The end is nigh. At least that’s what the publishing world would have us believe. With the advent of the final Harry Potter book this summer, there’s a fear that with J.K. Rowling’s long-awaited finale will come the end of the cottage industry of related Harry Potter books.
The May 10 edition of the Wall Street Journal ran a piece (Last Hurrah for ‘Harry’ Offshoots?) in which the books about the books were called “a whole literary ecosystem,” while the original Potter canon was likened to “whales to which many barnacles have attached themselves.” With over 190 books in print, it’s easy to see why. But is there cause for concern about the demise of Potterian scholarship and publishing?
I think you know where I’m going with this. We’ve seen this phenomenon before, with Sherlockian scholarship paving the way. Before Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (or was it Dr. Watson?) had completed the Canon in 1927, Ronald Knox had penned his seminal treatise Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes in 1911. Only four years after Conan Doyle’s death did the Baker Street Irregulars came into being; it was just over a decade later that they began publishing the Baker Street Journal.
To this day, Sherlockian scholarship has not dimmed. The BSJ is still being published some 60 years later. In England, the Sherlock Holmes Journal is churned out on a regular basis and has been for over 50 years. Countless societies around the world continue with their own publications; online discussion groups flourish.
Of course, the characters were never under copyright, so great liberties have been taken by a variety of authors, placing Holmes with concurrent historical figures and other literary characters, as well as in unlikely situations including sailing on the Titanic and getting married.
While the Harry Potter characters will be well protected from such pastiches in the short term, parodies and pure scholarship are fair game. I suppose the question remains: will the seven original books continue to hold the interest of future generations in the same way they’ve enchanted the current adolescents and adults alike? If so, is the content of such a rich type that unending scholarship can continue to be churned out, or are these simply “beach books” – sensational and fun reading - that helped sustain the publishing industry for a short time?
I'll close with a more controversial question for you, dear reader: were the Holmes stories simply viewed as Victorian/Edwardian beach books? It seems like many in academia today treat them as such.
And a list of some of the titles in print mentioned in the WSJ story:
- Harry Potter and Torah
- The Making of the Potterverse: A Month-By-Month Look at Harry's First 10 Years
- Mugglenet.Com's What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Falls in Love and How Will the Adventure Finally End
- Muggles and Magic: An Unoffical Guide to J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter Phenomenon
- Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader
- Defogging the Future: Unauthorized Speculation About the Seventh and Final Book of the Harry Potter Series
- Who Killed Albus Dumbledore?: What Really Happened in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? Six Expert Harry Potter Detectives Examine the Evidence.
- Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter