Escape and Consolation: Narrative Voice and Metafiction in the Harry Potter Series
AbstractThis article sets out to examine narrative voice in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (1997-2007) as well as the presence of metatextual and metafictional elements in her novels. Special attention will be paid to Tom Riddle’s diary, which first appears in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1998), and the book of fairy tales and companion to the series, The Tales of Beedle the Bard (2007). While Rowling’s seven-book series has been extensively discussed, the companion books that purport to be the books that the main characters read in the novels—Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001), Quidditch Through the Ages (2001) and The Tales of Beedle the Bard—have not received the same amount of critical attention. Yet these and other examples of metadiegetic narratives provide thought-provoking insights into the series’s commentary on the relationship between texts and readers, adults and children. Through a careful examination of Rowling’s narrative voice and her use of metafiction, I argue that the author gives her sometimes dark, disturbing story a narrative frame that not only provides the reader with consolation and reassurance, but also offers a commentary on the importance of storytelling and children’s literature. Metafiction thus makes Rowling’s work more complex than we might assume, challenging its readers to navigate through different narrative levels and reflect on the very act of reading.Keywords: J. K. Rowling; Harry Potter; Tales of Beedle the Bard; narrative voice; metafiction; children’s literature
Anatol, Giselle Liza, ed. 2003. Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays. Westport, CT: Greenwood.
Bhadury, Poushali. 2013. “Metafiction, Narrative Metalepsis, and New Media Forms in The Neverending Story and the Inkworld Trilogy.” The Lion and the Unicorn 37 (3): 301-26.
Cohn, Dorrit. 1983. Transparent Minds: Narrative Modes for Presenting Consciousness in Fiction. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.
Cross, Julie. 2008. “Frightening and Funny: Humour in Children’s Gothic Fiction.” In Jackson, Coats and McGillis 2008, 57-76.
Diterlizzi, Toni and Holly Black. (2003-2004) 2009. The Spiderwick Chronicles: The Completely Fantastical Edition. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Do Rozario, Rebecca-Anne C. 2008. “Fantastic Books: The Gothic Architecture of Children’s Books.” In Jackson, Coats and McGillis 2008, 209-26.
Ende, Michael. (1979) 1993. The Neverending Story. Translated by Ralph Manheim. London and New York: Puffin.
Flieger, Verlyn and Douglas A. Anderson, eds. 2008. Tolkien: On Fairy Stories. London: HarperCollins.
Funke, Cornelia. (2003) 2004. Inkheart. Translated by Anthea Bell. Frome: The Chicken House.
—. 2005. Inkspell. Translated by Anthea Bell. Frome: The Chicken House.
—. (2008) 2009. Inkdeath. Translated by Anthea Bell. Frome: The Chicken House.
Gallardo-C., Ximena and C. Jason Smith. 2003. “Cinderfella: J. K. Rowling’s Wily Web of Gender.” In Anatol 2003, 191-206.
Genette, Gérard. 1980. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method. Translated by Jane E. Lewin. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP.
Granger, John. 2009. Harry Potter’s Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures. New York: Penguin.
Jackson, Anna, Karen Coats and Roderick McGillis, eds. 2008. The Gothic in Children’s Literature: Haunting the Borders. New York and London: Routledge.
Nel, Philip. 2002. “Bewitched, Bothered and Bored: Harry Potter, the Movie.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 46 (2): 172-75.
Nikolajeva, Maria. 2002a. “Imprints of the Mind: The Depiction of Consciousness in Children’s Fiction.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 26 (4): 173-87.
—. 2002b. The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow.
Nodelman, Perry. 2008. The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins UP.
Pattison, Nicky, dir. 2001. J. K. Rowling: Harry Potter and Me. BBC and A&E Television Networks, 57 min. December 28, 2001. [Accessed online on July 14, 2018].
Pepetone, Gregory G. 2012. Hogwarts and All: Gothic Perspectives on Children’s Literature. New York: Peter Lang.
Rowling, J. K. 1997. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 1998. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 1999. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2000. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2003. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2005a. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2005b. “J. K. Rowling Hogwarts and All.” Interview by Lev Grossman. Time Magazine, July 17. [Accessed online on July 14, 2018].
—. 2007. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2008. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2017. Quidditch through the Ages. London: Bloomsbury.
—. 2018. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. London: Bloomsbury.
Schanoes, Veronica L. 2003. “Cruel Heroes and Treacherous Texts: Educating the Reader in Moral Complexity and Critical Reading in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Books.” In Anatol 2003, 131-46.
Sedgwick, Marcus. (2003) 2011. The Book of Dead Days. New York: Ember.
—. (2005) 2010. The Dark Flight Down. London: Orion.
Serafini, Frank, Daniel Kachorsky and Stephanie Reid. 2018. “Revisiting the Multimodal Nature of Children’s Literature.” Language Arts 95 (5): 311-21.
Smith, Karen Manners. 2003. “Harry Potter’s Schooldays: J. K. Rowling and the British Boarding School Novel.” In Anatol 2003, 69-87.
Snicket, Lemony. (1999-2006) 2011. A Series of Unfortunate Events Complete Collection: Books 1-13 with Bonus Material. New York: HarperCollins.
Stroud, Jonathan. (2003) 2010a. The Amulet of Samarkand. Westport, CT: Hyperion.
—. (2004) 2010b. The Golem’s Eye. Westport, CT: Hyperion.
—. (2005) 2010c. Ptolemy’s Gate. Westport, CT: Hyperion.
Tolkien, J. R. R. (1947) 2008. “On Fairy Stories.” In Flieger and Anderson 2008, 27-84.
Wall, Barbara. 1991. The Narrator’s Voice: The Dilemma of Children’s Fiction. London: MacMillan.
Waugh, Patricia. 1993. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. New York and London: Routledge.
The authors retain copyright of articles. They authorise AEDEAN to publish them in its journal Atlantis and to include them in the indexing and abstracting services, academic databases and repositories the journal participates in.
Under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0), for non-commercial (i.e., personal or academic) purposes only, users are free to share (i.e., copy and redistribute in any medium or format) and adapt (i.e., remix, transform and build upon) articles published in Atlantis, free of charge and without obtaining prior permission from the publisher or the author(s), as long as they give appropriate credit to the author, the journal (Atlantis) and the publisher (AEDEAN), provide the relevant URL link to the original publication and indicate if changes were made. Such attribution may be done in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the journal endorses the user or their use of the material published therein. Users who adapt (i.e., remix, transform or build upon the material) must distribute their contributions under the same licence as the original.
Self-archiving is also permitted, so that authors are allowed to deposit the published PDF version of their articles in academic and/or institutional repositories, without fee or embargo. Authors may also post their individual articles on their personal websites, again on condition that the original link to the online edition is provided.
Authors are expected to know and heed basic ground rules that preclude simultaneous submission and/or duplicate publication. Prospective contributors to Atlantis commit themselves to the following when they submit a manuscript:
- That no concurrent consideration of the same, or almost identical, work by any other journal and/or publisher is taking place.
- That the potential contribution has not appeared previously, in any form whatsoever, in another journal, electronic format or as a chapter/section of a book.
Seeking permission for the use of copyright material is the responsibility of the author.