Rutgers Professor Questions Effect Of ‘Potter’ Films On Literacy
CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) – With the hours dwindling until the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie (see related story), a professor who’s used the books in his classes is unsure what the fuss is all about.
There’s no doubting the impact of the Potter books on students, says JT Barbarese, who teaches at Rutgers University in Camden.
One class, a survey of children’s literature from the 17th century to the first Potter tale, contains maybe 80 percent students who’ve read them, or are familiar enough with them for discussion.
But he’s not much of a fan of how they’re written.
“I really don’t understand the fascination based simply on the style of the books,” Barbarese says. “They’re okay. I think stylistically they are absolutely inferior to Anne of Green Gables, for instance. Maybe stylistically they come close to the Oz books, although I think the Oz books do a different thing and do it more effectively.”
Nor does he like how they’re brought to the screen.
“It’s almost as though the films were shot as Cliff’s Notes to the books, if you know what I mean. There’s not a whole lot there that you can actually learn about character. I don’t think you’re supposed to, actually. I think they are simply driving another market or driving another set of interests.”
He wonders about the way readers will build Harry’s world in their minds, now that the films have cemented their own interpretation. He recalls two girls commenting that Emma Watson was just too good-looking to be Hermione the way they imagined.
Barbarese is also leery of claims the Potter books have spurred reading. He says Potter fans can just as easily glom onto video games as a new book.
Reported by John Ostapkovich, KYW Newsradio 1060