Newswise — The new "Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkhaban" movie will be out Fri., June 4, and will once again largely center on Potter's adventures at the fictitious magical school Hogwarts. While the school doesn't exist, much of its imagery can be found daily on a fog-shrouded mountain in Tennessee at Sewanee: The University of the South.
Like Hogwarts, Sewanee operates in its own self-contained community " with the campus, the town, and the surrounding lakes and forests comprising a tract of 10,000 wooded acres known as the Domain. Being in the mountains, fog is often present on the historic campus " which was founded in 1857 " and seems natural among the stately buildings designed in Gothic architecture.
Sewanee's history includes a direct link to Oxford University in London, which is largely believed to be the inspiration behind J.K. Rowling's mythical Hogwarts. Oxford donated the first books to Sewanee's Jessie Ball duPont Library " helping establish it after the Civil War. The school's Oxford connection is the reason its architecture is Gothic and differs from most southern schools. Like Oxford, Sewanee faculty " and a certain number of high-achieving students called the "Order of Gownsmen" " wear academic gowns to class. It is believed that Sewanee is one of the few " and possibly only " schools in the country to continue practicing this tradition. The Gothic buildings and green surroundings have been an idyllic academic setting for most students, and part of the reason the school has produced 24 Rhodes Scholars " including senior geology major Robin Rotman this year " as well as some of the nation's top writers. Each summer, the school hosts The Sewanee Writers' Conference " one of the preeminent conferences in the country, attracting nationally-known novelists, poets, and playwrights. "There is a spiritual connection (to Oxford) that gets conveyed in that atmosphere. When people come here, they're told that (the Oxford connection) " and in some ways, Sewanee offers that type of experience," says Associate Professor of English Jennifer Michael, who graduated from Sewanee in 1989 as a Rhodes Scholar " attending the University of Oxford from 1989-91 At Hogwarts, students are awarded points for good actions, and deducted points for acting poorly. While Sewanee doesn't have a similar point system, one of the school's most cherished traditions is that its honor code permeates every aspect of life " beginning when the students first arrive. During orientation, the new freshmen enter the school's All Saints Chapel and sign the honor code, affirming that they will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those acts. The procession is similar to the house-sorting ceremony on first-year students at Hogwarts. And at Sewanee, students are awarded a more valuable commodity than points for doing well academically " money. Students can reduce the amount of their need-based loan debt nearly 40 percent by simply getting good grades though The Sewanee Loan Reduction Program (SLRP). It rewards students for achieving a B average or better by reducing the amount of the standard need-based loan in their financial aid award from a current maximum of $6,600, to $2,625. There are even two fraternity houses at Sewanee that have a lion and snake above their doors " the same mascots used by the Gryffindore and Slytherin houses respectively at Hogwarts. "There are strong parallels (between Hogwarts and Sewanee) between the gothic architecture shrouded in fog, students running around in capes and gowns, and the pervasiveness of traditions," says Scott Wilson, associate professor and director, political science and Asian studies.
But while Hogwarts and Sewanee are similar, there's one big difference " Sewanee's not just a "made for the movie" school.