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As part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens in theaters worldwide this month, we have reached the final chapter—of sorts. It's a phenomenon that began 13 years ago with the release of the first installment in J. K. Rowling's series. I'm a Potter pundit who has written and edited as many books about the Hogwarts saga as there are novels in said series. So you would think I'd be sad to see the tale of the boy wizard come to an end.

But I'm not, because the tale is not ending. Harry is here to stay.

What makes me think that Potter mania will not go the way of the Hula-Hoop and pet rock is the remarkable ripple effect of Harry's seven-year battle with the Dark Lord. The Hogwarts saga has reshaped our ideas of what a story can and should do, and writers and filmmakers have and will continue to respond to this new set of audience expectations.

Rowling's Literary Genius

With sales of well over 400 million copies—dwarfing all published works not written by God or Chairman Mao—the Harry Potter series is the shared text of our time. Rowling's creation has infused the imaginations of generations of readers—children, parents, and grandparents. The 4,100 pages in its seven books have been turned into eight Warner Brothers movies, becoming the most successful film franchise ever, ahead of Star Wars and James Bond.

This cultural tsunami suggests Harry Potter is not a passing fad. Rowling's storytelling reveals traditional artistry, with symbols and themes borrowed from Dante, Shakespeare, the Inklings, and other literary greats. Most remarkably, Rowling uses three literary devices that are hallmarks of the series: (1) a complex yet nearly invisible "ring composition"; (2) an alchemical drama; and (3) an ...

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hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2011

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