HPEF presents Infinitus 2010, a Harry Potter conference            TEXT  MENU

July 15-18, 2010
Orlando, Florida

Harry Potter meets Orlando Furioso, or Flight of Fantasy by Hippogriff  
Diana Patterson

The Harry Potter series is an epic by all the major definitions of the term. It is a comic epic, at least in part, but not a mock epic. This paper proposes to illustrate this point most forcefully by a comparison with Ludovico Ariosto's comic epic Orlando Furioso. The choice of this particular epic is certainly not random. Ariosto invented the hippogriff. He also has something much like the Room of Requirement when it is the warehouse for lost items, except that Ariosto's huge collection of lost items is on the dark side of the moon - reached by hippogriff, of course. The epic was considered by the 18th century, and many before, to be the ultimate form of writing, possibly because the great 18th century authors, such as Alexander Pope, could not write one in English.

Instead they invented the novel. The last great English epic poem was Milton's Paradise Lost. But the prose epic (or epic novel) arose in the 20th century possibly most notably exemplified in the great literary tradition by James Joyce's Ulysses. But there have been science-fiction epics, such as Dune, and fantasy epics, such as Lord of the Rings. These “genre” epics are often not given credit for being of the ultimate literary form owing entirely to prejudice.

This paper would make an attempt to overcome such a prejudice against Harry Potter, a work of fantasy, a work for children some would say. Nobody has ever said that Orlando Furioso was a work for children or a work of fantasy - and yet it has elements so like Harry Potter, that the comparison is nearly irresistible. Either Orlando Furioso must become a work of children's fantasy, or Harry Potter must become and epic.

Diana Patterson is Associate Professor of English at Mount Royal University, in Calgary, Canada, author of several articles on Harry Potter, and editor of Harry Potter's World Wide Influence (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). She was co-chair of Accio 2008 at Magdalen College, Oxford.
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