“Harry Potter Grows Up”: The Meaning Behind a Cliché

For those of you who aren’t familiar with The Late Age of Print, the final chapter of the book focuses on the extraordinary literary sensation that is Harry Potter.  So, needless to say, Harry Potter has been on my mind quite a bit lately, especially with today’s release of the first installment of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

I don’t have much to say about the latest film, honestly, not having yet seen it — although I intend to, as I’ve seen the previous six movies and have read/enjoyed all seven books.  Instead, what I’ve been thinking about lately is the age of Harry Potter, or rather that of his fans.

I teach an undergraduate course at the 300 or Junior level called “The Cultures of Books and Reading”; during one week, we focus on the many-headed Harry Potter phenomenon.  When I first launched the book class, back in 2006, I was excited to realize that my students were basically Harry’s contemporaries. Those among them who were  eleven years old — Harry’s age — when the series launched in 1997 were twenty in 2006, which is the typical age of most college Juniors.

But now it’s four years later, and those twenty year-olds are turning twenty-four.  Yes, that’s right, twenty-four — practically a quarter century.  Graduate school age.  Marrying age.  Getting established in one’s career age.  Even baby-having age.  I’m feeling old just writing about them!  Indeed, it’s not just that Harry Potter and the actors who portray him and his friends on screen have grown up.  The whole fan culture surrounding Harry Potter has grown up, too, to the point where, as with Star Wars fans, we might even start thinking about a whole new generation of Potter enthusiasts.

This is what the release of the first installment of the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows really means.  It marks the beginning of the end of the film adaptations, yet it also marks the beginning of the beginning of the next generation of Potter fandom.  What role, if any, will the books, films, toys, games, candy, costumes, etc. play in their lives?  And what new meanings will the Harry Potter franchise take on once the torch gets passed, or rather shared?

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jose Afonso Furtado and Ted Striphas, jessie wang. jessie wang said: RT @jafurtado: “Harry Potter Grows Up”: The Meaning Behind a Cliché, by Ted Striphas (@striphas) /The Late Age of Print http://is.gd/hqrgM […]

  2. Jay says:

    I have been laboring for the last three years to create the next harry Potter series. I have always been a writer but made my living as a teacher and researcher in literacy. I have always been excited about books that entice people to read. The Potter Phenomenon appealed to both children and adults. As your post points out, the original Harry readers are now grown up. I think all who loved the series was overwhelmingly sad at the end of book 7. The appetite for a series of a hero character like Harry was spawned. The series was mind candy for a generation that spread to older generations. The appetite is keen. My series will be 5-7 books and the 1st book is nearing completion. I will have the unpleasant task of seeking a publisher with the insight that realizes the presence of this market of hungry readers. My series assumes that the reader has read the Rowling series and does not evolve like her series did in style and complexity. I have had tremendous success using her books to get reluctant students to read. My books begin at the Book 7 level of sophistication. Unlike Harry which is melodrama and fantasy, my series is more like the DaVinci Code in science fiction, realistic fantasy with a heavy element of metaphysics rather than magic lore. I owe a great deal to Rowlings stylistically as she wrote a complex plot that holds from beginning to end. I have read the series 5 times the last two analytically as an English Literature composition teacher and her craft is rock solid. I hope my series added to this genre and feeds the reading interests and needs of serious adventure readers.

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