University of Chester says gender trigger warning 'is not about Harry Potter'

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

The University of Chester has denied that literature students are being warned that "difficult conversations" could arise from specifically reading the first Harry Potter book.

The Times has reported that the English department issued an alert that Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone could raise issues about "gender, race, sexuality, class, and identity."

Author JK Rowling has previously divided views with her comments on transgender rights.

JK Rowling

Freshers are required to read the book for their Approaches To Literature module, which also includes trigger warnings for Northern Lights by Philip Pullman and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.

The newspaper said the advice appears in an online handbook beneath a list of the three set texts the first year students must read.

It says: "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 writings of William Shakespeare are also on the course

The Times says the warning at the bottom of the module is not featured on any other reading lists, including works by Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle and Charlotte Brontë.

However, the University of Chester says the paragraph was “generic rather than specific to the three texts".

A spokesman added: "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.

"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.

"For further clarification the Department agreed a standard form of words for Level 4 students (usually joining from school or college).

"The module picked out uses this generic text and an additional paragraph just to reiterate that young adult texts can also prompt important conversations."

Rupert Grint, Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson at the premiere of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part 2.

Course leader Dr Richard Leahy has previously appeared to criticise the author, tweeting in March 2019: “JK Rowling reveals that he is not the best mate of mine.”

Some schools have removed references to the author, and Harry Potter film stars including Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson have distanced themselves from the views which Rowling has defended.

The author featured in a 20th anniversary reunion TV show, but only in clips from old interviews.