Teen Wizards in Love: Harry Potter, Fandom, and the Romance of Adolescence
Children’s and YA literature, the genres to which the Harry Potter books belong, are defined by audience, but in scholarship that audience is often a constructed fantasy of “a child” or “a teenager.” However, fandom records the actual responses of the most active and engaged portion of the audience. This presentation will examine these constructions of audience and fandom in the Potter fandom through study of fanfictional narratives of romance and sexuality. Potter fanfiction both partakes of and rejects elements of genre romance (for teens and adults) and pornography: for example, much fanfiction, unlike genre romance, does not guarantee a happy ending or a just universe, and unlike pornography, fanfiction is deeply concerned with character. Of particular interest are the ways in which these literary discourses bump up against constructions of childhood and, especially, adolescence in the Potter books and in fans’ discussions about literary representation of young people in sexual situations. This discussion is complicated by the visible presence of actual adolescent fans as not just readers, but writers of Potter fanfiction. Fanfiction – and adolescent fan writers – can deepen our understanding of issues such as the representation of teen sexuality in literature and media about and for young people.
Catherine Tosenberger is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Winnipeg, where she is affiliated with the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures. She has an MA in folklore from Ohio State University, and she received her Ph.D. from the University of Florida, where she focused upon children’s literature and folklore. Her dissertation, which she is currently revising for publication, was on Harry Potter fanfiction on the Internet. She has published articles on Harry Potter and its fandom, and on the television series Supernatural. Her other research interests include the European fairy tale canon, gender and sexuality studies, and children’s and adolescents’ literature, media, and culture.