Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

English

First Advisor

Prof. Mark Winokur

Abstract

The focus of this paper is to legitimize J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series by way of asserting the aesthetics and literary merit of the books, as well as their impact on a generation of readers. This is done by defining the Harry Potter series as texts that utilize the writing technique of pastiche, as opposed to pastiche as a means of postmodern criticism, and by defining this technique through such things as Rowling‘s recycling of western mythoi, her subtle focus on social issues, and the application of the nineteenth century narration style of Free Indirect Discourse. All of these elements appear within each of the seven novels and by highlighting them as elements that add complexity and innovation to the texts, I align the popular novels with writers such as Austen and Dickens; thereby placing the series and fantasy fiction genre in a higher realm of literature. By interrogating each of these areas of the texts, as well as drawing on the literary theories of Fredric Jameson, Richard Dyer, and others, I demonstrate the relevance of the Harry Potter series in the postmodern world as well as justify their popularity amongst the masses of western readers. The Harry Potter novels are both socially and textually significant, and I establish this through the typical channels of literary criticism as well as use them to redefining those channels. In essence, I not only suggest the literary and social weight of the Harry Potter series for this generation, but use them to reassert fantasy fiction as a genre of significance.

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