Daniel Nexon: Harry Potter as Hero, Legend, and Global Commonplace

Daniel Nexon, Assistant Professor in the Government Department at Georgetown and keen observer of all phenomena political, literary, and cultural, has posted the notes from his Prophecy 2007 Featured Talk, “Harry Potter: From Hero to Global Commonplace,” up at The Duck of Minerva. The notes are worth reading in their own right — it is easily the best introduction and summary I have read of how to understand Harry Potter in traditional categories (myth, legend, folklore) as well as in the context of globalization — and especially edifying and challenging after the disappointing review of Deathly Hallows in The Times Sunday Book Review. Prof. Nexon’s grasp of both fantasy literature and of politico-cultural history and dynamics in the West make him an invaluable observer and exegete in the search to discover “Whence Potter-Mania.” For serious readers of Harry Potter, this is a “must read.”


  1. Arabella Figg says

    I found this a thoughtful and interesting essay. It reminded me a bit of what we call “urban legends,” those dogged, sticky stories, many predating the 20th century, which both transcend and mutate to local status in cultures all over the world. Over time, they update to contemporary status. Each culture would interpret them differently.

    Although HP isn’t “urban legend,” Nexon’s essay show how Harry’s “folklore” is internationally read, recieved and interpreted within various groups. I’d like to see this essay expanded upon.

    Ooh, Luscious Badboy just bit Hairy Plotter’s tale, er tail…

  2. I agree. Mr. Nexon’s argument that Harry Potter has become a Rorschach Blot for contemporary culture and international affairs is brilliant, hilarious and worthy of a book in itself. I will, however, never again be able to look at Dobby without thinking of President Vladimir Putin.

  3. After googling images for Putin, I do indeed now see the resemblance to Dobby . Those Ruskies are on to something……

Speak Your Mind