J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter

By Croft, Janet Brennan | Mythlore, Spring-Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter


Croft, Janet Brennan, Mythlore


J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter. Edited by Cynthia J. Hallett and Peggy J. Huey. New Casebooks series. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. $23.00. ISBN 9780230008502.

Palqrave's new casebooks series is designed to introduce university students to a variety of critical approaches to a given author. Other children's authors included in this series are Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis, neither of which have yet been reviewed in Mythlore. If this particular collection is representative, they are worth seeking out.

Sian Harris's "Glorious Food? The Literary and Culinary Heritage of the Harry Potter Series" is an interesting examination of food, food preparation, and eating in the Harry Potter books. Rowling's food themes place her in the British children's literature tradition of Enid Blyton's boarding school stories and Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, on closer examination, there are disturbing elements to food in the Potterworld: traditional English fare is privileged over multicultural variety, and food is always prepared by women (Petunia Dursley, Molly Weasley, Hermione Granger) or house-elf slaves. Food itself, though, is a source of comfort; in the wizarding world, as opposed to the Muggle, Harry "encounters adults who nurture him literally and psychologically" (16).

Next, Anne Klaus takes issue with critics who read the Harry Potter books as simplistic fairy tales, most notably Jack Zipes, though she admits there was less of this sort of criticism after the fifth volume was published. Her arguments against this view include "the length and multi-dimensionality" of the series (25), the sacrifices made by many characters, and especially the growing complexity, "moral conscience," and "self-relfexivity" of both primary and secondary characters (27). (In fact, the reader is clearly "invited [...] to sympathize" [30] with the secondary characters as much as with the protagonist.) One interesting observation Klaus makes is that complex feelings and "psychological phenomena" are externalized in metaphorical objects like the Mirror of Erised (26-7).

Robert T. Tally, Jr. (who wrote on orcs for Mythlore 29.1/2, #111/112) argues that the Harry Potter books as a series form a Bildungsroman well suited to the postmodern era, a time of "anxieties and uncertainties" (38). A central lesson of Harry's Bildung is that what seems to be dictated by destiny and prophecy always comes down to the choices characters make. Tally makes an interesting point about the narrator of the series; for the most part, the narrator "looks over Harry's shoulder" (40) and shares his perspective, except for the initial chapters of four of the books, which serve as prologues. Harry's Bildung is about building community; Harry learns he cannot make it on his own. In opposition, "Voldemort's unwillingness to integrate himself into society is what, in the end, prevents him from both knowing and ruling that society" (42). Like the classic Bildungsroman, the Harry Potter series "educates as it entertains" (46).

Fran Pheasant-Kelly's "Bewitching, Abject, Uncanny" is the longest and most theory-dense essay in this volume, incorporating ideas from Kristeva's theory of the abject and Freud's thoughts on the uncanny, among others. She focuses primarily on the role of space and place in the movies, and asserts that "the different capacities of the visual medium afford certain emphases not available in the novels" (48). Beginning with the contrast between the "repressive, confined space that Harry occupies" at the Dursley house and the fantastic spaces of the wizarding world (49), Pheasant-Kelly ties these themes in with audience anxieties about 9/11 (imagery of "falling bodies, smoke, and shattering glass" 70) and the war on terror. Harry's "increasingly masterful negotiation of threatening spaces signals a steady transition to adulthood" (55). Her analysis suggest that themes, camera angles, lighting strategies, set design and other elements of mise-en-scene reflect concerns like torture, economic recession, genocide, PTSD, national security, and paranoia. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.