Preliminary Outline and Annotated Bibiliography

 

Since its first release, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling has been subject to a debate over whether or not it promotes immorality. There have been arguments made which suggest that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone promotes witchcraft, disobedience and generally un-Christian behaviour. Alternately, many claim that this book is in no way inappropriate for children or offensive to the Christian religion, including Rowling herself. Arguments that state Harry Potter has Christian undertones, un-Christian undertones, and no religious undertones at all will be explored.  A look at the subsequent movie and how its representation of the source material may address these issues will also be surveyed.

Critics of the novels morality include various sects of the Christian faith and the suggestion that Harry Potter is an evil influence has resonated with people all over the world. The promotional use of witchcraft, glamorizing questionable characters and the rewards of disobedience have all been cited as obvious attempts to sway children toward un-Christian acts. These arguments and the evidence that resides in the book and movie will be discussed as will the phenomena of book burning, banning in schools, and censorship.

In response to these accusations, a different point of view has emerged which states that Harry Potter is actually a children’s novel that is fitting with the Christian world view and is not only appropriate for children but beneficial to their understanding of their religion. The triumph of good over evil, self sacrifice for the greater good, and Harry as a religious figure all have been contributed to the argument that the novel has clear Christian and moral undertones.

The claim that the novel has no specific religious affiliation or message either way will also be observed.  The view that Harry Potter has no religious sympathies and erases religious matters from its pages altogether is as equally important to discuss. Evidence from the books and movies as well as written criticism will further develop the issue.

While evidence from both the book and the movie will be used to support all arguments throughout, it is also worthwhile to observe the differences between the book and the movie and what these differences contribute to each possible argument, if any.

It is clear that the explosive popularity of the novel and its sequels further inspired the argument on whether or not Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is immoral. All sides of the debate will be explored as well as the affect that this heated debate has had on the readership and perception of the book.

Bibliography

Blake, Andrew. Irresistible Rise of Harry Potter. New York: Verso, 2002.

–          A study of the enormous success of the Harry Potter novels and the phenomena that has garnered billions of dollars in merchandise, movies, and profit for the author. This success has drawn the books to the attention of many people who believe that Harry Potter is inappropriate for younger audiences. This study that combines massive popularity and the resulting backlash will be helpful in discussing how the two affect each other.

Crowe, Chris. “Young Adult Literature: The Problem with YA Literature.” The English Journal. 90. (2001): 146-150.

–          Addresses the stereotypes that Young Adult literature attracts as well as the types of scrutiny that these books are forced to undergo. Will help to identify possible reasons for the religious debate as well as other debates that surround Harry Potter and other books that are similar.

DeMitchell, Todd. “Harry Potter and the Public School Library.” The Phi Delta Kappan. 87. (2005): 159-165.

–          Summarizes and discusses the censorship and banning of Harry Potter in classrooms and one public library in particular. Will help to outline how and why the book was banned and the consequences in the public view of such an action.

Diamant, Jeff. “‘Harry Potter’ and the Gospel of J.K. Rowling – washingtonpost.com.” washingtonpost.com . <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/29/AR2007062902152.html&gt;.

–          Explores the notion of Harry as a Christ-figure as well as the deeper moral message of the book as interpreted by many readers. Will help to explain the claim that Harry Potter is a Christian allegory or even simply promoting a Christian message.

Foerstel, Herbert N. Banned in the U.S.A.: A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries Revised and Expanded Edition. New York: Greenwood Press, 2002.

–          This book discusses the trend of censorship in America and its schools. It will be helpful in determining what sends up red flags to the censor and how Harry Potter fits in with other books that have been censored and the reasons for the censorship.

Glanzer, Perry. “Harry Potter’s Provocative Moral World: Is There a Place for Good and Evil in Moral Education?” The Phi Delta Kappan. 89. (2008): 525-528.

–          Discusses the ways in which Harry Potter can be integrated into a classroom that is exploring morality and suggests the various ways in which teachers can interpret the book and its moral messages. Will help to explore the various views on morality that various people have taken from the text and make a defense for the book in the face of an opinion that claims Harry Potter is inappropriate for children.

Glanzer, Perry. “In Defense of Harry . . . But Not His Defenders: Beyond Censorship to Justice.” The English Journal. 94. (2004): 58-63.

–          A skeptical look at the claims that Harry Potter poisons the child’s mind and the actual effect that books have on children. Glanzer claims that the child needs a variety of world views and that the power of a book like Harry Potter should not be overestimated. Will help in developing the study of the reach and effect of the book as well as its appropriateness for its audience.

Granger, John. Looking for God in Harry Potter. USA : Saltriver, 2006.

–          A book, from a Christian point of view, that discusses the inherent Christian themes in Harry Potter. Granger argues that not only is the book appropriate for children but it should be celebrated for its obvious Christian messages. Will help in the discussion of Harry Potter as a Christian narrative.

Grossman, Lev. “Who Dies in Harry Potter? God.” TIME.com. <http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1642885,00.html&gt;.

–          An article that argues that Harry’s world is free of religion or a god of any kind. Grossman takes evidence from the novel and Rowling’s own words to claim that the book has no religious undertones. Will be helpful in providing argument and evidence for the view that Harry Potter is not meant to be read with any religious message or affiliation.

“Harry Potter: Religion, Philosophy, Ethics, and the Harry Potter Books by J.K. Rowling.” Agnosticism / Atheism, Skepticism, Atheism, Religious Philosophy. <http://atheism.about.com/od/harrypotter/Harry_Potter_Religion_Philosophy_Ethics_and_the_Harry_Potter_Books.htm&gt;.

–          Examines multiple facets of the immorality debate with regard to the Harry Potter novels including censorship, Christian allegory and promotion of witchcraft. Will be useful in introducing information of the many sides of the debate.

“How the Boy Wizard Won Over Religious Critics – The Boston Globe.” Boston.com. <http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/08/16/how_the_boy_wizard_won_over_religious_critics/&gt;.

–          A discussion of how the Harry Potter books have survived the backlash from various Christian groups and are now being read for their deeper moral value. Provides good evidence towards the argument that Harry Potter has an underlying Christian theme.

“Is Harry Potter Harmless?” Christian Answers Network (ChristianAnswers.Net). <http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/harrypotter.html&gt;.

–          A look at the occultist and immoral messages of Harry Potter. This site compares the popular children novel to other literature and provides evidence from the book and well as information on occultism to make its case that the book is inherently un-Christian. Will help to explore how the links between the novel and the occult have been traced.

Kjos, Berit. “Harry Potter Lures Kids to Witchcraft – with Praise from Christian Leaders.” Crossroad. <http://www.crossroad.to/text/articles/Harry&Witchcraft.htm&gt;.

–          A website devoted to the argument that Harry Potter is inherently evil. The author provides evidence from the book, bible, and wider Christian community. Will be helpful in determining the distinct issues that some groups have with the book’s potential message as well as how the source material can be linked to the occult.

Kruk, Remke. “Harry Potter in the Gulf: Contemporary Islam and the Occult.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies. 32. (2005): 47-73.

–          A look at how the Harry Potter novels have been accepted in Islamic countries with a comparison to its reception from conservative Christian groups. Will help to provide a more global response to Harry Potter as well as the interesting look at how other religions perceive the morality of the book.

Neal, Connie. The Gospel According to Harry Potter: Spirituality in the Stories of the World’s Most Famous Seeker. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.

–          An argument, from a Christian’s perspective, that Harry Potter is not immoral or trying to lure children into Satanism. Will help with the discussion of the argument that Harry Potter is not un-Christian with the interesting outlook from a person who identifies with many who insist that it is.

Neal, Connie. What’s a Christian to Do with Harry Potter?. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 2001.

–          A book that discusses Harry Potter from a Christian’s perspective and aims to convince and prove to readers that you can be both a Christian and a fan. Neal discusses the various ways in which Harry Potter is not only non-offensive but can and should be promoted by Christian parents. This study will be helpful is examining how Christians not only try to accept the popular books but also how it can prove to have moral themes and messages.

O’Brien, Michael. “Harry Potter and the Paganization of Children’s Literature.” leannepayne.com. <www.leannepayne.com/harrypotter/HarryPotter-PaganizationOfChildren.pdf>.

–          O’Brien argues that Harry Potter has occultist messages even if they are shrouded by the plot of the book, which is seemingly good triumphs over evil. He suggests that it is inappropriate for children and that the messages that they discern from it could lead to immoral behavior. Will help to further reveal the evidence that people have taken from the text to prove that Harry Potter is a bad influence on its readers.

Partridge, Christopher. The Lure of the Dark Side: Satan and Western Demonology in Popular Culture. London: Equinox Publishing, 2009.

–          A study of how the devil and demonology are represented in popular culture such as music, movies and books including Harry Potter. This book will be helpful in relating the book to other mediums that have been similarly accused of promoting the occult.

Rees, Margaret. “US Christian Fundamentalists Target Harry Potter books.” World Socialist Web Site. <http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/aug2000/pott-a05.shtml&gt;.

–          A look at some of the early backlash that the Harry Potter books received from the religious community and commentary by famous critics and authors. Will be helpful in tracing the roots of the debate and how it has evolved over time.

“Religion in Harry Potter: Christian Holidays, Rituals, and Names.” The Hog’s Head Harry Potter News and Commentary. <http://thehogshead.org/religion-in-harry-potter-christian-holidays-rituals-and-names-330/&gt;.

–          An interesting look at the religious symbology in Harry Potter without suggesting where the book’s sympathies lay. Will be helpful in pointing out references to religion and popular religious symbols within the book without the bias of those who argue for or against its morality.

“The Harry Potter Debate: Research Resources – religious cults, sects and movements.” Apologetics Index: Christian Apologetics and Cult Information. <http://www.apologeticsindex.org/p03.html&gt;.

–          A look at the various sides of the debate including various books, websites and testimony from advocates of both sides. By providing evidence from both sides will provide an example of how a website offers evidence from all angles as well as useful primary material.


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