What is it about?

We argue that the publishing history of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the fan environment around Rowling shares many features with the Victorian environment and readership around the popular writer Mary E Braddon, author of immensely popular Sensation fictions including Lady Audley’s Secret. We compare Victorian and contemporary forms of serialisation, fan literature, commercial frenzy and adaptations, and the myths around the celebrity author and her writing practice.

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Why is it important?

This work shows that bringing apparently different eras and contexts into alignment can produce new and important insights about fame and celebrity, reading practices, fan culture and the ways in which stories are told and re-told.


Watching the rise of J.K. Rowling, and the unfolding of the Potter serial reminded us more and more of Victorian literary fame and the anticipation and frustrations of nineteenth century serial reading. It was fun to unpack the similarities and differences across the centuries, using Rowling and Braddon as examples.

Susan Martin
La Trobe University

We often hear the figure of the celebrity author discussed as if this is somehow a new phenomenon, but writers such as Rowling had forebears in the Victorian age. Finding the parallels between the reception of the Harry Potter series and that of the wildly successful and popular work of Victorian writer, Mary Braddon, was such an interesting project. It was very fun to go back to the Potter novels, and also delve into the world of Potter fan production.

Dr Kylie J Mirmohamadi
La Trobe University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Harry Potter's Secret: The Rise of Publishing Sensations from Mary Braddon to J. K. Rowling, English Studies, February 2014, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/0013838x.2014.882126.
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