College is a new, exciting, and possibly shocking time in any ones life. This blog is for incoming and current college students to open their minds and begin the discussion of things they may experience in college and that will hopefully continue. With advice, thoughts, and superheroes, it is going to be a pretty good time!
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Harry Potter Through the Lense of a College Paper

Written by Breanna Totzke, Senior, Teaching Communication Arts and Literature

The genre of children’s fantasy literature has been said to follow a pattern where the main character or characters start in a world of reality, go to a world of fantasy, and return to their original world.  This circular structure is telling the reader that the characters return to their reality the same as when they left for the fantasy world.  But this cannot be true because once these characters gain knowledge of another world their reality becomes a dual reality.  The circular structure is altered because the characters start in their own world of reality, enter the world of fantasy, but they return with a new found knowledge of this new world that is out there.  The characters return to their new reality, one that contains both worlds, a dual reality.  Examples of this new structure can be found in multiple children’s fantasy books.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling is a prime example of how the characters understand and use their knowledge of this other world in their dual reality.  The circular structure of the past is altered when the characters cross over from their reality to fantasy; these characters can never return the same as they were before, their reality is now a dual reality.

Hermione Granger is a good example of a character that experiences this new structure from the beginning.  She grew up in a Muggle home and had no knowledge of another world until her letter from Hogwarts came.  She says so at the Welcoming Feast in the Great Hall at Hogwarts that “it was ever such a surprise when I got my letter” (105).  Hermione enters the magical world from the Muggle world, her reality, with no previous knowledge and is eager to learn all she can about this new world.  Because of her reality, she enters the magical world not understanding taboos and customs of the wizarding community.  But as she adapts to this fantasy world she starts calling Voldemort “You-Know-Who” (260).  This signifies the blending of her two worlds into one.  And when Hermione and Harry are facing Professor Snape’s protection test she uses skills from her experiences from the Muggle world in the world of fantasy.  She knows that “the greatest wizards haven’t got an ounce of logic” (285), but she does because of her Muggle upbringing.  This is where her two worlds become completely blended together to form her dual reality.  When she returns to her parent’s home for the summer she has this knowledge of another world that will affect her.  Hermione is an example of a character that experienced the discovery of the magical world and then had it result in creating her dual reality.

Another example of characters being affected by this new structure is the Dursleys.  They are living a dual reality from the beginning of the novel because they are already aware of the magical world.  Right away the reader is clued in that the Dursley’s “[have] a secret, and their greatest fear [is] that somebody would discover it.”  This family is an example of how having a dual reality, the knowledge of another world, can negatively affect someone.  They choose to have fear at the very idea of this other world because it is not considered “normal.”  The moments before Harry comes to live with the Dursleys are filled with odd events that are “normal” in the magical world.  If Mr. Dursley was paying attention to what was happening around him, “fear [would have] flooded him” (4) because he knows the signs of the magical world.  His family cannot stand differences; they believe that they are better than the other world.  When Harry comes to live with the Dursleys they decide that they would do everything they could to keep the magical world hidden from Harry.  They choose this from their previous experience with the fantasy world and their resulting dual reality.  Past experiences with the magical world that Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia include being exposed to Petunia’s sister Lily and her husband James Potter, Harry’s parents.  Vernon and Petunia’s only view of the magical world is negative because Lily “went and got herself blown up” (53) since she and he husband were “mixed up with [those] wizarding types” (56).  Instead of realizing that bad people are going to be in any world someone is in, Vernon and Petunia associate Lily and James’s death to the magical world and they learn to fear the “abnormal” (53). 

As Harry grows, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia punish him for anything that is out of the ordinary because of their fear of the magical world.  Multiple times before Harry finds out he is a wizard, strange events happen around and to him including: growing his hair “back so quickly” (24), shrinking sweaters (24), “sitting on a chimney” (25), and dreaming of flying motorcycles (25).  When the letters from Hogwarts start coming Vernon tells Petunia “I’m not having one in the house!” and he goes on further saying that he would “stamp out that dangerous nonsense” (36).  Their knowledge of the other world results in a negative reaction.  Since the Dusley family has such a negative reaction to the magical world Harry is being punished because of their fear.  They attempt to keep Harry from encountering the magical world and keep him in reality only. 

A final example of a character going through this new structure is Harry Potter.  What the Dursleys do not know is that Harry is already living a dual reality because he was born to magical parents Harry entered the magical world right away.  But since he was taken away from the magical world at such a young age his reality has a pinch of dual reality from the start.  This is noticeable from the dreams he has including “a flying motorcycle” and Harry has the feeling he has “had the same dream before” (19).  When in all actuality he lived that dream because Hagrid brought him to the Dursley’s house on a motorcycle.  He thinks that this memory is a dream which makes his dual reality become his reality.  Harry takes this new world as his reality and takes the magical world as the other world.  He even considers the magical world as a new world because Harry notices that many of his classmates “had come from Muggle families…like him” (134).  And right away when Hagrid tells him that he is a wizard Harry does not believe him saying “I’m a what?” (51).  Even though Harry starts the novel in a dual reality, he is really starting in the same reality as other Muggle characters.  Harry returns to his dual reality more confident than before he learned of this other world.  He is not affected negatively by the knowledge of the magical world.  Harry is better off because he knows of this other world.  His dual reality results in happier person who knows how the world works.  He realizes that not every person will have the same knowledge that he does, but he can use what he knows to make his life better. 

The characters of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone show the new circular structure.  Hermione, the Dursleys, and Harry all go through the structure where they start in their reality, go to fantasy, and end up in a dual reality.  They all have different understandings of their resulting dual realities since they all have different experiences of the magical world.  But there is no denying that they return the same as when they left.  They all gain something new from their experience that they bring back to their previous reality.  The significance of this reading of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is that it alters our reading of this novel and other children’s fantasy literature.  The reader becomes aware that the characters know of both worlds once they return to a dual reality.  This new structure is not only applicable to Harry Potter, but to many other children’s fantasy also can fit this too.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit also fits this structure.  This altered structure helps the reader understand the text better because the reader can understand the characters better.  Since the reader can see what the characters are experiences it connects the reader closer to the text.  The new structure of reality, to fantasy, to dual reality allows for a better understanding of the characters’ experience.

The W Curve According to Wolverine and Spidey

Whenever I hear or learn about the W curve, it reminds me of Spider-man and Wolverine. This post is a compare/contrast of these two characters. Why?! Because no two college students are the same! Your experience will be different from your roommates, from the guy sitting in front of you in class, to, well, anyone at your college campus! I know I have talked about Spidey a lot recently, but he makes my point! Wolverine is new to this discussion and I am glad I can involve him.  The W curve doesn’t just relate to college. You will go through the steps of the W curve through almost every aspect of your life. Your first job, buying a home, traveling, having kids, it all relates back to the W curve.

The W curve begins with the Honeymoon stage. For the first time in your life, you will be on your own. No one will be telling you when to go to bed, what to eat, if you should go to class or not, all the decisions are yours! You are free to be your own person, and that is awesome! Like Spider-man, who was ecstatic, confused but ecstatic, he did all he could to feel the freedom and rush of having his new powers! As will you. You will test your limits and boundaries, discover who you are.

But, the Honeymoon stage cannot last forever. For some, the honeymoon stage lasts for a couple weeks, others a couple months, and for some they never experience the honeymoon stage, but rather go straight to the Cultural Shock stage! The latter of the three reminds me of Wolverine. Looking past Wolverine’s time in Weapon X (when he was experimented on) or his time in the Canadian Wilderness, but rather when he became a resident of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters and a member of the X-men. He has hit by culture shock hardcore! Being in a place such as that, it was new, disorienting, and something he was unfamiliar with. Spider-man also was affected by Cultural Shock when Uncle Ben died and he began to fight crime. Entering into this new terrain can be frightening and after the Honeymoon stage, after being away from the familiarity of your hometown and family, the cultural workings of college can be stifling. But here is the thing about the W curve…none of the stages last forever!

After a while, after meeting friends, getting involved, doing well in your classes, the next stage of the W curve occurs: Initial Adjustment. Everyone goes through it sooner or later, even superheroes. Spider-man and Wolverine both acclimated to their new lives and responsibilities. It takes time and effort. It isn’t the type of thing that will shift overnight. It would be cool if it did, but it doesn’t happen that way. Easiest way to adjust to college or any new experience? Get involved, ask for help, and know that you are not alone!!!  There are so many people around you who are going through the same thing. You have friends, family, and other loved ones who want to see you succeed. Spidey and Wolverine had their own support systems which made the adjustment easier (Aunt May and MJ for Spider-man and the X-men/Professor X for Wolverine.) Don’t think you have to do it on your own.

Of course, with any W, after the first up there is a second down. The mental isolation stage. This is when you feel the most alone, and in my personal opinion, this is the hardest part about the W curve. You start wondering “Is college for me?” “Would I be happier doing something else?” The thoughts that you are the only person who feels this way, that no one understands the stress and strain you under. (For most people this occurs right after Thanksgiving Break). Everyone goes through some degree of this isolation. Peter Parker gave up being Spider-man at one point because he couldn’t stand being the only person that knew he was Spider-man and Wolverine, well Wolverine always found a way to isolate himself from others, there were just times in which it was worse. Like all the stages before, this too will end. How?! Talk to family, talk to friends, make sure you are INVOLVED!!! I cannot state that enough! Getting involved makes all of this so much easier! And don’t be afraid to ask for help or even take time for yourself if need be.

And of course, the W curve does come to an end with Acceptance and Integration. By the end of all of it, you will feel like a member of the community, a part of the bigger group! Whether it be a part of the group, the campus, the team, or whatever you have been involved with. You may even begin to call your campus home. For some, this can take just a semester to feel accepted and integrated into the community, for others it can take the entire academic year. Why is there such a difference? Those who get involved earlier and stay involved are able to acclimate to their new accommodations easier than those that do not! So even more than just talking about Wolverine and Spider-man and the W curve, the biggest thing I can say is GET INVOLVED!!!


Our Own Secret Identities

Whenever we think of superheroes, we me at least, they are always connected to their secret identities. Whenever someone says Batman, you think Bruce Wayne; Superman, Clark Kent; Spider-man, Peter Parker; the Flash, Barry Allen. You get the idea. We immediately connect the hero with the individual. Its likes that psychological exercise. One person says a word and the other person responds. Okay, I think you get the idea. 

But what about you? What is your secret identity? To give you an example, people know me as Jacob Schornak: comic book nerd, outgoing, funny, hot tempered, and the guy who loves suiting up! But what they don’t know, what I don’t let them see, is my secret identity. Things that only those who are closest to me know, and it took me years to let even those people know who was beneath the exterior. Now I’m not saying it is a facade. The person I am to the world is the same person I am to my closest friends, but they know the deeper parts of me, my “secret identity” which the rest of the world does not. 

It can take us years to let people know our secret identities. We are often afraid that if we show people the parts of us that may go against the norm, that these people may not accept us for who we are. We hide it to ourselves, believing that if we keep quiet no one will notice, but you do! Everyone’s secret identity is different, but that does not mean that anyone’s is better or more important or more difficult to share than another’s! Telling someone that you are gay, or have a gambling or drinking problem, or telling someone you have cancer, or that you have dropped out of school, all of these are different, but ALL of them are hard!

Now I’m not saying that you should go home and tell everyone you know what your secret identity is. That is for you to decide, for you to come to terms with. My only hope is, as you read this, whether you be heading to college, in college, or just living life, that you think, “what is my secret identity?” Be aware of the identity that you are keeping to yourself and ask yourself, who am I willing to share this with? Knowing who you are is hard, telling other people who you are is even harder!

What Should We Call it….

College is one of the few times in your life, if one of the only, in which you will be with such a large amount of people of the same age group as yourself. While you all may be in the same age range, everyone you meet in college, yourself included, are different and unique. You will be exposed to new ideas, new cultures and ways of looking at the world. You will be challenged, forced to consider where you stand on social and moral issues, and it may be difficult. You will meet people of different race, sexual orientation, and ideals. The people you meet in college will help to shape who you will become as a person, if you let them. But here is the thing, when you get to college you have to make a choice. Are you going to accept people for who they are or are you going to judge them and believe that because they are different that makes them bad?

Joss Whedon, director of such blockbuster hits as The Avengers and Toy Story, has brought up a new idea of recognizing and showing equality, something that we all should strive for in college and afterwards.

Now I’m not saying that you are a genderist by showing this video. The point is to make you think! While you may not consider yourself to be a racist or a sexist or any other negative ist word there is, the question you have to ask yourself is do you accept everyone for who they are? When you are in college and after, will you continue to accept people for who they are or will you judge them because they do not fit into the boxes that society considers to be “correct?” These are questions you must ask yourself, because while college may be the largest congregation of people in the same age range as yourself, it will not be the last time you will be around a diverse range of people.

Let’s Get This Started

Introductions are always the hard part, I mean explaining who you are in just a few words, so I guess we had better start simple. My name is Jacob Schornak. I am a senior studying Writing Studies from Eagan, MN. Give you a little more insight about who I am, more than the three simple questions (Name, Major, Hometown), I am a huge fan of the outdoors, playing video games, watching good movies, and writing. But something that I love even more than writing is comic books and superheroes. Superheroes just make sense to me…that’s right…I’m a nerd! They express feelings and ideas that most other forms of media cannot grasp. Because I am such a fan of superheroes most of my posts, if not all of them, will revolve around superheroes in one way or another. But here is the main reason for writing these posts: for you to succeed in college. I have gone through a lot in my four years at the University of Minnesota Duluth, both joy and sorrow, success and failure, triumph and disappointment. All I can hope to do is pass on what I have learned, what I think to be the important parts of succeeding in college, what I have done and not done to get to this point.