Scholarly Studies in Harry Potter. Applying Academic Methods to a Popular Text

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This book is intended primarily for an academic audience, especially scholars – students and teachers – doing research and publication in categories such as myth and legend, children’s literature, and the Harry Potter series in particular. Additionally, it is meant for college and university teachers. However, the essays do not contain jargon that would put off an avid “lay” Harry Potter fan. Overall, this collection is an excellent addition to the growing analytical scholarship on the Harry Potter series; however, it is the first academic collection to offer practical methods of using Rowling’s novels in a variety of college and university classroom situations.


“The essays in this collection demonstrate the richness Harry Potter and his world provides for literary critics and scholars. Much academic writing on the subject already exists; but a need for in-depth critical analysis of Rowling’s books continues. The works included here examine how and why readers of all ages engage with these books including consumerism and Harry Potter’s role within the mass market, social order within the wizarding world and its reflection or distortion of reality, and the role of Harry Potter in pedagogy. Additionally, these essays provide new, innovative, critical readings of the texts. This collection provides an excellent example of literary scholarship and moves emphatically towards silencing those who believe that Harry Potter is not a suitable subject for serious academic discourse … The second section, “Conjuring Harry Potter into the Canon,” contains essays that offer pedagogical applications, various ways that this J. K. Rowling series can be used to teach students sophisticated literary skills more often associated with traditional canonical literature, as well as for teaching literature, scholarship, and theory in college/university classrooms beyond the obvious content courses on the classics, language, myth and legend, and children’s literature.” – (from the Preface) Debbie Mynott, Area Children’s Librarian at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, UK.

“The Harry Potter books are increasingly finding their way onto college and university courses and here is the perfect volume to accompany their arrival. The essays cover an enormous range of subjects related to J. K. Rowling’s books, each of them asking searching questions about how they can be integrated into university teaching. The first half of the volume investigates critical issues; the second discusses where and how Rowling’s books should be incorporated into the syllabus. Recurring motifs in the Harry Potter books are picked out and analysed, and important characteristics of Rowling’s mythopoeia are investigated: the geography, chronology and mythology of Harry’s world, for instance. And the question of the books’ very readership is at the forefront of many of the essays: children, adults, students, teachers, critics and the different ways in which they have read the texts. Three other major themes run through the majority of the essays. First, the wide range of influences on Rowling’s writing are discussed, and their astonishing intertextuality is thoroughly explored. Second, questions of identity formation are repeatedly returned to: the developing identities of characters in the books, but also of the readers consuming them. And third, the books’ commercial as well as literary success is at the heart of many of the essays, along with the contention which this success has caused. That the Harry Potter books have made such a major contribution to popular and consumer culture, these essays argue, is no reason to neglect or patronise them, for they are complex texts which fully reward in-depth study. Overall, this is a volume which insists that the Harry Potter books should be taken seriously. The sophistication and variety of these essays amply proves this point.” – Dr. M. O. Grenby, Reader in Children’s Literature, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, University of Newcastle upon Tyne

"Not only does this book include thoughtful and insightful scholarship, but it is also pedagogically valuable. It raises thought-provoking topics that can serve as the basis for research papers and class presentations, as well as providing important resources for students to use while conducting such research," -Prof. Anne Collins Smith, Stephen F. Austin State University

Table of Contents

Introduction – Serious Scholarship and Academic Hocus Pocus: Conjuring Harry Potter into the Canon (Cynthia Whitney Hallet)
1. Educating Harry Potter: A Muggle’s Perspective on Magic and Knowledge in the Wizard World of J. K. Rowling (Sarah E. Maier)
2. Harry Potter and the Temporal Prime Directive: Time Travel, Rule-Breaking, and Misapprehension in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Ron W. Cooley)
3. If yeh know where to go: Vision and Mapping in the Wizarding World (Jonathan P. Lewis)
4. A Basilisk, a Phoenix, and a Philosopher’s Stone: Harry Potter’s Myths and Legends (Peggy J. Huey)
5. Death and Rebirth: Harry Potter & the Mythology of the Phoenix (Sarah E. Gibbons)
6. The Harlequin in the Weasley Twins: Jesters in the Court of Prince Harry (and J. K. Rowling) (Rebecca Whitus Longster)
7. Lessons in Transfiguration: Allegories of Male Identity in Rowling’s Harry Potter Series (Casey Cothran)
– Conjuring Harry Potter into the Canon
8. Reading J. K. Rowling Magically: Creating C. S. Lewis’s “Good Reader” (Ernelle Fife)
9. The Problem of Identity in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Leigh A. Neithardt)
10. Of Young Magicians and Growing Up: J. K. Rowling, Her Critics, and the “Cultural Infantilism” Debate (Steve Barfield)
11. High-Brow Harry Potter: J. K. Rowling’s Series as College-Level Literature (Laura Baker Shearer)
12. Hogwarts vs. “The Values’ Wasteland”: Harry Potter and the Formation of Character (William Wandless)
13. Metaphor and MetaFantasy: Questing for Literary Inheritance in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Evelyn M. Perry)
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