Dark robes with colorful hoods contrasted against the iconic St. La Salle Hall facade. A gaggle of witches and wizards en route to their class, not on broomsticks, but through the Agno Gate. These are only some of the magical sights that students might see around campus once a year.
Given how the magic of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has permeated beyond the pages of Harry Potter, its charm has lingered in the minds of fans long after they’ve closed the final pages of the series. A generation grew up excitedly awaiting their Hogwarts letter on their 11th birthday, and were disappointed when the fated owl never arrived.
But for some Lasallians, there exists a not-so-secret entrance to this world of magic.
“Why don’t you teach a class about Harry Potter?” reminisces “Potter Prof” Anne Frances Sangil, an assistant professor from the University’s Literature Department, over a slice of chocolate cake. The idea was brought forth when she was discussing her passion for the series with then-Department Chair Dr. David Bayot, who is also a fan.
The class is an option offered to students under the Literature Elective (ELECLIT) course. The “Harry Potter class” is actually the class tackling the works of J.K. Rowling offered alongside other classes under the course. Sangil elaborates, “We’ve been offering interesting courses [for ELECLIT]; not the usual ones like Shakespeare or Balagtas. Nag-eevolve kami (the Literature Department), we want to cater to the wishes [and interests] of the students, so we started offering [classes on] J.R.R. Tolkien, Jane Austen, and J.K. Rowling.”
Something of a cult classic—inasmuch as a
class could be one—it is notoriously difficult to snag a slot in this coveted
class. Sangil shares that she has heard many a story of the lengths that a
hopeful Lasallian witch or wizard would go to be assured a seat in the Great
Hall. One such story is how a former student became an officer in a student
organization to get an advanced enlistment slot and retook ELECLIT just for
As wildly popular as the class is now, when it was first introduced back in 2005, the Potter Prof didn’t expect it to last. Nor did she expect it to still be offered 14 years later.
‘It’s leviOsa, not levioSA!’
But what happens once you get your ticket to the University’s Platform 9 ¾?
A fellow teacher once asked in all seriousness if she taught potions in the class, Sangil laughingly recalls. “I fed into her imagination like, ‘Yes, it’s a magical school!’”
Though members of the class do study incantations, potions ingredients, and even Quidditch moves, that is not the main crux of the class, “It’s not just hero worshipping. We also look at [Rowling’s] work and see how it fits in the pantheon of literary works. We look at [the] literariness of the work.”
The question of canon
As a professor of pop culture, Sangil explains how it affects modern sensibilities and ideas of the world around us. “From the literary canon, we learn the wisdom of the masters and the writers from the past. [But] we have to talk about the things that matter to us now, and pop culture helps us understand that. Bakit ang lakas ng impact sa common tao?”
(Why is its impact so strong on people?)
To put it simply, the literary canon is composed of works that have achieved the status of “classic”. Sangil points out, however, that “there’s a certain exclusivity with the access of these books. There is wisdom in expanding and questioning the existing canon, and perhaps it will make room for those who were ignored or marginable.”
A characteristic of popular culture is its shorter shelf life. Harry Potter, however, has remained a cultural force long after the series’ final book and movie were released. It thus begs the question, “Should we include Harry Potter in the literary canon?”
“Ayaw ko muna,” declares the Potter Prof. “At least not in my lifetime because I love its position in popular culture. I like its position as a rebel. We’re studying it not because it is canon but because we want to. It loses its magic if you’re required to take it.”
Despite the years of teaching the class, the Potter Prof admits that she can never grow tired of Harry because the series has become so integral to her that teaching the course is like baring part of her soul, “I know this, rarely do I need to prepare extra for it. I only prepare extra if there’s new information that I need to incorporate. I know it by heart—it’s like exposing myself, my soul.”
Sangil believes that the stories we consume hold so much power over us. They shape our ideas, our world, and even inspire us to take action. “The books that we’re reading, these are not just works of fiction, these are works that prepare us for what’s out there. You’ve seen Harry do it, that inspires the rebellion in us. May mga nauna satin na lumalaban now, they were young once. What’s stopping you from doing the right thing? From going [down] the right path?”
(Those who came before us were young once.)
The slice of cake is completely gone, but magic remains in the air. After more than an hour talking about Harry, Literature, Hogwarts DLSU, and popular culture, Sangil starts preparing for her next class. Showing no signs of fatigue, she shares that her next class is ELECLIT and that the day’s lecture was something she was looking forward to.
After all, she is Hogwarts DLSU.
“I’m the Potter Prof.”