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BC Prof. Pens First Book-Length Literary Analysis of Harry Potter


By Sean Smith | Chronicle Editor

Published: May 26, 2011

As the last movie of the last Harry Potter book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” — due out in July — represents the end of the official Potter franchise (barring, say, a Broadway musical or animated series). Amid this final burst of Pottermania, Romance Languages and Literatures Professor Emerita Vera Lee has published On the Trail of Harry Potter, which she touts as the first book-length literary analysis of all seven Harry Potter volumes.   

“Most studies that look at part or all of the series focus on aspects such as magic and fantasy, philosophy, morality, myth, religion or spirituality,” explains Lee. “But instead of trying to explain what J.K. Rowling created in Harry Potter, I wanted to demonstrate how she created it — and why, because of that, the series has been so successful.”  

In the book, Lee discusses the individual and collective natures of the four main characters (that’s Harry, Hermione, Ron and Dumbledore, in case you didn’t know), and examines Rowling’s writing technique and style, including her use of humor. Lee also delves into the “spin-offs” Rowling created from the Harry Potter books and compares the Potter books with their film adaptations.  

While in her book she does note the critical views of the Potter series, Lee makes no secret of her live for the subject matter. “I became an ardent fan of Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling from the get-go,” says Lee, who was given the first book — Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone — by her daughter, who had read it with her daughters.   

The Sorcerer’s Stone had me laughing out loud; the others drew me in irresistibly. I was hooked. In fact, after reading all the seven volumes twice, I thought, ‘How can I remain in this world of Harry Potter?’ Then I realized I could just write a book about it.”  

As for the Potter movies, Lee says that although they’ve been “amazing from the viewpoints of acting, photography and music and were competently directed,” she finds them lacking much of that Rowling was able to convey in the books.    Like most Potter fans, Lee says she was disappointed that the series has now ended. “But writing about the series was so fulfilling, it seemed to put closure on the loss.”  

Fortunately, Lee says, her life as a Harry Potter authority will go on even after the last incantation is uttered: She’s giving a presentation on "The Fans and the Films" at the LeakyCon conference — an annual event organized by staff of The Leaky Cauldron, arguably the top Harry Potter website — in July, at Wellesley Library in the late summer and this autumn at the Potterwatch conference in North Carolina. She also has started a blog and a Facebook page.  

On the Trail of Harry Potter is available at the Boston College Bookstore and from Pitapat Press.