As Steve mentioned in his post “City of Scars: On Magic” earlier this week, Magic is an element of Fantasy that you can typically find in most stories, even if you have to look pretty hard to find it.
Another very common theme in Fantasy, especially more in the YA Fantasy area, is “Magic School”.
Now, in our world universities typically have two functions: the first is to teach students. You go to a university to learn your chosen field so that you can go out and practice it.
But there’s a second, equally important role that universities play. They host graduate students and receive grants to study the advancement of fields.
This is an aspect of Magic in Fantasy that we don’t see very often. Magic schools spend all of their time teaching children how to use magic, how to cast spells, and other “wizarding” related activities. But where is the progress? Where is the advancement of knowledge for the good of the field?
Some lack of study in the advancement of knowledge can be explained by the magic system: maybe crafting spells is as easy as creating the right mental picture and then the spell poofs into existence and does what you want.
But not every magic system works like this. The Harry Potter universe would a fantastic example of a magic system where the words of a spell are important. Maybe in your world, the exact phrasing of a spell is vital to that spell’s effect. What happens if you try to change the phrasing?
I think as part of our magic systems, we need to consider how knowledge advances if not for “graduate” students performing experiments in a dark corner of the school.
And now I think I have an idea for a short story…