The Difference Between Jumpers and Sweaters: Exploring the Editorial Process of the `Harry Potter' Series
Kathleen (Kate) Murtaugh
This presentation focuses on a rarely-explored aspect of the cultural phenomenon that is J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series: the editorial differences between the American and British versions of the books. I analyze editorial decisions ranging from the alterations of common British colloquialisms to the changing of speech patterns and the introduction of new characterizations. For example, the introduction of the tertiary character Dean Thomas in Rowling's first novel is a point of great interest. In the original British edition, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, young Harry's Sorting Ceremony is considerably shorter than in the American version, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In the former, there are “three people left to be sorted”: Lisa Turpin, Ronald Weasley, and Blaise Zabini. (91). In Sorcerer's Stone, however, Lisa Turpin is made to wait her turn behind “Thomas, Dean, a Black boy even taller than Ron,” (122). It is my intention as a scholar to discern where within the texts that similar changes are made, and what trends, if any, these distinctions follow. With my analysis of similar changes throughout the series, I seek to prove that characterizations, speech patterns, and reader perceptions are vastly different between the two audiences. I seek to prove that there are many differences in the novels that are far more significant than simply changing the word “jumper” to the word “sweater”. I also discuss whether it is a common occurrence to edit novels differently for American and British audiences—with other occurrences in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Charles Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit, and Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. My thesis begins with a brief chapter about this editorial practice, and then moves into a discussion of the marketing of the series. As the first three novels in were published in rapid succession, I argue that Scholastic was able to market them as a sort of `instant trilogy'. My research indicates that a great deal of the edits made were done in such a way as to make the first three novels accessible to a very wide range of readers. My hypothesis is that this caused the books to be simplified for their American audience. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the first film in the series focusing on the fact that even though the films are designed for a global audience, the marketing by Warner Brothers is very much directed at the American public.
Kate Murtaugh, originally from Dayton, Ohio, is a recent graduate of Chatham University with a degree in English and Theatre. Her bachelor's thesis dealt with the editorial changes and subsequent marketing techniques behind the British and American versions of the Harry Potter series. Her interest in the series runs deep, having grown up with Harry as so many of her generation, and it was ultimately Harry Potter that inspired her future goals. Kate plans to attend San Diego State University in the fall to pursue a Masters' Degree in Children's Literature.