University of Chester puts trigger warning on Harry Potter module over ‘difficult conversations’

A university has given a content warning to students reading JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book over ‘difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class, and identity’.

The University of Chester’s English Department sounded the klaxon to freshers on its Approaches to Literature module, led by Dr Richard Leahy.

It even told them they could raise concerns with him if they had ‘any issues’ with the topics discussed. 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is one of the course’s three set literary texts alongside Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.

The trigger warning seen by MailOnline tells 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.’

It comes after JK Rowling’s views on transgender rights has seen her criticised from some quarters.

A number of schools have distanced themselves from her, even removing her as a house name in some cases. 

The course looking at the book by JK Rowling is accompanied by a students’ content warning 

The Harry Potter books led to a series of blockbuster films, starring Daniel Radcliffe

The course lists three books among other texts that will be read and discussed by students

The warning at the bottom of the course description is not found on other modules for the year

University course leader Dr Leahy has posted on social media about the Harry Potter author previously.

In a tweet in March 2019 he wrote: ‘JK Rowling reveals that he is not the best mate of mine’.

The warning at the bottom of his module is not featured on any other reading lists seen by MailOnline, which include works by Shakespeare, Charlotte Brontë and Arthur Conan Doyle. 

MP Andrew Bridgen told MailOnline: ‘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.’

A spokesperson for the University of Chester, which was founded in 1839, insisted: ‘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.

The University of Chester did not respond to a request for a comment about the warning

The English module leader Dr Richard Leahy has tweeted about JK Rowling previously

‘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.’

It did not respond further when asked why this particular reading list was unique in featuring the warning.

It comes in the same month MailOnline revealed a secondary school specialising in performing arts had cancelled Ms Rowling as a house name over her ‘comments and viewpoints surrounding trans people’.

The Boswells School in Chelmsford, Essex, had honoured the writer for one of its in-school groups, which had also been labelled with the quality of ‘self-discipline’.

But was replaced over the summer with Olympic hero Dame Kelly Holmes. 

Rowling has faced accusations of transphobia after she mocked an online article in June 2020 which used the words ‘people who menstruate’ instead of ‘women’. 

The The Boswells School said students and staff asked for the Rowling name to be reviewed

The review of the name was mentioned in a school newsletter, where the original logo (left) was frequently seen in earlier editions. On July 2 a new house shield was featured alongside the announcement of the review (right) which had erased Rowling’s name and blocked over it with a large red box

In September the same newsletter series revealed the new house, named after Dame Kelly Holmes, the famous gold medal winning Olympian, in place of Rowling

She later defended herself against the claims in a passionate essay but has been criticised by some ever since. 

Last week she hit back at a claim on US website that she believed there are only two genders.

Rowling wrote: ‘Small but important point: I’ve never said there are only two genders. There are innumerable gender identities.

‘The question at the heart of this debate is whether sex or gender identity should form the basis of decisions on safeguarding, provision of services, sporting categories and other areas where women and girls currently have legal rights and protections. 

‘Using the words ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ interchangeably obscures the central issue of this debate.

‘If you’re interested in what I actually said, see this – (in which I literally say ‘trans lives matter’ and ‘trans rights are human rights.’).’

In the past few weeks debate erupted about whether or not Rowling would appear in the upcoming Harry Potter reunion on Sky.

It was revealed that, in clips of the New Year’s Day special, stars had praised ‘the power of her writing’ and that she would appear in archive footage. 

She is also seen in a segment from 2019 discussing the uphill struggle to find an actor to play Harry when casting the first movie, The Philosopher’s Stone.

The eagerly-anticipated reunion sees Daniel join fellow leads Emma Watson, who played Hermione Granger, and Rupert Grint, who played Ron Weasley, as well as a slew of fellow co-stars in marking 20 years since the franchise first aired.

Despite the star-studded turn out, the author behind the stratospherically successful franchise was not in attendance at the reunion special – sparking outrage from some fans who accused makers of attempting to erase her over her views.

MailOnline told two months ago how Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School in Richmond cancelled Winston Churchill and Rowling for not being diverse enough,

It previously had houses named after the Prime Minister and the Harry Potter author – alongside Sir David Attenborough and Emmeline Pankhurst.

The school – which caters for young children aged three to 11 – claims pupils had asked for the house names to be more diverse. 

It then replaced Churchill and Rowling with England star Marcus Rashford and nurse Mary Seacole.

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