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Harry Potter

Related: fantasy - literature


Harry Potter is the name of a popular series of fantasy novels by British writer J. K. Rowling. Depicting a world of witches and wizards (the protagonist being the eponymous young wizard Harry Potter), the series' first release was in 1997. It has succeeded in gaining immense popularity and commercial success worldwide and across age demographics, spawning in addition to its original medium, books, movies, video games, and a wealth of other items.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter#Criticism [Jun 2006]


While it is arguable that the archetypical familiarity of the stories contributed to their rapid elevation to classic status, critics of the Harry Potter stories are quick to argue that they lack originality, frequently pointing to its shared content with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Such content includes Tolkien's Wormtongue and Rowling's Wormtail, Rowling's Dementors and Tolkien's Nazgûl, and similarities between both authors' antagonists, Tolkien's Sauron and Rowling's Lord Voldemort (both of whom are sometimes within their respective continuties unnamed due to intense fear surrounding their names). Rowling maintains that she hadn't read The Hobbit until after she completed the first Harry Potter novel (though she had read The Lord of the Rings as a teenager) and that any similarities between her books and Tolkien's are "fairly superficial".

Critic A.S. Byatt went even further in attacking the perceived lack of originality of the series following the release of the fifth book in 2003, when she called Rowling's world a "secondary secondary world, made up of intelligently patchworked derivative motifs from all sorts of children's literature [...] written for people whose imaginative lives are confined to TV cartoons, and the exaggerated (more exciting, not threatening) mirror-worlds of soaps, reality TV and celebrity gossip". Byatt went on to say that readers' deference to this "derivative manipulation of past motifs" is for adult readers driven by a desire to regress to their "own childish desires and hopes" and for younger readers, "the powerful working of the fantasy of escape and empowerment, combined with the fact that the stories are comfortable, funny, just frightening enough". The end result being the levelling "of cultural studies, which are as interested in hype and popularity as they are in literary merit".

Some critics were in agreement with Byatt. Fay Weldon said, "She is absolutely right that it is not what the poets hoped for, but this is not poetry, it is readable, saleable, everyday, useful prose." [18]

Others, like Charles Taylor of Salon.com, responded to Byatt by conceding that she may have "a valid cultural point — a teeny one — about the impulses that drive us to reassuring pop trash and away from the troubling complexities of art", but rejecting her claim that the series is lacking in serious literary merit, owing its success merely to the childhood reassurances it offers, stressing the progressively darker tone of the books filled with the discomfort of scenes including the murder of a classmate and close friend and the resulting psychological wounds and social isolation each causes. Taylor also points out that discomforting scenes disruptive to the childhood reassurances Byatt claims spurs the series' success are present in Philosopher's Stone (said to be the lightest of the six published books, citing "the devastating scene where Harry encounters a mirror that reveals the heart's truest desire and, looking into it, sees himself happy and smiling with the parents he never knew, a vision that lasts only as long as he looks into the glass, and a metaphor for how fleeting our moments of real happiness are", then asking rhetorically if "this is Byatt's idea of reassurance?" Taylor concludes that Rowling's success among children and adults is "because J.K. Rowling is a master of narrative".

Other critics, like Stephen King, concurred with Taylor calling the series "a feat of which only a superior imagination is capable", along with declaring "Rowling's punning, one-eyebrow-cocked sense of humour" to be "remarkable". However, he does write that despite the story being "a good one", he is "a little tired of discovering Harry at home with his horrible aunt and uncle", the formulaic beginning of each of the six books published to date. King also rejects the view of the series often held by members of the fandom as being highly textured and thought-provoking, characterising the plot as "simple, uncomplicated fun".

King did, however, predict that Harry Potter "will indeed stand time's test and wind up on a shelf where only the best are kept; I think Harry will take his place with Alice, Huck, Frodo, and Dorothy and this is one series not just for the decade, but for the ages." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter#Criticism [Jun 2006]

Harry Potter fan fiction

The first Harry Potter book may have been first published in the United States in September of 1998 but the first fan fiction did not arrive until 1999. On September 4, "Harry Potter and the Man of Unknown" by Gypsy Silverleaf became the first Harry Potter fan fiction posted to FanFiction.Net, what was to become the largest archive of Harry Potter fan fiction on the net.

The early Harry Potter fandom had a habit of writing authorfics. This was aided by FanFiction.Net which had a Harry Potter authorfic category. In March of 2001, FanFiction.Net deleted the category. This quickly ended that tradition. It did not make a resurrgence.

Adult content control access became an issue again in 2002 with two important events happening. On the anime side of the broader fan fiction community, Aestheticism shut down their adult protected fan fiction archive hosting on Virtual City. The Harry Potter fan fiction community had an opposite reaction. There were efforts to restrict access to adult materials so minors could not access them as readily after a Harry Potter site, the Restricted Section, was targeted with a cease and desist notice for their adult content. This event happened shortly after an article by The Scotsman newspaper which focused on this content.

For a period between 1998 and 2003, it looked like Eastern and Western fan fiction cultures would merge as each seemed to borrow concepts, terminology and practices from each other. By 2004, this merging seemed to be dead. Yaoi and yuri were not being used in Western oriented fan fiction communities. Slash was not being used in Eastern oriented fan fiction communities. Each community seemed to have retreated into itself. The cross over fannishly was becoming smaller. Anime and Harry Potter fan fiction were not sharing, in similar numbers, the same fan space at larger automated archives.

By 2004, a number of X-files fan fiction writers who were part of the “Yes Virginia” group of fan fiction authors had migrated to other fandoms. Some examples of this migration included Harry Potter with the author Parsons, Lord of the Rings with the author Sebasky, West Wing with the authors Sabine, Punk, and CazQ, Stargate with Suelac and Minnow, Farscape with the authors Suelac, Fialka, Sab and Pene, Sports Night with the authors Sabine and Punk, Smallville with the author Punk, and Buffy/Angel with the authors August/Unwinding, Minnow and Sebasky. As they migrated, they took their traditions of machete beta reading with them. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Potter_fan_fiction [Jun 2006]

Is Harry Potter gay?

  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5) - J. K. Rowling [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Of course Harry is gay. He grew up in a closet under the stairs; only allowed out to be useful around the house, and certainly never when visitors came. Poor orphaned Harry was destined to go to Stonewall High until an invitation from Hogwarts School of Wizardry allowed him to realise his true self — to practice pooffery (or magic then, if you like) — every suburban gay boy’s dream; dispense with your parents I mean, and then run away with the fairies. At school Harry learns to fly, and meets the lovely red-headed Ron Weasley; fairy-boy and tight companion. Harry seems doomed to court the clever if manipulative Hermione, but don’t be fooled, his true love is for Ron. --emu Nugent, http://www.bway.net/nambla.org/potter.htm [2004, now offline]

    The interplay between the world of magic and the world of Muggles in the Potter books is identical to how queer historians and sociologists describe the interplay between the closeted gay world and the mainstream world, particularly in the days before the gay-liberation movement. Homosexuals were everywhere, yet heterosexuals usually could not see them. Gay bars looked just like straight bars from the outside. Gay people invented elaborate codes, often in language, dress, and deportment, so they could recognize one another but not be seen as abnormal by the heterosexual — Muggle — world. In his book Gay New York, historian George Chauncey writes of the "invisible map" that exists in all cities that enables queers to find fellow travelers and assembling places: people and places usually invisible to the unknowing heterosexual. This is precisely the situation in the Potter books, where Hogwarts, Diagon Alley (where the magic shops are), 12 Grimmauld Place (the meeting place of Order of the Phoenix), Azkaban Fortress, and even magical buses and trains that run out of major terminals exist in the middle of large cosmopolitan cities and yet remain invisible to Muggles who simply cannot see them. --http://www.bostonphoenix.com/boston/news_features/other_stories/documents/02977459.htm>

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