Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Laura Nicosia

Committee Member

Lee Behlman

Committee Member

Jeffrey Gonzalez


Set against the history of the school story in children’s literature, the Harry Potter series reinvigorates the genre. Specifically, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone addresses the significance of socializing disciplines within children’s literature while also demonstrating the effects that education has on individuality and maturation through the roles of the characters throughout the series. Perhaps much of what lends Rowling’s work its magical ability as compared to the traditional school story is its free use of traditionalism, as seen in fairy tales, in its narrative style.

Rowling’s writing gestures towards the need for imagination in order to decode a text. Rowling’s whimsical and rhythmic writing style often deploys participial phrases. These phrases, seen over the course of multiple sentences, emphasize the need to use careful reading in order to more easily grasp the narrative. Many of the sentences featured throughout the series utilize these participial phrases in order to describe a series of concurrent actions. In fact, the use of these participial phrases is particularly evident in descriptions that are sandwiched between encounters and dialogue between Harry and other students or professors.

To contextualize Harry Potter in the tradition of children’s Literature and the school story, this thesis examines Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone alongside Tom Brown’s School Days, written by Thomas Hughes. Hughes focuses on the challenges of negotiating the school social structure and the ethical expectations expected of a headmaster through the use of the fictional characters in his novel. Rowling imitates and explores this practice alongside the tropes of education, discipline, agency, and imagination, aligning her characters with the perceived roles that students play in her critical reception of the school story. Overall, J.K. Rowling’s writing approach in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone renders it as a revival of the school genre framed for a modern audience.

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