Harry Potter and the Law
51 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2005 Last revised: 20 Sep 2016
The magnitude of the Harry Potter phenomenon alone would make it worthy of consideration; the fact that it is children's literature, and thus may play a significant part in forming a future generation's attitudes toward law and legal institutions, makes it even more so. The various contributions to this article explore various aspects of law and culture as presented in or viewed through the Harry Potter stories. The contributions of James Charles Smith and Danaya Wright address the depiction of families in the narratives and the limited role and development of family law. Benjamin H. Barton's contribution considers the failings of the formal source of legal authority in Harry's world, the deeply-flawed Ministry of Magic. Particular flaws are examined in the two subsequent contributions: Aaron Schwabach looks at the operation of the legal system through the lens of the unforgivable curses and contends that they show an arbitrariness contrary to the rule of law, while Joel Fishman explores the arbitrariness of punishment in the narratives. James Charles Smith's contribution explores ambiguities in the legal status and wizarding conventions applicable to house-elves, while Daniel Austin Green's contribution uses the narratives to explore the roles of excuse and justification in their relationship with legal authority and rule of law. Timothy S. Hall's contribution shows how the rule used to free Dobby the house elf can be used as a pedagogical tool to illustrate the importance of intent in contract law, while Jeffrey E. Thomas's contribution suggests that the negative and satirical depictions of law and legal institutions helps readers to focus on the importance of individual accountability in making moral decisions. Andrew Morriss's contribution addresses the centrality of individual moral choice to the Harry Potter novels, particularly The Prisoner of Azkaban and The Goblet of Fire. The final entry, also by Timothy S. Hall, compares the Harry Potter narratives to the Dick Whittington story, showing an interesting cultural evolution from Tudor to modern times.
Keywords: Children's literature, cultural studies, Harry Potter, humor, humorous, interdisciplinary, fantasy, law & literature, law & popular culture
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