Here is where you can find earlier incarnations of my thesis, from the earliest proposal to my final first semester draft. Use the sidebar on the right for easy navigation, or explore the links below.
September 29, 2010: Focused Proposal
The Book of Revelation provides much of the foundation of apocalyptic belief in the western Christian world. The text contains a myth about the end of days, which has created “a regime of truth that operates within a field of power relations and describes a particular moral behavior (Quniby, Anti-Apocalypse xv). The binary nature of the myth (good vs. evil, the saved vs. the damned) insists on the superiority of some groups over others. In Millennial Seduction, Lee Quinby describes how this hierarchical worldview influences a variety of ostensibly secular matters in the United States, including gender equality, race relations, the entertainment industry, news media, and so forth (8). I will argue that the Harry Potter series provides a significant social critique of Anglo-American apocalypticism by providing an alternative, non-binary apocalyptic paradigm. Read more…
October 20, 2010: Annotated Bibliography
Abanes, Richard. Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick. Camp Hill, PA: Horizon – Christian Publications, 2001. Print.
This book argues that the Harry Potter series contains “spiritually dangerous material that could ultimately lead youth down the road to occultism” and promotes “unbiblical values and unethical behavior (6).” The major focus of this book (Part 2) is proving the Harry Potter series’ connection to the occult, which isn’t overtly relevant to my discussion of apocalyptic dualism Harry Potter. In Part 1, however, the odd-numbered chapters provide plot summaries of each of the four books, while the subsequent even chapters discuss occultism, ethics, and age-appropriateness of each book. “Potterethics” is the author’s term for the “morally confusing messages” of the books (7). These sections will be particularly helpful for their analysis of the ways in which the books undermine and defy Christian moral extremes (i.e. good and evil), although I will have to show why this is a good thing, as opposed to Abanes, who is clearly opposed. Read more…
October 27, 2010: Position Paper 2
The apocalyptic prophesy of the Book of Revelation is meant to convey a sense of cosmic order, a reassurance that God has a master plan and will eventually deliver humanity (or some of it) from suffering and chaos. In this sense, the Book of Revelation and other apocalyptic narratives are stories designed to bring comfort to communities afflicted by persecution and violence. At the same time, the text prompts a powerless group to seek deliverance in the promise of ultimate divine judgment against their perceived oppressors. Subscribing to the apocalyptic belief of the Book of Revelation allows powerless communities to maintain their faith and tolerate living in times of crisis and chaos, since these ordeals are seen as merely the temporary forerunners of an eternal, divine social order. Read more…
November 3, 2010: Working Introduction
The Harry Potter series ignited a debate within the American Christian community between fundamentalists, who believe the books are dangerously subversive to Christianity, and more moderate Christians, who point out biblical symbolism in the books and the triumph of Christian values like faith, love, redemption, and the victory of good over evil. On one hand, Richard Abanes, author of Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick, argues that the Harry Potter series contains “spiritually dangerous material that could ultimately lead youth down the road to occultism” and promotes “unbiblical values and unethical behavior (6).” On the other hand, Christian minister John Killinger explains parallels between Harry Potter and the New Testament in an attempt to prove that ultimately, “the master plot, the one underlying the entire novel, is the critical struggle between good and evil” with Harry as Christ and Voldemort as Satan (38). Read more…
November 10, 2010: Position Paper 3
“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?”
Dumbledore beamed at him, and his voice sounded loud and strong in Harry’s ears even though the bright mist was descending again, obscuring his figure. “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” (Deathly Hallows 723) Read More…
December 8, 2010: First Semester Draft
The Harry Potter series ignited a debate within the American Christian community between evangelical fundamentalists, who believe the books are dangerously subversive to Christianity, and more moderate Christians, who emphasize the triumph of Christian values like faith, love, redemption, and the victory of good over evil. Both sides are perceptive, but neither tells the whole story. Christian apocalyptic morality, as set forth in the Book of Revelation, encourages hierarchical dualism based on black-and-white absolutes like “good” and “evil.” Similar binary classifications and accompanying value judgments have evolved to dominate Western perceptions of race, gender, sexuality, and religion.
Morality in Harry Potter, by contrast, isn’t simply about the struggle between good and evil; it’s the struggle to transcend the dualism that promotes conflicts of good versus evil. As Elizabeth Rosen’s work on postmodern apocalyptic fiction shows, some authors have challenged the legitimacy of moral systems based in apocalyptic absolutism. I argue that J.K. Rowling’s fictional metanarrative about prejudice in the wizarding world delivers such a challenge. Rowling offers a combination of the five traditional essential elements of apocalypse, a postmodern rejection of metanarratives of prejudice, and an emphasis on the power of love to create an alternative moral system that is not based on dualistic extremes, but, rather, transcendence of apocalyptic morality. My text-based analysis of the series demonstrates how Rowling achieves this without succumbing to the traditional apocalyptic paradigm–even when the “good guys” win.