Harrius Potter breathes life into dead language

By Emily Hostetler
Transcript Reporter

“Harry Potter” is more than a children’s book to the Ohio Wesleyan Classics Club, it’s an interesting way of introducing students to the Latin language and the ancient world.

Harrius Potter is a weekly event held by the Classics Club on Fridays from 1-2 p.m. in Sturges room 105. During meetings, students join faculty members to read and decipher a Latin translation of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Junior Liz Simmons, co-consul (co-president) of Classics Club, said that people have more interest in reading Latin when the book is current.

During the meetings, students receive photocopied pages of “Harrius Potter,” as well as a list of vocabulary in order to figure out some words that may be unknown to even the people well-versed in Latin.

“We are not just reading the ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ Latin, we are looking up verb tenses so it can be academic as well as fun,” she said.

Caroline Stark, visiting assistant professor of classics, began writing “Harry Potter”-themed sentences in her beginning Latin classes to keep people engaged in the language.

“It’s a great way to practice translation without being afraid,” she said. “You can focus more on the grammar without worrying.”

Junior Marissa Popeck, co-consul of Classics Club, said this is her first time reading “Harry Potter” in Latin, but she can better understand what the text is referring to and why because she has read the English version previously.

“Students can think ‘I’ve seen this construction before’ when they see it in a paragraph that they are already familiar with,” she said.
“Harrius Potter” allows people who share a love of Harry Potter and a curiosity of Latin to come together.

“We have different people coming together from different grades and departments,” Popeck said.

“Some people are not sure what we (Classics Department) do and this is a good way to reach out to the campus.”

Freshman Selena Ross took a few years of Latin in high school and wanted to continue her Latin studies at OWU.

“I have always loved ‘Harry Potter,’ and while Latin is a more recent interest, it is fascinating for me to see the two combined,” she said.

“Some people have backgrounds in Latin, some people do not, but everyone seemed excited about the idea of ‘Harrius Potter.’”

Lee Fratantuono, associate professor of classics, William Francis Whitlock professor of Latin and co-moderator of Classics Club, said the Classics Club usually does various activities throughout the semester connected to the ancient world.

“It is a tradition for great works of modern literature to be translated into Latin,” he said. “Many great works of fantasy are indebted to the classics. J.K. Rowling’s study of classics informs her books.”

While the main focus of the Harrius Potter events is to read and translate, it is also a time for “Harry Potter” fans to talk about their love of the series and franchise.“All levels of Latin are welcome as well as people who love ‘Harry Potter’ and have an interest in classics,” Stark said. “Come enjoy classical language and just see what it looks like.”

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