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Harry Potter and Brittish Culture Essay

Since the release of the first novel, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States) in 1997, the books have gained an immense popularity and commercial success worldwide. They have collectively sold more than 300 million copies and have been translated into more than 63 languages. Harry has succeeded to seduced children and teenagers as well as adults. In 2001, the first book has been adapted on screen, making a benefit of 976 million dollars.

Joanne Rowling, who has become the richest writer in literary history, insisted that the entire cast must be British or Irish, to keep the cultural integrity of the novels. Apart commercial success, Harry has created a huge cultural movement. Harry Potter is studied at school and incites children to read. Fan websites, forums, books and ‘Harry Potter societies’ are everywhere. Harry has a huge impact on its readers, and it is not uncommon to find testimonies on the web relating how Harry Potter has changed one’s life.

Harry potter is a seemingly ordinary English little boy. Orphan, he is raised by her aunt in an English suburb in Surrey. At the age of eleven he is told he is a wizard and that he has survived an attempted murder by the evil sorcerer Lord Voldermort. From this time, Harry is going To the Witchcraft and Wizardry School of Hogwarts, a medieval castle hidden from the non magical world, supposedly located in a mountainous and secluded region in Scotland. There, Harry and his friends will get through different adventures and will try to defeat Lord Voldemort.

English author J. K. Rowling has set her story in Great Britain, and behind the very well written story of a little boy looking for his identity and fighting evil, it is a whole culture that is being dissected. The books, as well as the movies, are completely impregnated in British culture. Food, family, institutions, globalisation, politics, architecture, internationalism, English values, gender, clichés, history and many other aspects are pictured and criticised.

Analysing the different aspects of British culture in the books, only considering the text itself would be a mistake. In ‘Harry Potter and British Culture’ I consider ‘Harry Potter’ as a story with a rich literary background, as a schoolboy, as an English and worldwide phenomenon, as the friend of millions of people, as a commercial success, and an educational model. There is as much cultural aspects in the books and films than outside them. Studying the effect of Harry on people, either fans or religious detractors can teach us a lot about English culture and its disparities.

My study will take into account Harry Potter’s British literary heritage: children literature, boarding school story, fantasy, mythology, fairy tale, Rowling’s work has a very rich literary background. I will as well provide an analysis of Rowling’s use of the books to picture and criticise British society. In addition to this, I will study the reception of the books in the Anglophone world.


Primary texts: Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury, 1997) Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (London: Bloomsbury, 1998) Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (London: Bloomsbury, 1999) Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (London: Bloomsbury, 2000) Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (London: Bloomsbury, 2003) Rowling, Joanne K., Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (London: Bloomsbury, 2005) Rowling, Joanne K., Fantastic beasts and where to find them (London: Bloomsbury, 2001)

Films: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone, dir. Chris Columbus (Warner Brothers, 2001) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, dir. Chris Columbus (Warner Brothers, 2002) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban, dir. Alfonso Cuaron (Warner Brothers, 2004) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, dir. Mike Newell (Warner Brother, 2005)

Secondary Sources: Abanes, Richard, Harry Potter and the Bible: the menace beyond the magic (Camp Hill, Pa: Horizon Books, 2001) Analysis of the religious aspects in the books and of the controversy around them. Abrams, Philip, Work, urbanism and inequality: UK society today, ed. P Abrams (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1978) Study of modern British society: social classes and inequalities. Anatol, Giselle Liza (Ed), Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays (Westport, Conn. : Praeger, 2003) Gathering of critical essays about the Harry Potter books. Analysis of different literary and cultural aspects. Blake, Andrew, The Irresistible Rise of Harry Potter (London: Verso, 2002) Study of the Harry Potter phenomenon in Britain and the world, as well as cultural aspects within the book. Butts, Dennis, Stories and Society : Children’s Literature in its Social Context (Basingstoke : Macmillan, 1992)

Study of the influence of the society on children’s literature. Gupta Suman, Re-reading Harry Potter (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.) Explanation of the Potter phenomenon. Text-based analysis of its social and political implications.

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