Co-creating Harry Potter: children's fan-play, folklore and participatory culture

Small, Contessa (2015) Co-creating Harry Potter: children's fan-play, folklore and participatory culture. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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A number of scholars have argued that children’s traditional artifacts and play are being replaced by media culture objects and manipulated by corporations. However, while companies target and exploit children, it is problematic to see all contemporary youth or “kid” culture as simply a product of corporate interests. This thesis therefore explores children’s multivocal fan-play traditions, which are not only based on corporation interests, but also shaped by parents, educators and children themselves. The Harry Potter phenomenon, as a contested site where youth struggle for visibility and power, serves as the case study for this thesis. Through the examination of an intensely commercialized form of children’s popular culture, this thesis explores the intricate web of commercial, hegemonic, folk, popular and vernacular cultural expressions found in children’s culture. This thesis fits with the concerns of participatory literacy which describes the multiple ways readers take ownership of reading and writing to construct meaning within their own lives. Due to the intense corporate and adult interests in Pottermania, children have continually been treated in the scholarly literature as passive receptors of the commercial construction of Harry Potter. However, this study of child-based Potter fan-play illustrates that youths are active participants in the creation of their own culture, and have developed their own ways of generating meaning from and celebrating the series such as book and movie launch parties, Quidditch games, Wizard Rock music, fantasy and role-playing, trivia games, Internet fan clubs, fan fiction, rumours in anticipation of new volumes, media narraforms, parodies, Potter Parties, spell performances, fan art and homemade costumes. In this thesis, I examine the misconceptions and triviality barrier surrounding children’s culture; the appeal of Harry Potter as mythic hero and folktale; the Conservative-Creative (Newell’s Paradox) nature of children’s play; children’s dialectic relationship with mass media; the activation of children’s traditional competencies through fan-play; and the restoration of folk traditions through participatory storytelling such as media narratives and fan fiction. All of these emergent forms of participatory fan-play help children achieve their own sense of identity, culture and power – ultimately dismissing the all too present misconception that children are passive receptors, blindly obeying adult agendas.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 8456
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 397-416).
Keywords: Children's Folklore, Folklore and Popular Culture, Harry Potter, Fandom, Folktale
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: April 2015
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Mass media and children; Popular culture; Children--Social life and customs; Children--Recreation

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