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JK Rowling: University course slaps trigger warning on first Harry Potter book and more

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The University of Chester has added a content warning regarding Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone as part of its literature module. The book was originally written in 1997 and kickstarted one of the most successful series of all time. The complete franchise has sold over 500 million copies across more than 60 languages. Copies have been shipped out to schools and universities across the UK and beyond for years. Written by JK Rowling, the author has become a controversial figure for her comments on transgenderism. Now the University’s English Department has told its students to contact the Module Leader if they have “any issues” regarding the text.

The book is one of a number of set texts, joining Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. The content warning can be found at the bottom of the module guide given to all students that are part of the course.

Seen by MailOnline, the trigger warning reads: “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.”

The Approaches to Literature module is led by Dr Richard Leahy, who has previously commented on Rowling on social media. On Twitter, he wrote “JK Rowling reveals that he is not the best mate of mine,” back in March 2019.

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However, North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen said: “Before they were successful films, series such as Harry Potter, the Hunger Games and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights had already succeeded in introducing millions of children to books and literature. 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. 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.”

It comes after a school in Essex chose to rename a house that previously honoured Rowling by being named after her. In July, The Bowells School said: “Following numerous requests by students and staff… and in light of JK Rowling’s comments and viewpoints surrounding trans people”. Now, the house is named after Olympic athlete Dame Kelly Holmes.

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The backlash against Rowling started in June 2020 when the author tweeted her criticism of the use of the phrase “people who menstruate” instead of “woman”. This led to accusations of transphobia, with many of the cast members of the Harry Potter films speaking out against the comments.

In a statement released via The Trevor Project, Daniel Radcliffe wrote: “Transgender women are women. Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”

Emma Watson took to Twitter, writing: “Trans people are who they say they are and deserve to live their lives without being constantly questioned or told they aren’t who they say they are. I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are.”

Luna Lovegood’s Evanna Lynch, Eddie Redmayne (star of the Fanstatic Beasts prequels), Ginny Weasley’s Bonnie Wright are other stars also spoke out against Rowling’s views.

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