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Harry Potter and the Politics of Literature

Entertainment Weekly recently selected J.K. Rowling as its “Entertainer of the Year,” at least in part for effect her Harry Potter books have had “on a generation’s ideas about war, leadership, dissent, heroism, and sacrifice.” EW must have attended the Pacific Political Science Department’s October 24 Colloquium entitled “Harry Potter and the Politics of Literature.” Professors Susan Sample, Jeff Becker, and Brian Klunk enthralled a large crowd with their analyses of what the Harry Potter books have to say to us about politics. Susan Sample expressed concern that the books’ cynical and dismissive attitude toward government and politics may detract from democratic participation. Jeff Becker showed how Harry Potter himself can be seen as model of democratic citizenship. Brian Klunk argued that the conflict between Harry Potter and Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort) has been misread as a simple Manichean struggle between good and evil and that it offers a more subtle understanding about conflict and political morality.The presentation was so successful that Pacific Seminar faculty requested a repeat performance. You can listen to the presentation at the Pacific Political Science Podcast.

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