to come.

“I think we are all enchanted with the idea of getting a letter of invitation to attend a magical school and pursue a magical education and go on magical adventures,” Farahid said. “Heck, I am still waiting for my Hogwarts letter.”

Fans can look forward to the next movie, “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,” coming out on Nov. 18.

CultureRen Friemann