Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.L.A.

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Annette Cozzi

Keywords

commensalism, cultural studies, feasting, identity, YA literature

Abstract

ABSTRACTThis thesis situates the Harry Potter books into the greater body of food studies and into the extant children's literary tradition through an examination of how food can be used to understand cultural identity. Food is a biological need, but because we have created social rules and rituals around food consumption and sharing, there is more to eating than simple nutritional value. The Harry Potter series is as much about overcoming childhood adversity, and good versus evil, as it is about magic, and food in the Harry Potter series is both abundant and relevant to the narrative, context, and themes of the books. Sweets such as candy, puddings, and cakes, help construct both wizard and Muggle identity in addition to serving as a bridge between readers and characters. How the characters use sweets to create and reinforce friendships or exclude those who do not belong is important, especially since children usually lack other cultural capital and, in their worlds, food is reward, treat, and punishment. Examples of this are shown in the scene where Harry first travels on the Hogwarts Express, in the ways the Dursleys deny Harry birthday celebrations, and in how holidays are celebrated by the witches and wizards in the series.The sharing of food in the novels builds tensions, creates bonds, and codes different characters as "acceptable" or "unacceptable" based on their willingness, or refusal, to share food. Teatime and feasting are examples of how food is shared by analogous and disparate groups of people in the series. Tea is served most often by those in subordinate positions of power, but is one way in which the characters can socialize and create community. Feasts at the beginning and end of the school term bookmark the year by immersing students and faculty into a shared world at first, and then by sending them back to their families, aware of their own triumphs and accomplishments. When feasts are used to unite outside groups, such as before the Triwizard Tournament, the ways that different foods are embraced or rejected serve to reinforce identity and inclusion.Using cultural studies methods in conjunction with food studies and Reader-Response critical theory, this thesis argues that food in the Harry Potter series represents the socially constructed identities of the characters within the texts, and also serves to bridge the gap between the readers and the characters.

Share

COinS