HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

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July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Wrock Out With Your Wand Out!: Wizard Rock's Re-Writing of the Harry Potter Phenomenon  
Brian Schmidt  

In addition to the movie adaptations and tie-in consumer goods we expect to accompany all phenomenally successful cultural commodities, the Harry Potter series has also spawned an outpouring of academic scholarship. Although scholarship on the books has been produced from a wide variety of theoretical perspectives, it generally falls into one of two categories: close readings of the text, and work on the Harry Potter culture, which encompasses both its production by the culture industry and its consumption by the general public and fans. While close readings which feature critiques of the ideological underpinnings of the books are unable to confirm whether these ideologies are actually effecting or being communicated to the readers, work on fandom has tended to emphasize the dominance of the culture industry and the fans resistance to it, without making explicit links between the text and the fans.  This paper bridges this divide by examining how one section of the fan community, Wizard Rock, has created a participatory music culture around the Harry Potter series, united around common understandings and uses of the text, and how these reconstructions of the text by the fan culture reproduce, neutralize, and critique the ideological contradictions of the text identified by academic critics.

For instance, two of the ideological problems singled out by Suman Gupta in Re-Reading Harry Potter (2003) – the division between the magic world and muggle world in the books and how it relates to our real world, and the theme of `chosenness,' both understood as naturalizing privileged positions – are representative of academic criticism of the books and are thoroughly transformed when registered by Wizard Rock. The division between the magic world and the muggle world reproduces colonialist ideologies of the `white man's burden' in which the moral wizards must protect the muggles, while the muggles receive no representation or voice within the magic world. Wizard Rock on the other hand eliminates the muggle world altogether, as bands and fans identify with characters from the books, primarily wizards and witches, leaving only the magic world and the real world which it was the task of the magic world to mirror and critique. This more direct relationship between the magical and the real worlds neutralizes the messy relations between muggles and wizards from the text, and allows the democratic multiculturalist message present in the books to be amplified. The identification of Wizard Rock groups and fans with characters from the books, which generate new dimensions of underdeveloped characters and fills in gaps in the texts, similarly neutralizes `chosenness' and hero-worship by directly undermining Harry's heroic qualities through comedic parody by viewing him from the perspective of his enemies. By bringing close readings of the books and Wizard Rock into dialogue, this paper will demonstrate the degree to which fans critically engage the texts while also pointing out inherent limitations on the aesthetics and politics of Wrock.

Brian Schmidt received his B.A. in Music Theory and Composition from Stetson University in 2006. He is currently a Ph. D. candidate in Musicology at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his interest in Harry Potter fandom, he is interested in Arnold Schoenberg's transformation of late Romantic tonal practice, and Marxist theoretical traditions.
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