Hanne Birk, Denise Burkhard and Marion Gymnich: ‘Happy Birthday, Harry!’: Celebrating the Success of the Harry Potter Phenomenon in:

Marion Gymnich, Hanne Birk, Denise Burkhard (Ed.)

"Harry - yer a wizard", page 7 - 10

Exploring J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Universe

1. Edition 2017, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4035-5, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6751-2,

Series: Wissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Tectum Verlag: Anglistik, vol. 6

Tectum, Baden-Baden
Bibliographic information
Hanne Birk, Denise Burkhard and Marion Gymnich ‘Happy Birthday, Harry!’: Celebrating the Success of the Harry Potter Phenomenon If there ever was a powerful spell, it was Rowling’s initial incantation when she had Hagrid stating in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (1997): “‘Harry – yer a wizard’” (Stone 42), which was the first spark of a big bang that would bring the Potterverse into being. The publication of the first volume of her Harry Potter series (1997-2007) was the beginning of an amazing success story and of a series which has had a considerable impact on academic research. Rowling’s novels have contributed to rendering both children’s literature and the genre of fantasy more popular than ever – for fans, academics and “fan-scholars” (Hillis 2). Moreover, the novels have played a vital role in establishing the notion of ‘crossover/all-ages literature’ as one of the key terms within research in the thriving field of children’s and young adult literature studies. Twenty years after the publication of the first volume, the series seems to be as culturally visible and enchanting as ever – including now both a sequel, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and a tie-in movie, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, released in 2016. By now, the Harry Potter universe has been significantly expanded: apart from the original series it also features audio-visual adaptations of the novels, a prequel, a sequel, the online platform Pottermore and further tie-in product(ion)s that keep being revisited by scholars and fans from many different disciplines and countries. Most of the contributions in this volume are based on papers given at the Harry Potter students’ conference held at Bonn University on 4th-5th April 2017. The papers in the collection seek to explore a wide range of different aspects of Rowling’s Harry Potter universe and engage with the wizarding world in innovative ways. Using different theoretical approaches to advance the current state of research, the contributions employ a range of conceptual frameworks such as trauma studies, gender and queer studies, postcolonial studies and folklore studies. The variety of themes covered in the volume already indicates the manifold vantage points chosen to analyse and interpret Rowling’s works, ranging from the original series, her short stories on Pottermore to other facets of the Harry Potter franchise. The aim of the volume is to highlight the diversity of academic approaches that can be used to analyse Rowling’s world of Harry Potter as well as to emphasise its topicality twenty years after the publication of the first novel. Marion Gymnich’s and Klaus Scheunemann’s contribution “The ‘Harry Potter Phenomenon’: Forms of World Building in the Novels, the Translations, the Film Series and the Fandom” focuses on selected facets of the (transmedial) Harry Potter phenomenon, such as the depiction of Britishness in the series, the creativity of the translators and the specific challenges they had to face, the ‘Rickmann effect’ and hallmarks of the Harry Potter fandom. Corresponding to the manifold aspects identified by Marion Gymnich and Klaus Scheunemann, inter- and transdisciplinary approaches have evolved. Part I introduces some of these approaches by elaborating on the connection between the Harry Potter series and its potential sources. In her contribution, Laura Hartmann examines the Black Dog/Grim and the Boggart in the context of British mythology and traditional folklore. She tries to answer the question in how far Rowling used, adapted or transformed certain characteristic features of both creatures and in how far the reader encounters Rowling’s creations. In a similar vein, Franziska Becker, HANNE BIRK, DENISE BURKHARD AND MARION GYMNICH 8 Denise Burkhard, Julia Stibane and Jule Lenzen address the influence of cultural ‘textual resources’ (Wertsch) on Rowling’s work. Franziska Becker discusses the influence of the Arthurian legend on the Harry Potter series (according to the version which can be found in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae). The article written by Denise Burkhard and Julia Stibane uses Gothic literary frames as its basis and focuses on Knockturn Alley, the Forbidden Forest, Hogwarts and the Chamber of Secrets as Gothic places in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998). Using accounts on Druidism, Jule Lenzen explores potential Celtic sources of the Potterverse and tries to correlate Rowling’s depiction of wands, spells and shape-shifting with possible equivalents found in historical and literary texts on Druids. There are, of course, many other, not exclusively literary sources, such as cognitive frames or socio-cultural ‘concepts’ that inform the series. Drawing on Victorian gender roles, Svenja Renzel provides an analysis of the Gaunt family and the ‘gendered agency’ of its members. While Marvolo and his son Morfin tend to adhere to the classical Victorian stereotype of the dominant male, Merope seems to represent the subordinate, victimised female, who lacks a voice of her own. Naemi Winter examines in how far ‘Muggle history’ is alluded to in the fictional universe. The foci of her argumentation include the parallels between the Wizengamot and the Anglo-Saxon ‘Witenagemots’, the incorporation of historical and fictional accounts on alchemy and the Philosopher’s Stone as well as the link between Early Modern witch hunts, their medieval roots and the Harry Potter novels. Closing the first section, Vera Bub’s contribution explores the connection between religious elements/Christian concepts and Harry Potter and addresses the notion of an afterlife, martyrdom and immortality as topics central to both. In Part II, various themes and structures that pervade the series will be addressed. The first two contributions by Michèle Ciba and Carsten Kullmann discuss the representation of terror and racism respectively. Focusing on conspiracy, persecution and terror, Michèle Ciba identifies the correlation between conspiracy narratives and Rowling’s novels and analyses fictional reverberations of the increasing topicality of terror and persecution in post-9/11 public discourses. Precisely these mimetic and poietic potentials of literary texts have already been conceptualised by scholars such as Winfried Fluck and Hubert Zapf, who assume that one of the main functions of literary texts is that of highlighting deficits in a society. In many respects, the Harry Potter series seems to do just that: it addresses, for instance, the issue of racism and marginalisation by condemning prejudices against the so-called ‘Mudbloods’, an achievement which Carsten Kullmann addresses in his paper “Of Muggles and Men: Identifying Racism in the Harry Potter Series”. Drawing on Bourdieu’s “Forms of Capital” (1986), in which he subdivides capital into social, economic and cultural capital, Sarah Hofmann uses various examples to illustrate how fruitful and rewarding non-literary concepts can be for the analysis and interpretation of Rowling’s novels. Anne Schneider poses a highly innovative and provocative question, namely whether Harry Potter is a criminal and elaborates on the use and function of magical criminal law in the series. Firstly, she reconstructs the Magical Law system as presented in the novels and simultaneously questions its consistency; secondly she locates the Unforgivable Curses within the topography of the system and subsequently attempts to construct a possible defence for Harry. The final contribution of Part II by Denise Burkhard focuses on secrets and forbidden places and argues that Rowling tends to connect mysteries and secrets in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with spatiality. She examines the Forbidden Forest, the out-of-bounds third-floor corridor and the Mirror of Erised as places connected with the secrets revolving around Harry’s identity and the Philosopher’s Stone. Part III comprises contributions that ‘go beyond’ the Harry Potter series and focus on the new stage play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HARRY!’ 9 Them, Rowling’s writings on and fan fiction. Applying a psychological approach to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the paper by Anne Mahler identifies a range of symptoms in Harry that correlate with PTSD. It is also primarily the stage play that informs Marthe-Siobhán Hecke’s paper, which provides a conceptualisation of queerbaiting. Due to her thorough analysis, it becomes clear that the series can hardly be read as an example of queerbaiting, whereas the relationship between Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child does exhibit clear signs of queerbaiting. Employing postcolonial concepts, Alexandra Szczodrowski analyses modes of representation of Native Americans in Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” (published on Pottermore) and reveals, for example, the influence of dominant historiographies and potentially damaging stereotypes. In her article “The Dark Arts: Violence, Incest and Rape in Harry Potter Fan Fictions”, Franziska Göbel engages critically with the potential merits of reading and writing fan fictions that include depictions of non-consensual sex and abuse. She elaborates on why the series invites especially the production of ‘darker fan fictions’ and criticises the terminology that online platforms provide to tag stories, which is often not adequate, especially from an ethical perspective. The final contribution, “The Ever-Expanding Potterverse: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Pottermore”, discusses various strategies of internationalisation and diversification of the Potterverse, which implicitly address how the ever-growing Harry Potter universe answers to the interests of fans and critics. As the play, the recent movie adaptation, which is only the first of five, and Pottermore already suggest, the Potterverse will continue to expand and enchant fans and readers alike. In this sense: All the best, Harry, and many happy returns! *** We would like to express our sincerest gratitude to Vivienne Jahnke, Tamara Kuhn and the entire team at Tectum publishers. Many thanks to Janna Weinsch, who offered to become the witch on the cover photo, and the team at the Falknerei Pierre Schmidt (Erftstadt/Gymnicher Mühle) for their wonderful help and support in providing us with the opportunity to take a picture of their beautiful barn owl Merlin. Last but not least, we want to give our heartfelt thanks to the students’ team who organised the conference. Works Cited Hillis, Matt. Fan Cultures. Routledge, 2002. Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Bloomsbury, 1997. Wertsch, James V. Voices of Collective Remembering. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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J. K. Rowling’s “ Harry Potter” series (1997–2007) has turned into a global phenomenon and her Potterverse is still expanding. The contributions in this volume provide a range of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to various dimensions of this multifacetted universe. The introductory article focuses on different forms of world building in the novels, the translations, the film series and the fandom.

Part I examines various potential sources for Rowling’s series in folklore, the Arthurian legend and Gothic literature. Further articles focus on parallels between the “Harry Potter” series and Celtic Druidism, the impact Victorian notions of gender roles have had on the representation of the Gaunt family, the reception of (medieval and Early Modern) history in the series and the influence of Christian concepts on the world view expressed in the novels.

Part II focuses on a range of prominent political and social themes in the series, including conspiracy, persecution and terror, racism as well as the role of economic, social and cultural capital. Other articles explore the concept of a Magical Criminal Law and its consequences as well as the significance of secrets and forbidden places.

The articles in Part III go beyond the novels by taking the stage play “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, the movie “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”, Pottermore and fan fiction into account. Main topics in this part include trauma theory/PTSD, queerbaiting, a ‘post’-colonial analysis of the representation of Native Americans in Rowling’s “History of Magic in North America” and the depiction of violence, incest and rape in fan fictions.

The concluding article highlights the diversification of the Potterverse and analyses strategies informing its ongoing expansion.