- Harry Potter and Beyond: On J. K. Rowling’s Fantasies and Other Fictions by Tison Pugh
One of the strengths of Pugh’s Harry Potter and Beyond is clear in its title: Pugh not only considers Rowling’s Harry Potter series in his monograph, but also examines the author’s online [End Page 410] presence, and her adult novels The Casual Vacancy (2012) and the Robert Galbraith murder mysteries. Pugh frames his analysis using the hybridizations of genres throughout Rowling’s writings. He devotes chapters to her use of the characteristics of fantasy, school stories, bildungsroman, mystery, and allegory, and argues that Rowling “has created a fresh, hybrid form of literature that takes advantage of the narrative potential of intersecting aesthetic traditions” (19).
Pugh’s introduction begins with a biography of Rowling in which he deconstructs the “rags to riches” or fairy tale lenses that are often applied to her rise as a popular author and cultural icon. He notes the ways her political assertions are represented among her novels and considers the maturation of her characters and how these aspects prevent categorizing her Harry Potter series solely as young adult or children’s literature.
“The Fantasy Foundations of the Harry Potter Novels” draws attention to the hero’s journey (most commonly associated with Joseph Campbell). Pugh focuses upon Rowling’s implementation of this journey and its impact upon how gender is depicted throughout the Harry Potter series. Pugh argues Rowling depicted Harry as being more masculine than his friend Ron and asserts the use of the hero’s journey detracted from allowing female characters to take more central or active roles in the narrative. This chapter also focuses upon the influence fairy-tale motifs and Arthurian and chivalric romances have upon the series.
In “Hogwarts and the School Story Tradition,” Pugh examines the school story influences that pre-date Hughes’s Tom Brown’s Schooldays, arguing that Hughes was “scarcely the discoverer of unknown literature territory” (37). This stance represents a departure from other Harry Potter scholarly collections that have looked at the school story elements within the Harry Potter series. The examination of the school story’s characteristics challenges Rowling’s characterization of the Weasley family as living in poverty and describes how Harry embodies the invisible and valued middle class. Pugh then addresses how Rowling has re-envisioned Hermione’s ethnicity retroactively (also referred to as retconning). He asserts this retconning allows Rowling “to claim a greater multiculturalism for her series at the same time it refutes . . . the series’ predominant whiteness” (48). The following chapter, “Harry Potter’s Adolescence and the Bildungsroman Tradition,” furthers the critique of how Rowling depicted multiculturalism at Hogwarts by discussing ethical quandaries within the series, including the segregation of species, the enslavement of house elves, and Harry’s use of unforgivable curses.
Chapter 4 examines how Rowling adheres to or ignores tropes of detective stories with particular attention to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000), while chapter 5 explores the allegories of good and evil throughout the Harry Potter series, focusing upon allusions to World War II and Christian symbols of sacrifice and salvation. [End Page 411]
“The Evolving Harry Potter Canon” includes descriptions of the two Fantastic Beasts movies; the play, Cursed Child; the materials on Rowling’s websites Pottermore.com and JKRowling.com; and her comments on Twitter. Generally, Pugh focuses less upon analysis in this chapter, but he still questions what should or should not be counted as canon when it comes to Rowling’s writing and influence. He briefly discusses the homoerotic relationship between Scorpius Malfoy and Albus Potter in Cursed Child, and the colonialist approach to Rowling’s descriptions of wizarding schools in the United States of America and Uganda. Pugh also briefly explores fan response to Rowling’s more recent work, noting how fans often use their preferred medium “to address and correct what they perceive as the series’ limitations” (106).
The chapter “Out of the Wizarding...