Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Harry Potter books: Part 1

I've had an ongoing interest in children's literature for quite a few years now, both as a reader and critic. Parallel to that, I've always adored the Harry Potter books, and got quite into reading and writing fanfiction when I was about 14, a fascination which has never really left me.

More recently, I've discovered that there was a spate of books published about the Harry Potter series in 2002-4 (some of which have been reissued in revised forms since the Deathly Hallows came out), and have been reading a couple of them. They're riveting stuff, full of analysis of power relations, class issues, gender representations, alternative sexualities, the significance of blood, religion, reception and banning, the films etc. In particular, Suman Gupta's Re-reading Harry Potter is wonderful, though I haven't finished it yet.

To call the effect of the Harry Potter books a 'phenomenon' (and I think it's fair to include the films as an effect rathr than a cause of this phenomenon) is, in my view, totally justifiable. Never before had a series of books, let alone those ostensibly for children, been so devoured, banalised, universally known. (The Twilight series will never match this, because its audience is so limited to teenage girls. And, quite frankly, because they're dreadful.) So they deserve special attention, and how 'literary' or 'good' they are, or any other value-judgement-type terms you can think of.

Every time I start thinking about this kind of analysis in any detail, my mind fills up and goes mad. There is so much to say about these books. They are rich with characters, subplots and backstory, and nearly everything is of interest. So I'm going to write a series of entries on these books, looking at broad themes, posing questions, perhaps formulating answers to them. These entries probably won't be in any logical order. But I'm doing a media module as part of my teacher training course, so I think it is going to be extremely helpful to me to start getting my thoughts together, so hopefully I might be able to write about them in the future.

I will also be thinking about a selection of fanfiction texts, because for me and hundreds of thousands of other readers, they have become an integral part of the Harry Potter experience. Ditto the films - but replace 'hundreds of thousands' with 'millions'. I'm excited about this. Enjoy, folks!

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