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All those hours binge-watching might actually have a use (beyond expanding your waistline) as Harvard is now offering an education in Game of Thrones. Yes, really.
You might be Ivy League material and not even know it. Fancy that, you smarty, you. From all the American movies I have watched in my time I know that cheerleaders date jocks, the rich kids drive convertibles and Harvard University is for smart people. Oh, and I don’t quite understand the sorority sister, fraternity hazing thing, still after all these years and so many Sean William Scott movies.
Harvard. Part of the Ivy League, in a league of their own (not the movie starring a young Madonna), are one of the richest and most prestigious colleges. Their reputation dominates, and it was recently reported the college kicked out a couple of freshman applicants for posting offensive memes on social media. But has Harvard caved to our appetite for medieval fantasy?
Unlike those freshmen who were relocated for their retweets, you may already have half a clue about an entry level class that’s now being offered at Harvard. If you’ve ever binge-watched Game of Thrones, go to the top of the class. Winter is coming and so is your degree.
It might be a simple marketing ploy to lure freshmen, with storyboard-perfect Instagram stories and family-friendly Facebook feeds, into the humanities department, which has seen a drop in student numbers in recent times. Excellent or eye rolling, whichever way you see it, Professor Racha Kirakosian, who will be teaching the course, commented: “when I read medieval verse epics with my students, they’d say, ‘Oh, that’s like in Game of Thrones’.”
And I guess it’s the jump-off point to go deeper and use that level of interest to spark a new conversation, about medieval times. One which includes Jon Snow, wouldn’t you know?
The Folklore and Mythology class will put under the microscope the Game of Thrones series and its original format, A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as its HBO television adaption in an aim to highlight the way each “echoes and adapts, as well as distorts the history and culture of the ‘medieval world’ of Eurasia from c. 400 to 1500 CE.” The class will also explore various character archetypes that the series relies on and compare those to their analogues in medieval history, literature, religion and legend.
It’s not the first time a tertiary education facility has entwined education and pierced its syllabus with pop culture. Offering students a fusion of fandom and wizardry, a Harry Potter-inspired course was put on at Durham University at the height of its popularity, one for the Potterheads, rather than the potheads. There were no flying lessons or defence against the dark arts classes, however the UK uni used the series to explore issues including “prejudice and intolerance, peer pressure, good citizenship and ideals of adulthood, (as well as) ways in which the Harry Potter series has helped to rebrand Britain.”
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The University of San Antonio Texas offered up a class for students to “get in-formation” about “Black Women, Beyoncé and Popular Culture”. The class unpacked the theoretical, historical and literary frameworks of black feminism by viewing and reviewing Beyonce’s Lemonade album track by track (which is much more to my taste than either Harry Potter or Game of Thrones).
Game of Thrones has captured a generation, and to think it’s infiltrated the powerful and mighty Ivy League statue of Harvard University amazes me. From the whispers of watercooler chat about ‘winter is coming’ and Westeros, The Starks and Jon Snow, and ‘Shame. Shame. Shame.’ Death, a bit of incest, beheadings, murder, betrayal, boobs, dragons – cornerstones of a meaningful education, preparing the student for a meaningful life. Lol?
Still, if our pop culture trends are taking over the syllabus, what will a freshman be able to enrol in next? Surely a semester in Stranger Things could be on the cards, or perhaps polisci built from a House of…? Perhaps through Real Housewives, we can study the dramality and frenemies enough to conclude that living out of a wholesome place and treating people with kindness is maybe a better way to be. Who knows?
Personally, I would have loved the opportunity to add a post-graduate pop culture class. I’d have been down with the study of Downtown Abbey. But then again, I didn’t go to university. I went to the School of Life, where for the most part I learnt about relationships from my professors Will & Grace and some random facts from The Simpsons.
It’s a perfectly cromulent education.