Potter's war on terror

12th December 2003 at 00:00
They have been credited with reviving interest in Latin lessons, turning a generation into avid readers and boosting the fortunes of boarding schools.

Now the Harry Potter books are helping young people cope with the global impacts of terrorism.

The claim is made in a new study of JK Rowling's series by Edmund Kern, an associate professor of history at Lawrence university in Wisconsin, United States.

Professor Kern's area of expertise is witchcraft and religious culture between 1350 and 1750. And he has explored the lessons which young people can learn from Harry's attitude and decisions.

In The wisdom of Harry Potter: what our favourite hero teaches us about moral choices, Professor Kern writes: "The terrorist assaults of September 11 2001 on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon, subsequent attacks with anthrax spores, frequent warnings from governmental officials, additional attacks overseas and war in Iraq have all replaced vague feelings of insecurity with the promise of future threats.

"Harry Potter comes to face similarly intensified threats. His world becomes increasingly uncertain."

Professor Kern argues that Harry Potter has an "updated Stoic" attitude to adversity which is ideal for coping with modern challenges. But he admits that his stoicism theory is better supported by the first four books than the most recent, Order of the Phoenix, in which Harry behaves like a petulant teenager.

Other academic essays on Rowling books include Wizardly challenges to and affirmations of the initiation paradigm, and Pottermania: good clean fun or cultural hegemony?

The Wisdom of Harry Potter by Edmund M Kern is published by Prometheus Books, pound;12.95

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