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Is Harry Potter Classic Literature?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Rayndeon, Feb 13, 2020.

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Is Harry Potter Classic Literature?

  1. Yes, and it should be considered as such.

    17.5%
  2. Yes, but it shouldn't be considered as such.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. No, but it will be considered so in the future as it should be.

    50.8%
  4. No, but it will be considered so in the future though it shouldn't be.

    9.5%
  5. No, and it won't be considered so in the future though it should be.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. No, and it won't be considered so in the future as it shouldn't be.

    22.2%
  7. Other (explain in thread)

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Rayndeon

    Rayndeon Professor

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    By "classic literature," I mean in the sense of books that have an enduring impact to culture and the understanding of the human condition and whose message stands the test of time. This may not be a perfect definition, but it should serve as a rough starting point for the sort of group of books that tend to be considered "classic literature."

    Ostensively speaking by way of example then, I include works that should be uncontroversial in that kind of list like the Iliad or the Divine Comedy, but I also include (perhaps closer in vein to Harry Potter) things like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings works. It is the sort of literature people still remember and talk about decades or centuries after they were published, the themes and messages in them resonate even after all that time, and its the sort of book that will be discussed, dissected, and read in literature departments.

    With that rough understanding in mind, do you think it is the case that Harry Potter is classic literature?

    If you do not consider it to be classic literature as of the present, I have a pair of follow up questions: a) do you think it will ever be considered classic literature in the future and b) should it be considered as classic literature?

    I've attached a poll to this thread to try to gauge what folks think about this, and I'd be curious as to your thoughts on the matter.
     
  2. JoJo23

    JoJo23 Auror

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    I'm fairly doubtful of it to be honest.

    Its earlier entries come up poorly against the classics of childrens fantasy literature (Lewis Carroll, T. H White, Kenneth Grahame, Tolkiens Hobbit, C.S Lewis, even Jill Murphy). The derivative nature of The Philosopher's Stone was noted at publication. The latter entries don't really rate as quality fantasy literature either, with Half Blood Prince and Deathy Hallows even having a someone negative reputation on this site.

    Harry Potter is an odd duck, due to its nature as a series wich "ages" with the character and the audience, which means we dont really have a work it can be compared with so easily. I think this will be a large part of the basis of how it lasts, if indeed it does. The middle books are also an interesting mix of a fully developed "boarding school novel", of the type popular in pulp magazines in the early 1900's, (Charles Hamiltons stories in The Magnet) blended with light fantasy elements, which may also continue to interest future readers.
     
  3. Red

    Red Professor DLP Supporter

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    I think it will be, tbh I kind of think it already is, but I'm biased.

    It deals with important themes to human nature: love, death, morality and choice among others. It's unlikely that there will ever be another novel to be as commercial successful, be such a worldwide phenomena and I think that alone will be a topic for discussion in ages to come. Moreover, perhaps it's a hot take but I think people saying JKR is a bad writer is a meme. It think there is a lot to be said of the writing style of the novels that is worthy of discussion – the simple, but evocative use of simile (“He swooped like a bat”, “He looked like a pig in a wig”, He looked rather owlish”(all paraphrased from my memory)). There is also the crafting of a whimsical atmosphere, the sheer readability of the works and quite funny dialogue.
     
  4. fire

    fire Unspeakable

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    Classic for its genre maybe, but not classic simpliciter. Note that the same can be said of LotR - an acclaimed fantasy novel, but not part of the western canon by any measure.

    This isn't unfair - and I say that as someone who's hypercritical of the navel-gazing conventions of literary fiction, and who thinks the good genre fiction is good fiction, plain and simple. No one can say that Ursula K Le Guin's stuff, or ASOIAF, or (more recently) Ancillary Justice don't deal powerfully with issues relevant to the human condition - but HP, on the other hand handles its themes (e.g. love, discrimination, death) in a very shallow, perfunctory way at best.

    TLDR - I stand with anyone who has venomous contempt for books about middle-aged English professors contemplating adultery, but HP doesn't have sufficient thematic depth to stand the test of time.
     
  5. Rayndeon

    Rayndeon Professor

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    @JoJo23 Harry Potter might be one of those series that have to be taken as a whole, not just looked at in light of individual books perhaps. Across the books as a whole, what Rowling seems to be attempting to do with the story seems very much in the vein of the likes of Lewis and Tolkien in the use of Christianity and its associated messages of love, death, and choice as foundation and lens through which the story as a whole finds its place. One might well rightly argue that perhaps Rowling does not quite measure up to the likes of Tolkien, but it does seem to be broadly in that tradition, or so it strikes me.

    @Red I suppose it's an interesting question if there can be another series like Harry Potter with the same degree of worldwide and lasting impact and widespread appeal. Some series like The Hunger Games have seemed to try to move into that space or direction, but none have found the same degree of success as Harry Potter. What do you think has lent Harry Potter that quality that other series haven't achieved?

    @fire By that analysis, do you think that any form of 'genre fiction' then cannot be classic literature simpliciter?
     
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2020
  6. TheWiseTomato

    TheWiseTomato Prestigious Tomato ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Given time, Harry Potter will be as much a part of the English canon as Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, or Lord of the Rings. Its qualification isn't strictly down to its quality, but to its impact and enduring nature within the public consciousness.
     
  7. Agent

    Agent Professor DLP Supporter

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    Honestly, it is pretty much a right thing, at the right time, at the right place. If HP was released now, no way would it be as successful as it was. For that matter, I'm not even sure if LotR would be published, let alone popular.
     
  8. fire

    fire Unspeakable

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    Well, as I said in my original post:

    So of course genre fiction can be classic literature - it's just that I don't think HP is up there with the likes of 1984 or Le Guin's stuff.
     
  9. cucio

    cucio DA Member

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    It is an interesting question.

    As the word implies, one could choose to interpret a "classic" as a work that defines a "class" on its own, that spawns imitations and derivative works, regardless of what you could say about its artistic quality.

    On one hand, one can hardly deny that HP has done just that. Massively.

    On the other hand, HP is already highly derivative itself, so it is not really a game changer that brings something new to literature. Fantasy fictions about magic schools and/or redemption figures existed before HP. Louise Cooper's "Time master" trilogy comes to mind, but I am sure there are better and more obvious antecedents, my knowledge of the genre is not extensive.

    So, in that sense, I wouldn't say it is a classic. But perhaps 300 years in the future people will have forgotten about predecessors and look at HP as the work that defined a genre. I think entirely possible that this may have happened with works we regard nowadays as classics.
     
  10. Rayndeon

    Rayndeon Professor

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    Can you elaborate on what you mean by this when you say that neither *Harry Potter* nor *Lord of the Rings* would be popular if published today?

    Being derivative in and of itself, I think, is not an automatic bar against achieving classic status: take a look at the Aeneid; that's functionally a derivative of the Iliad, but few would deny its classic status. Perhaps what Harry Potter brought to the table was in terms of how it combined its various influences and inspirations; the product may need to be considered as a unified whole, not a disparate collection of parts.
     
  11. Hymnsicality

    Hymnsicality Seventh Year

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    Is there such a thing as classic YA novels? If there is, HP would be in that category for sure.

    If not I'd probably place it closer to children's classics like the wind in the willows, Charlotte's web and a wrinkle in time, than literary classics.
     
  12. point09micron

    point09micron Groundskeeper

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    Author is still alive; it can't be called "classic."
     
  13. Fatality

    Fatality Unspeakable

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    I can't really say I'd agree with this as a qualifier for being a classic. Was 'To Kill a Mockingbird' not a classic until Harper Lee died? It was being studied in English classes for a long time before that happened.

    I can't say I'd consider Harry Potter a classic now, but I think it's just a matter of more time passing especially considering the movie series (which like it or not was entwined with the cultural perception of the series) ended less than a decade ago.
     
  14. Agent

    Agent Professor DLP Supporter

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    Well,
    For Lord of the Rings, if you were to try and publish Fellowship of the Ring today, most agents would turn you away. High Fantasy isn't a popular genre by any means and it is a slog to read through.

    Both series won't be as popular because people aren't reading as many books as they used to since other sources of entertainment are more accessible
     
  15. Alistair

    Alistair Second Year

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    I agree with this to some degree.

    Harry Potter especially is interesting (in my mind) because of it's relationship with the rise of the internet, both as a primary source of entertainment and more generally as a medium of exchange.

    My view is that HP got a massive break in being released when it did, and that is almost solely down to the increasing relevance of the internet.

    Back in '97 (I imagine, not having any memories of the era), the internet was still mostly in its infancy for casual consumer use. It existed, it was used, it was appeciated, it was useful, but it was very far from what it is now, especially for a child. I doubt very much that kids of HP reading age (say 8-16) were using the internet that much, and especially not as their primary source of entertainment as they do today.

    That being the case, other forms of entertainment would be more compelling. Books, movies, video games (on a console) were the items of interest and so were consumed more readily. This is the first advantage to HP, and any book that came before this time; less competition from new mediums of entertainment.

    The second is more nuanced.

    Whilst the internet wasn't a big deal when children first got into HP in the late 90's, it absolutely was a big thing by the later releases in the mid-00's. This was what really got HP going. Children who already had a love of the series suddenly had, almost for the first time, this enourmous 'friendship group' of common fans. They could discuss the books, argue about the plots, build out the world of HP to a degree that no real world group of 5 or 6 friends could possibly do. The sheer amount of content spawned of the back of this kept HP fresh, relevant, compelling even when the gaps between the books was a couple years.

    This is not the case with other series. Eragon for instance was also a childhood favourite, but it was a case of 2 weeks of excitement every couple of years immediately before the next book came out, a weekend of glorious reading frenzy, then forget all about it until the next release.

    In that environment, the amount of hype that can be sustained is relatively limited. There simply isn't enough new content to maintain the emotions and discssion. But HP, HP was always exciting, always interesting, always fresh. There was always a new fan theory or a fanfic or, in later years, a computer game or a movie. The frenzy was never allowed to tail off completely, so it was always on your mind. That's what drove the initial popularity, what ultimately got HP the backing it needed in terms of movie interest, theme parks etc to really become a cultural staple.

    However, I don't see that happening again for the foreseeable, especially not for a book release. There's simply too much competition from the internet itself for any single work to become so universally known. Plus of course, now the internet exists at all, the amount of books we read has dropped off immensely anyway.
     
  16. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator DLP Gold Supporter

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    High fantasy as a genre did not really exist prior to LotR, no publisher knew there was an adult appetite for that sort of story prior to its publication. Today's market for fantasy and high fantasy in general is still so shaped by LotR that if it were published today it would look like nothing like a deep rehash of old clichés (that it invented.) So it's kind of impossible to take it out of its place in history.

    Harry Potter did not invent (or reinvent) a genre in the same way, but its cultural impact on our generation is hard to ignore. Whether that will have stating power is hard to say. I think he is well embedded as a cultural charecter and the next few generations will grow up knowing who he is.

    As for the books classic status, I reckon they will be. There are may classic books that are (when you actually read them) weaker in a lot of respects than their place in history would have you believe they'd be. Some are objectively not that good at all. But they capture a time or place or style of writing or were the first or have an iconic charecter and so they are remembered where better books are forgotten.
     
  17. kiramythos

    kiramythos Muggle

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    I think it's somewhat inevitable that it becomes viewed as a classic in some regards, irrespective of how deserving it is or is not. I was just the right age that I was within a year or two of the character's age as the books came out and I grew up, and I now have two children under three years old. Despite my issues with the later books, I definitely plan to read the series with my kids when they're older, because despite it all, the series has brought me a lot of joy over the years in various forms. And I know that many in a similar life situation plan to do the same. Basically, I think it's almost unavoidable that at least another generation is going to grow up with fond memories of the Harry Potter series, even if not in the same way as I did, which, when you combine it with the cultural influence it has had on my own generation, makes it tough for me to see it being considered anything less than a Narnia-style classic.

    Now, does that fit the definition of a classic in the literary sense? That's questionable. But I think it's going to be a long time before the cultural impact is able to fade.
     
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