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Harry Potter and the Dissertations of Phenomenal Curiosity

Neither Harry Potter nor JK Rowling need any kind of introduction, much less here on Tumblr, so we can pretty much rush ahead. Suffice to say, Rowling’s is a series of books so magical and transportive that when it was adapted for the silver screen, Duke Humfrey’s Library at the Old Bodleian was enlisted to play the reading room and the Divinity School became Hogwarts’ hospital wing. 

Today marks twenty years since the first publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the book that started both a literary phenomenon and pop culture tidal wave. By way of wishing The Boy Who Lived a happy birthday, we decided to take a look at the Bodleian Libraries’ archives, collections and catalogues for all things Potter. Maybe the most amazing thing we found was the volume of dissertations that Harry Potter has inspired or influenced in just two decades.

Bodleian readers have access right now to over 165 different dissertations that name Harry Potter in their titles, and over 4,000 more that reference the Potter books or films as part of their arguments.

Here are just a few of these dissertations titles, chosen almost at random, to give you a hint of how many academic thoughts Potter has become entangled with along the way.

  • The Hero’s Journey Through Adolescence: A Jungian Archetypal Analysis of Harry Potter.
  • “All was well”: Harry Potter in the medievalist tradition.
  • Harry Potter and the moral spectrum of care: Using feminist care ethics to analyze morality.
  • Boarding a train: An exploration of the afterlife in Harry Potter.
  • Transfiguration maxima!: Harry Potter and the complexities of filmic adaptation.
  • A flawed father: downplaying fatherhood through the character of James Potter in Harry Potter.

By comparison, the same search for Star Wars yields only 31 dissertations, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer only 22.

When it comes to casting entrancing enchantments on the brightest and the best, it seems like the boy wizard is in a class of his own.

Here’s an adorable marginal caterpillar from our early sixteenth-century processional for your #ManuscriptMonday this week. MU Ellis Special Collections Rare Vault BX2032 .A2 1510z 

“Sometimes I have the strangest feeling about you. Especially when you are near me as you are now. It feels as though I had a string tied here under my left rib where my heart is, tightly knotted to you in a similar fashion. And when you go, I am afraid that this cord will be snapped, and I shall bleed inwardly.”
- Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë