ACLA 2008

A few days ago I received a formal notice that my proposal for the upcoming American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting (April 24-27, Long Beach, CA) has been approved. In case you’re interested (and you should be!), here’s the abstract:

The Boy Who Lived (and Died, and Rose Again): The Messianic Matrix of Harry Potter

With worldwide sales in excess of 400 million copies, the Harry Potter heptalogy has quickly become one of the most culturally and commercially significant literary series in the history of the printed word. These remarkable triumphs have not come without controversy. Conservative Christians have repeatedly denounced the series’ apparent espousal of witchcraft and the occult—reactions which undoubtedly contributed to its ranking atop the American Library Association’s “Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century.” However, a critically sensitive reading of the complete Harry Potter cycle reveals startling affinities between its cosmology and that of the New Testament, particularly regarding the often-intertwined elements of eschatology and messianism. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes increasingly apparent that both the characters and the world in which they live have entered a tenuous liminal state; Armageddon looms on the horizon. The character of Harry proceeds to emerge as “The Chosen One”—a heroic, salvific figure whose unique nature endows him alone with the ability to successfully resolve this climactic conflict, and thus bring about the transition from a liminal existence to an ideal one. This paper will explore these and other fascinating links between ancient Christian kerygma and modern secular fiction, and also address the significance of their existence in spite of vast chronological, epistemological, and sociocultural gaps.


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January 2008
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