Liminalities Between The Gothic And The Bildungsroman: Harry Potter As Children's Gothic

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jessica Bryte Burtis (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
German Campos-Munoz

Abstract: Upon first glance, the Gothic and the Bildungsroman are two genres that seem unrelated. On the one hand, Gothic literature evokes themes of darkness, the past, and humanity’s relationship with the uncanny and the subconscious; characters in the genre don’t appear to grow or evolve, but they often dwell in an ambiguous and contradictory reality where the ancient and the modern seem to coexist or collapse. The Bildungsroman, on the other hand, presupposes a linear time, a before and an after, a narrative trajectory that tells how a protagonist matures from a young age into adulthood, growing physically and emotionally, and eventually assimilating into society. The eerie, stunted temporality of the Gothic could thus appear at odds with the developmental time of the Bildungsroman, and yet, a blending of these two genres in the form of what we could call a Gothic Bildungsroman has emerged as a relatively new literary trend in the sphere of children’s literature. At the forefront of this wave of Gothic children’s literature is the tale of a boy wizard with a lightning-bolt scar: Harry Potter, the hero of the famous eponymous series by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is the story of a boy who suddenly enters the wizarding world, but it is also the Bildungsroman made Gothic, a narrative embodying the overlap of the two genres. Through its seven novels, Harry Potter brings together these genres into a children’s story where growing up is a Gothic affair, and where the uncanny and the atavistic are imbricated in the process of maturing and adapting to the social world.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Burtis, J. (2021). Liminalities Between The Gothic And The Bildungsroman: Harry Potter As Children's Gothic. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2021
Gothic, Bildungsroman, Harry Potter

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