'Harry Potter and the trigger warning': University says book has 'difficult' content

27 January 2022, 20:11 | Updated: 28 January 2022, 07:35

A university has issued a trigger warning for JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
A university has issued a trigger warning for JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

A university has put a trigger warning on JK Rowling's first Harry Potter book, saying the fictional tale about the boy wizard could lead to 'difficult conversations about gender and race'.

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The University of Chester issued a blanket warning certain themes in its "Approaches to Literature" module, which had students read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone as one of three literary texts.

The others were Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights, all of which are considered to be fantasy, sci-fi or dystopian fiction.

Freshers were reminded that they could also "get in touch" if they had any issues with the content covered on the course.

The trigger warning seen by the Mail told students: "Although we are studying a selection of Young Adult texts on this Module, the nature of the theories we apply to them can lead to some difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class, and identity.

"These topics will be treated objectively, critically, and most crucially, with respect. If anyone has any issues with the content, please get in touch with the Module Leader to make them aware."

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It comes as JK Rowling has faced an ongoing backlash over her views on the transgender community, with a performing arts school in Essex being the latest to condemn the author's stance and drop its 'Rowling' house name.

Rowling has been very vocal on the subject, raising concerns about "the huge explosion in young women wishing to transition and also about the increasing numbers who seem to be detransitioning", and branding it "misogynistic" to deny "the importance of [biological] sex".

In response to the warning, Tory MP Andrew Bridgen tweeted: "Katniss Everdeen may have lived in a dystopian world in the Hunger Games, some may argue that our universities are creating one for our students too."

He told the Mail: "Kids understand that in any successful story characters have to face challenges, just as we all, in our lives, face them too.

"Children understand that stories without difficult themes don’t tend to be very good stories or reflect real life.

"Children and young people are amazingly resilient.

"It really is very sad that universities are seeking to rob them of that resilience with ridiculous trigger warnings."

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A spokesperson for the University of Chester said: "Those studying literature should expect to encounter all the issues, challenges and complexity of humankind.

"As a university we promote rather than avoid discussion on these.

"We do of course include a generic paragraph on our reading lists to draw attention to the opportunity for individual students to talk with tutors if anything is particularly difficult because of its personal relevance.

"Tutors know how to signpost students to specialist support which is occasionally needed but often the tutorial or seminar discussion is sufficient for a student to put an issue in context.

"The example paragraph you picked out is generic - rather than specific to the three texts you mention."