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Reading - Harry Potter.docx

St. Michael's College Courses
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Jennifer Harris

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Harry Potter and the Functions of Popular Culture Dustin Kidd
Crime is “normal and necessary for a healthy society” – Emile Durkheim’s The Rules
of Sociological Method (69)
o Negative associations but it persists and is widespread, if all agree it’s bad
houls have been eradicated
o Look past detrimental effects upon victims to identify benefits offering to
o Crime defines norms of society (acceptable vs deviant), establishes social
boundaries (social mainstream(, provides set of rituals to help build
solidarity (trials, executions, public punishment uniting observers, collective
right to social legitimacy), produces innovation (crime helping society in
response or in itself -> social change)
Pop culture important role in social cohesion, pave way for change
Popular invoking idea of fame/widespread -> commercial culture, common culture,
people, go beyond tangible products to shared values and beliefs
Harry Potter novels popular precisely for “its fame and the breadth of its audience,
rather than for any civic ideals or folk qualities” (72)
Pop culture normal element of all advanced capitalist societies (72)
Culture industry in which culture reduced from art to business Max Horkheimer
and Theodor Adorno Dialectic of Enlightenment
Culture industry becomes filter for all forms of culture, pop culture
indistinguishable from others… all culture becomes pop culture (self-legitimating
ideology of pop culture)
Negative effects -> Walter Benjamin mech reproduction of art in
print/books/photo removes aura from work, makes it commodities, special effect of
seeing art in its only context (aura) forever gone from world of art
i.e. painting/music heard in reproductions vs live
capitalism with sometimes negative
key issue that Horkheimer and Adorno’s sense that commercial culture is common
component of advanced capitalist societies, so pop culture must be understood as
normal social element, regardless of consequences
pop culture as space of norm production
o social norms and social cohesion
o most Americans consume quite lots of pop culture
o Nicholas Abercrombie, Stephen Hill, Bryan Turner The Dominant Ideology
Thesis -> mss media form of pop culture key means by which ideas of
dominant classes transmitted to whole of society in era of late capitalism..
although fragmented, highlights pop culture most centralized and effective
means for defining and distributing norms of society (75)
o Fashion, expression, sexual practices
Social boundaries
o Creation and maintenance, separate identity categories
o Bethany Bryson Anything But Heavy Metal: A Symbolic Exclusion and
Musical Dislikes musical dislikes to illustrate class and education-based id
patterns… cultural univores (narrow tolerance) more likely to consume
lowbrow culture, elites use broad tolerance as kind of multicultural capital
protecting position in anti-elitist value structure
o Distaste key element in social stratification
o Paul Willis fashion important tool for boundary maintence among working
class adolescent males… “lads” popular vs ear’oles embracing school control,
contrast to them and school
o Pop culture and cultural stratification implication, commonly available to all,
equally important to recognize implication of power in concept
o Culture mechanism o social reproduction, elites using culture as capital
(knowledge exchange for social/eco capital), valuable -> dominated by elites,
not nonelites -> Bourdieu
o Included vs excluded, easy reference system for id allies and non (78)
o Harry Potter fans become friends at bok release parties, standing in line for
movie, shared sentiment, love, excitement… social cohesion by bonding
mebmers in relationship of trust and shared purpose (78)
o John Fiske audience rituals of TV -> audiencing, research method exploring
how groups produce meaning through shared cultural consumption,
meaning produces varies by audience (79)
o Singing to theme song, share physical space during consumption… time spent
together bond socially, shared sense of meaning… age-group id, distinction
from id of others, group solidarity
o “solidarity is the basis of social cohesion; the sense of trust that solidarity
engenders Is a necessary precondition before members… take risky step of
investing their resources, time and selves into their socties” -> wthout
solidarities, purely bio and not social (79)
o printing press, photo, DVD special features… not just cinema, digitized copy
of boos and ancient religious texts
o internet, pornography and e0commerce/ streaming videos -> business and
o presidential politics different after TV
o international world less foreign
o key mechanisms of social change
road to change
o man cases not just provide tools, is driving force behind change
o books reforming society…reevaluating themselves, complex dialectic
between gender roles, ecology and fashion
o contemporary spaces of pop culture lead to social change in numerous ways
o news challenging public policy… Oprah revolution of spirit
o critique and challenging norms, dynamics
Harry Potter
o Different audiences thru different book covers
o Expensive but exceed early hardback sales than any other on market
o Language tried to be adjusted (British term to American)… commodification
of culture
o Reders recognize violation of taken for granted beliefs, aware of norms
structuring lives, rules of the HP world (importance of norms not violated)
o HP becomes norms, have to read… reception of books
o Boundary between legitimate culture and illegitimate extra curricular culture
and boundary between religious conservatism and spiritual liberalism
o School system vs institutions of faith
o Bourdieu’s illegitimate culture -> not assigned by schools, but beginning to
change, largely leisure and not assigned reading… increasing American
adolescent literacy (despite schools banning books -> affirm ilegimacy) (83)
o Legitmate culture -> book demonstrates how novels used to teach children
basics of literacy, irony and character development
o Realm of faith -> magic controversy, framing hero as good powerful wizard…
though affirm good vs evil… spiritual liberalism, embrace magic as
constitutive elemtn of good, readers must be comfortable with possibility of
o Ritual -> reading of novel, private vs public… private reading -> social in
conversations, bookstores, libraries, café… interpretive community (84)
bond and develop solidarity
o Intense rituals, release parties, cosplay, social cohesion, unite community in
pursuit of Potter
o Innovation rather than revolution
o Changing publishing industry… new list of children’s bessellers -> freeing
primary bestseller list for “adult” despite large adult readership.. innovation
in literature and mechanism measuring bestsellers within audience
categories, new kind of book, massive size of phenomenon
o Novels trying to capture readership in same scope -> Atemris Fowl…
o Writing as innovation itself -> nothing like HP before
o Literacy social change… new readers made
o Some social needs fulfilled by some -> others by others..
o Pop culture industry regulates fulfillmentof the needs
“while recognizing the value of popular culture as a social institution, it is still
necessary to critique the content of this culture” (86)
important function, but not in set particular ways
open debates
important role of pop culture in generating social cohesion and individual identity