UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

How alcohol use in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter perpetuates Victorian traditions of racism, sexism, and classism Buchanan, Mark Alexander Currie


This thesis examines the role of alcohol in the fantasy series Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling and analyses how the characters’ class, race, and species shape the portrayal of their alcohol use. The Harry Potter series consists of seven books, published between 1997 and 2007. Initially, these books were marketed towards children, and are often considered children’s literature, but they soon became popular with readers of all ages. While Rowling’s series is often said to promote diversity and propagate an antiracist message, my thesis argues the use of alcohol by non-human characters continues a tradition of late-Victorian racism that creates a hierarchy based on race and species. The text frames alcohol use by any characters other than the most privileged human wizards as morally wrong. The same characters who are non-human are also lower on the socioeconomic hierarchy, which reinforces the privileging of human-wizards. Close reading of the text through lenses of critical race theories of Sara Ahmed, Richard Dyer, and David Roediger and class theory of Louis Althusser, along with late-Victorian historical contexts, suggests that Harry Potter perpetuates Victorian traditions surrounding race and class through the portrayal of alcohol use. This thesis is divided into three chapters. Each chapter works to address a specific aspect of alcohol use within Harry Potter, in relation to late-Victorian traditions of racism, classism, sexism, or morality, building, incrementally, an intersectional and Althusserian analysis of drinking in the series. Chapter 1 looks at race and the way the magical community forces non-humans to internalize racism and attempt to “pass” as human-wizard. Chapter 2 considers how Ideological State Apparatuses function in the magical community to instil a sense of respectable drinking that favours the middle class, and especially paints men drinking as respectable and women drinking as improper. Chapter 3 examines Harry’s position as moral authority within the magical community by exploring dichotomies that place protagonists above antagonists and human-wizards above non-wizards, without regard for conventional morality or consent. All three chapters work to position analysis at the intersections of race, species, class, and gender.

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