J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series changed the children’s publishing industry forever and captured the hearts of readers worldwide. In an attempt to explain the success of the Harry Potter series, this paper borrows from literary theorist Nancy Armstrong’s How Novels Think, which explores the logic of the novel across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. According to Armstrong, the notion of individualism arose as a result of the novel. Cultural anxieties regarding individualism and identity therefore permeate the novel, as Armstrong demonstrates using Bram Stoker’s Dracula. By comparing Lord Voldemort to Dracula and Harry Potter to Mina Harker, this presentation examines the cultural anxieties that Lord Voldemort may represent for readers today and suggests that it is the shared experience of these anxieties and the resolution of them in the Harry Potter series that has led to the unprecedented success of Rowling’s self-titled hero.
Jenelle Wagoner, ’10 Mount Vernon, IA
Majors: English, Psychology
Sponsor: Michelle Mouton