All was well: Harry Potter in the medievalist tradition

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University of Alabama Libraries

Going beyond the obvious visual medievalisms -- such as Hogwarts Castle and its sundry suits of armor -- in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and instead examining textual medievalisms -- those plot points with precedents in medieval literature -- I argue that Harry Potter is part of the tradition of medievalist literature. The tradition began as early as the sixteenth century but had its heyday in the nineteenth century, when it arose as a reaction to cultural nostalgia inspired by industrialization, and this nostalgia became an integral part of the tradition. The nostalgia to which Rowling responds, I argue, is a reaction to the politics of post-World War II Britain. The series recreates World War II but with a more positive ending, an ending that is possible because of Harry's visions in Order of the Phoenix and Deathly Hallows and others' memories, viewed in the Pensieve in Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows. I argue that these visions and memories are medievalisms because of their parallels to Geoffrey Chaucer's three major dream visions, the Book of the Duchess, the House of Fame, and the Parliament of Fowls, and because they can be read in the terms established by Macrobius in his Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. By using these medievalisms to create an ending that appeals to cultural nostalgia, I argue that Rowling has inserted her text into the tradition of medievalist literature. My understanding of cultural nostalgia's role in medievalism has been largely shaped by Alice Chandler's A Dream of Order; my understanding of cultural nostalgia in modern Europe comes, in part, from Malcolm Chase and Christopher Shaw's article "The Dimensions of Nostalgia" in their collection The Imagined Past: History and Nostalgia. My definition of medievalism comes from Kathleen J. Verduin's article "The Founding and the Founder: Medievalism and the Legacy of Leslie J. Workman," which reflects on Workman's efforts to establish medievalism as a field of study.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Literature, Medieval literature, Modern literature