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‘Classic’ tales

Harry Potter and the stories of Greece and Rome

By Janet Harron

To address the frequent misconception that the study of classics refers to studying literary classics, the Department of Classics has adopted the hashtag #storiesofgreeceandrome.

To help clarify the distinction further, some faculty members helped illustrate a modern classic of literature at the Marjorie Mews Library’s annual Harry Potter book night recently.

From left are Drs. Brad Levett (“Hagrid”), Marica Cassis (“Prof. for Care of Magical Creatures”) and Milo Nikolic (“Spell Master”).

Drs. Milo Nikolic, Brad Levett and Marica Cassis, Department of History, dressed up as Hogwarts professors and taught some young “wizards and witches” a bit of Latin at the event.

“The professors were able to recreate a Hogwarts classroom within the walls of our small library and allowed those who love Harry Potter to connect with the books on a real level,” said Julia Mayo, branch supervisor.

Dr. Nikolic established the classics connection with Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries in 2016 when he began to teach Latin for fun to a group of amateur enthusiasts at the A.C. Hunter Library.

“Most Harry Potter spells are in either real Latin or borrowed from Latin words,” said Dr. Nikolic, adding that J.K. Rowling was a student of classics during her university days.

“The story of Harry Potter is, of course, also the typical hero’s quest from Greek and Roman myth.” — Dr. Milo Nikolic

There’s another connection as well.

“The story of Harry Potter is, of course, also the typical hero’s quest from Greek and Roman myth,” Dr. Nikolic said.

“The hero, Harry, is called to a quest, has supernatural help, faithful friends and sidekicks, as well as a wise mentor. He overcomes challenges and trials, descends into the underworld, defeats a monster, and, in the end, prevails and returns.”

Dr. Nikolic’s personal favourite book in the series is The Order of the Phoenix “where things turn dark.”

Hero’s quest

He believes the series’ popularity demonstrates that the myth of the hero’s quest from the Bronze Age oral tradition has lost none of its appeal to modern readers.

“In that respect, yes, one could call the Harry Potter series a ‘classic.’”

Just don’t confuse it with the name of the department.


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