Alice's Academy

Caroline Jones, editor

Editor's Introduction.

Caroline Jones

In this issue of Alice’s Academy we explore the ways two enormously popular English-language series address and engage their readers. From the uses of tropes that incorporate traditional literary conventions, contemporary fantasy elements, and Western pedagogical traditions, to the up-ending of traditional plot and narrative devices, these authors explore a broad spectrum of popular literary culture for children.

In “Fantastic Literature at the Beginning of the Third Millennium: Terror, Religion, and the Hogwarts Syndrome,” Danielle Gurevitch explores the Harry Potter phenomenon through the lenses of media, the Western monomyth hero and plot structure, the early twenty-first century cultural preoccupation with terror, and the simultaneous reinscription and subversion of a variety of spiritual and religious traditions. Gurevitch considers how these seemingly disparate components create a fundamentally Westernized ideology of “strong” values and leadership in the Harry Potter series, and how these strategies and ideologies keep readers invested in the characters and the series long after the first reading.

In “Performative Metafiction: Lemony Snicket, Daniel Handler, and The End of A Series of Unfortunate Events,” Sara Austin looks at the metafictional aspect of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, with particular emphasis on the series’ final volume, The End. She explores the occasional uneasy relationship between the series narrator and “author,” Lemony Snicket, and the actual author, Daniel Handler. Handler’s entirely pseudonymous role in the publishing process creates a tension within the series’ narrative authority, raising issues that, often, adults do not trust children to understand. The popularity of the series, particularly in the United States, belies assumptions that children will neither understand nor enjoy books that raise more questions about the plot and characters than they answer, or that utterly fail to offer the “happily-ever-after” convention that so dominates the worlds of children’s publishing.

Volume 17, Issue 1, The Looking Glass, May/June 2013

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The Looking Glass: new perspectives on children's literature

ISBN 1551-5680