The Literary Horizon: Mapping the World of Harry Potter, Harry, A History

Much like how many people falsely assume Belle is my favorite Disney princess (it’s Jasmine today), they also tend to assume that my Harry Potter House allegiance is to Ravenclaw—but I’m a Hufflepuff. (We’re into hugs and kicking butt.) It’s actually kind of staggering that this sort of reference works not only in fan culture but in the mainstream, especially as fewer and fewer texts are taken to heart by such large swathes of people. Today, we’re going to look at two manifestations of the fan culture around Harry Potter—a collection of fan scholarship and a history of the fandom itself.

Mapping the World of Harry Potter ed. by Mercedes Lackey

This book has not been authorized by J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., or anyone associated with the Harry Potter books or movies.New and old fans of the Harry Potter series will welcome this collection of fresh essays on Potter lore, plotlines, and characters. With up-to-date information through book six in the series, this companion volume offers a comprehensive look at the world of Potter through the eyes of leading science fiction and fantasy writers such as David Gerrold, Joyce Millman, and Martha Wells, and religion, psychology, and science experts. Along with feminism, fascism, and moral life, topics include the Three Faces of Severus Snape, Harry Potter as Luke Skywalker, I Am a Hufflepuff: A Look at the Houses, and Harry Potter and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

via Amazon

First, a word on the title; it apparently was first published as Mapping the World of Harry Potter, but later had its title changed to Mapping the World of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice—no doubt because it contains an essay on saucy fanfiction concerning a one Severus Snape. As the editions in my libraries are the first run, I’ll default to the original title. I found this quite by accident, looking for Harry, A History in the catalog of the library near my school—my first encounter with fan scholarship occurred in the Harry Potter fandom, in fact, so this looked like a sweet piece of nostalgia, especially considering it was compiled before the release of the seventh book.

Michelle Erica Green at the Green Man Review finds it readable and entertaining, but amateurish—but I should note that Green considers Harry Potter children’s literature in the vein of The Chronicles of Narnia, rather than a series that grows with its heroes, which appears to be where her problem with the collection, which naturally takes its subject quite seriously, lies. Laurie Thayer at Rambles quite enjoyed it, especially the idea of Hermione taking over after Harry’s death at the hands of Voldemort—I think reading this knowing how the seventh book turned out will be interesting!

Mapping the World of Harry Potter was released on January 1, 2006.

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli

***Featuring a Foreword by J.K. Rowling***

The Harry Potter Books Were Just the Beginning of the Story. . .

During the brief span of just one decade, hundreds of millions of perfectly ordinary people made history: they became the only ones who would remember what it was like when the Harry Potter saga was still unfinished. What it was like to seek out friends, families, online forums, fan fiction, and podcasts to get a fix between novels. When the death of a character was a hotter bet than the World Series. When the unfolding story of a boy wizard changed the way books are read for all time.

And as webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron, one of the most popular Harry Potter sites on the Internet, Melissa Anelli had a front row seat to it all. Whether it was helping Scholastic stop leaks and track down counterfeiters, hosting live PotterCasts at bookstores across the country, touring with the wizard rock band Harry and the Potters, or traveling to Edinburgh to interview J. K. Rowling personally, Melissa was at the center of the Harry Potter tornado, and nothing about her life would ever be the same.

The Harry Potter books are a triumph of the imagination that did far more than break sales records for all time. They restored the world’s sense of wonder, and took on a magical life of their own. Now the series has ended, but the story is not over. With remembrances from J. K. Rowling’s editors, agents, publicists, fans, and Rowling herself, Melissa Anelli takes us on a personal journey through every aspect of the Harry Potter phenomenon—from his very first spell to his lasting impact on the way we live and dream.

via Amazon

Back when I was more involved in Harry Potter fandom, I listened to the two big Harry Potter podcasts: MuggleCast and The Leaky Cauldron. I liked The Leaky Cauldron a little bit more, as it was a little more mature. I remember Melissa Anelli, one of the three hosts, talking about her research for her book, but I drifted away from Harry Potter soon after the seventh book and forgot all about the book. But it was recently brought to my attention by Lu at Regular Ruminations and, with the last film installment on the way, I thought it was time to reflect back on the fandom.

Lu adored it, unsurprisingly, and found it fascinating to see events she remembered from childhood put clearly. Amanda at The Zen Leaf also loved it as an exploration into a fandom she’d never experienced, as she got into the series with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Harry, A History was published on November 4, 2008.

10 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: Mapping the World of Harry Potter, Harry, A History

  1. I haven’t read either of those, but Harry Potter and Philosophy is certainly an interesting read, even if I had a really hard time reading the last fourth of it. The Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin portions weren’t too hard, but Ravenclaw started talking about things that really make your head hurt when you think about it. Hufflepuff was a little more confusing than Gryffindor and Slytherin, but still good. ^_^

    I’ve been looking forward to reading Harry, A History, but I had never heard of the other one. Have you seen the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook? It has things like Pumpkin Pasties and Cauldron Cakes, though it doesn’t have a recipe for butterbeer. For my birthday, I got a book that’s all about the film aspect of the Harry Potter franchise. I haven’t started it yet, but I’m excited to learn about how they created Buckbeak and the non-melting ice sculptures.

  2. Thanks for linking to my review! I really enjoyed Harry, A History and want to read more about Harry Potter, but I don’t know about Mapping the World of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Amateurish? And treating Harry Potter as children’s literature only? Not sure if I could get beyond that!

    Rose: There are lots of recipes for Butterbeer on the internet. We made it one year and I remember it being pretty tasty.

    • Ah, no, Green, the reviewer, considers Harry Potter as solely children’s literature and, thus, finds the collection amateurish because of how it treats it academically—not the actual book itself! Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

    • I once tried a recipe I got off of Mugglenet for butterbeer – my mother told me I was to never make it again for how sugary it was. And it didn’t taste anything like the butterbeer that they have at the theme park – unless I made it wrong? Either way, butterbeer is tasty. 🙂

  3. I was really into the series as it was being published, but I lost interest as soon as I finished book number 7! The essays on harry potter interests me very much, though. I like analysing texts and there is lots of fun in speculating on Rowling’s fictional world.

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