Date of Award

12-16-2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Department

English

First Advisor

Robert Rozema

Second Advisor

Jo E. Miller

Third Advisor

James Persoon

Abstract

Some people, such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, eagerly embrace the opportunities that magic promises. Others, however, fear and despise magic, and so condemn anything that contains so much as a sprinkle of pixie dust, just as Harry’s aunt and uncle do. A look into the reception of the Harry Potter series, particularly in the United States, demonstrates how these two responses to magic occur, and why this series in particular created such strong reactions from both sides. With a long history of banning literature that contains magic, it is little surprise that many religious conservatives felt the need to publicly defame Rowling’s Harry Potter series. However, despite citing religious principles as the source for their contention, a close examination of the texts shows that Rowling’s books do not, in fact, contradict Christian values, but actually support Christian ideas of life and death and the imperative to love and fight against evil. It is perhaps because Rowling’s inclusion of these values is subtle rather than explicitly stated that many people miss this important component of the texts. The other response is to embrace the fantasy aspect of this series. Doing so naturally creates a safe space for a reader to work through real-life issues. Studying the series as a whole, it is clear that many of the events in the Wizarding World mimic events in our world, particularly in regards to the War on Terror and the U.S. and U.K. governments’ behaviors surrounding it. One such behavior is censorship, and so it is imperative to look at the various forms of censorship within the text, as well as the censorship the books received themselves. This exists both on an individual level (such as the Dursleys refusing to allow Harry to read his Hogwarts letters), or on a governmental level (such as Umbridge banning the Quibbler from school grounds). 4 This thesis seeks to examine the ways in which the magic of Harry Potter elicits such varying responses, as well as to look at the way that the text so neatly parallels and addresses the real-life concerns of the time in which it was published, including the pressures of censorship.

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