Published: 17th November 2020
Meet the Potterhead law professor from Kolkata who designed a Harry Potter curriculum
We spoke to Shouvik Kumar Guha, a Law professor from Kolkata who designed a curriculum on Harry Potter
In an ideal world, I would have to read Harry Potter to pass my exams. Too bad I never got to learn Law or be a student of Shouvik Kumar Guha at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata. Two years ago, he had designed an elective for fourth and fifth-year law students, completely based out of J K Rowling's legendary novel series. Guha is now all set to accept students for the second batch of 'An Interface between Fantasy Fiction Literature and Law: Special Focus on Rowling’s Potterverse'.
The course accepts 40 students, 20 from each year and now Guha is eager to conduct his first Potterverse lecture online. "Reading all seven Harry Potter books is a mandate before enrolling in this course," Guha states the obvious. In fact, he expects the students to have read the books at least twice. However, none of these seven books are part of the references section.
"This is a full-fledged elective paper. For evaluation, students have to submit an essay that is graded for 25 marks and have to present it. There is also an open book examination," says the 35-year-old professor, who was introduced to the Harry Potter series as a tenth grader. Now if you think that passing this course is a walk in the park, you are probably wrong. It's more like a walk through the Forbidden Forest. Guha laughs when he says that his students know how he always designs the toughest courses and does not give marks easily. "This course has one of the bulkiest reading material. There are around 4 books and plenty of articles that the students have to refer to. Apart from that, there are different kinds of assignments," he says.
The reason for designing the course, Guha says, was to make his students react better as lawyers in a non-traditional scenario. He says that he could have easily picked out cases from real life, "But my students come from diverse social and political backgrounds and people will be divided about their ideas and judgements. At the same time, the students are taught what the law is but not why it exists. Also, there are multiple scenarios in the contemporary world, that changes our notions of law," he says. "So, I thought of presenting them with something completely new. The Potterverse is something on which most students are on the same page. No one thinks that Voldemort was a saint," he laughs.
Guha then draws parallels about how different scenarios in the Harry Potter books can be related to the real world. "There is a case of Sirius Black not getting a fair trial. We also discuss the working of the economy with the Gringotts Wizarding Bank and how trade would have existed with two parallel economies in the wizarding and the muggle world," he says.
Lucky for this Potterhead prof, the administration at his university are completely on board with the idea. "Our university allows a lot of space for experimentation. I do not know how things would have been in the other NLUs in the country," he says. Now, there is another dream project that Guha is excited about — designing a project analysing the role that law plays in different comics and graphic novels. You never know, you may actually be studying Marvel and DC comics for your exams.