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A Defense of Potter, or When Religion is Not Religion: An Analysis of the Censoring of the Harry Potter Books

Julia Šarić

Abstract


Résumé: L'article propose une analyse de la récente controverse suscitée à Toronto par les romans de J.K. Rowling. Cédant aux accusations de parents selon lesquelles la série Harry Potter faisait la promotion de la sorcellerie, la commission scolaire du comté de Durham a retiré des salles de classe les ouvrages incriminés. Julia Saric replace les faits dans une perspective plus générale, celle de la censure des récits merveilleux et fantastiques pour la jeunesse. Les œuvres en cause ne contiennent pas de références à la secte dite de Wicca mais elles appartiennent à un genre qui, selon Northrop Frye, ne doit pas être jugé en fonction des critères moraux imposés aux récits réalistes. Enfin, l'analyse fait valoir qu'il faut faire confiance à l'imagination des jeunes lecteurs, car les Harry Potter ne sont pas des romans initiant à la «vraie vie». Ils peuvent, toutefois, se révéler des outils pédagogiques susceptibles d'éveiller la sensibilité littéraire des jeunes.

Summary: This paper is an analysis of the recent controversy surrounding objections to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. The author examines in detail how Toronto's Durham County School Board responded to parental complaints regarding alleged occult themes in the books by temporarily restricting classroom reading of the materials. The issues that arose in this particular case are then examined for their larger significance within censorship debates concerning children's books and the genre of fantasy in particular. Arguing that Rowling's books do not in fact contain references to the actual religion Wicca, the author then moves on to discuss how various authors and theorists have defended fantasy as a genre that must be seen as what Frye would call "stubborn structure" — a fictional creation that resists being interpreted according to real-world morals and standards. Finally, the author argues that imaginative engagement with a text provides the best opportunity for students to contemplate literature as a "total form" whose value lies in its ability to simultaneously engage readers and draw attention to the artfulness of its construction. The author concludes by stating that the Harry Potter books should not be judged as any kind of "guide to life," and that parents and educators would do well to utilize, within the context of literacy education, the readers' genuine interest in and enjoyment of the books.

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