Harry Potter and the Remnants of Auschwitz: The Banality of Concentrationary Memory

I Willis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

Abstract

The parallels between Voldemort, the Dark Lord of the Harry Potter books and films, and Hitler are well-known and well-substantiated. The moral and political conflict which drives the narrative of the series is constructed deliberately to recall the struggle against Nazism, as the visual iconography of the films underlines. In this paper, I will consider the Harry Potter books and films as a unified canon, following Henry Jenkins’ arguments in Convergence Culture. Through close readings of the books and films, and a consideration of their reception through fannish responses (online fora, fan fiction, vids, and art, for example), I will argue that the Harry Potter books and films draw heavily on popular and banalized memories of the Shoah in their construction of a dangerously simplified moral universe. Specifically, they invoke 1) a psychologized explanation for evil in terms of a parallelism between Voldemort’s status as ‘half-blood’ and Hitler’s alleged Jewish ancestry, and 2) Arendt’s famous phrase ‘the banality of evil’, constructing bureaucratic structures as inherently and originarily evil. These allusions to the Shoah function as moral shorthands, absolving the reader of critical engagement with the profoundly problematic political, racial, and moral organization of the narrative and of the fictional universe of the books, and of our contemporary world.
Translated title of the contributionHarry Potter and the Remnants of Auschwitz: The Banality of Concentrationary Memory
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConcentrationary Imaginaries: Imaginaries of Violence, University of Leeds
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2011

Bibliographical note

Conference Organiser: Centre CATH, University of Leeds

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