Blending Genres and Crossing Audiences

Karin E. Westman

in The Oxford Handbook of Children's Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780195379785
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Blending Genres and Crossing Audiences

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  • Literature
  • Children's Literature Studies
  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This article describes J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series' (1997–2007) generic hybridity, focusing on elements of the school story, bildungsroman, and fantasy in the texts. It specifically illustrates how Rowling plays with generic forms and boundaries toward a similar theme: the value of moral agency, born from sympathy for others. The implications such generic hybridity has for a fourth genre are provided. The bildung that Rowling emphasizes is Harry's moral and emotional development, as her choice of narrative style places the emphasis upon subjective, internal experience as much as external actions within the world. Throughout his school years at Hogwarts, all that Harry can be certain of is uncertainty, as he struggles to make the best decision within a complex and competing array of choices. Rowling reveals the dual role children's literature currently serves in contemporary culture, particularly contemporary British culture.

Keywords: Harry Potter; J. K. Rowling; school story; bildungsroman; fantasy; contemporary British culture; Hogwarts; children's literature

Article.  9930 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Children's Literature Studies ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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