2016 Student Research Conference:
29th Annual Student Research Conference

Harry Potter and the Descent to the Underworld: Katabasis in the Final Installment of J.K. Rowling's Septology
Joseph R. Slama
Dr. Amy Norgard, Faculty Mentor

This paper observes the influence of prominent Classical katabases, or journeys to the Underworld, on events near the climax of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Like heroes of Classical antiquity, Harry too descends, but ultimately, Rowling produces a work definitively her own. Citing Erling B. Holtsmark's essay "Katabasis in the Modern Cinema" (2010), I employ a set of criteria defining what constitutes a katabasis, including physical features of the Underworld, the creatures there, character development, and an anabasis or metaphorical "rebirth." I amend Holtsmark to add my own criteria, including philosophical discourse, internal character development, prophecy, and conditions for beginning the descent. Like the ancient works written of Homer, Ovid, and Vergil, the climax of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows also follows these criteria. However, Harry's katabasis not only adheres to literary convention, as he experiences actual death which sets him apart from his Classical predecessors.

Keywords: Katabasis, Classics, Harry Potter, Vergil, epic, epic poetry, Classical literature, reception


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: -2
Location: VH 1224
Time: 2:45

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