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HOLMES AND POTTER: SHERLOCK GOES TO HOGWARTS

Sheri Karmiol, metzger@unm.edu

 

COURSE DESCRIPTION

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia.

 

We think we know all about Sherlock Holmes.  He is a drug-addled, egotistical, deductive thinker who solves crimes.  Our understanding of Holmes is heavily influenced by television and film and less by the novels themselves.  In contrast, Harry Potter is a young wizard with a martyr complex who wants to save the world.  His screen image is as well known to Potter fans as his depiction on the printed page.  On the surface, Holmes and Potter might appear to have little in common.  Holmes would label what he does intuition and deductive reason.  Potter can be and often is, precariously balanced between emotion and reason.  Both approaches work to defeat their enemies.  What might surprise students is how much alike they are, and that is the topic of this class—understanding Harry Potter's emotional reasoning by studying Sherlock Holmes’s deductive reasoning and how his methodology typifies certain aspects of psychological behavioral reasoning.

 

Holmes’ creator Arthur Conan Doyle was an admirer of the work of Joseph Bell, a Scottish surgeon, who invented “The Method,” which was a disciplined approach to deducing facts using only keen observation.  Bell’s system relied upon three things: “Observe carefully, deduce shrewdly, and confirm with evidence.”  Some scholars have suggested that Holmes suffered from personality disorders, that he was manic-depressive, an addictive personality, or that he was narcissistic; while other argues that he had Aspergers syndrome.  What we can know for certain, is that in the years since Holmes was created, he has inspired many Holmes-like characters, and thus we might be tempted to also assume that Potter will similarly inspire characters based on his behavioral characteristics—but should we assume this?  We will need to dissect Potter’s personality as closely as we study Holmes, and thus, students should plan on assembling the necessary research data to support the theories presented in their final papers.

 

 As a detective story, Holmes teaches us about Victorian life—the society in which he lived and the values of the period.  If we re-imagine Potter as a late 20th c. detective trying to solve crimes in his modern world, what do we learn about the late 20th century? Criminal forensics have changed in the 21st century, but does the reliance on new science eliminate the need for behavioral studies and for deductive reasoning to solve mysteries and crime?  Choose to enter into this class and immerse yourself in the mysteries to be solved.  You need only walk through the door.

 

READINGS AND TEXTS

Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays

Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles

Doyle, The Sign of Four

A reader (available @ DSH)

FILMS AND OTHER COURSE MATERIALS

How Sherlock Changed the World

A Study in Pink

 

COURSE FEE (if applicable) & BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF HOW FEES WILL BE USED

None

 

STUDENT REQUIREMENTS

Discussion Leader, 2 short papers, Presentation on a topic of choice, final project

 

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Karmiol has a Ph.D. in British literature. Much of her academic research had focused on behavioral and social anthropology and the ethical and philosophical decisions that people make to adapt to changes in their lives.  Most of the classes that she teaches have centered on issues of social inequity, prejudice, and the marginalization of groups of people, who are classified as expendable members of society. Dr. Karmiol has been honored with awards for her teaching and has received two fellowships, including one for study at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.  She also teaches classes on the Holocaust and on intolerance.