Date of Award

8-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher M. Kuipers, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher Orchard, D.Phil.

Third Advisor

Thomas J. Slater, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study of two of the most prominent popular novelists of the past two centuries explores the connections among Charles Dickens’s and J. K. Rowling’s authorial identities, their relationships with their readers (specifically, fans), and their affection for their characters. The opening chapter introduces the dissertation and surveys key theories of authorship, reader response, and fandom. Chapter Two examines Dickens’s developing authorial identity as he began to use number-plans to gain greater control over his novels’ trajectory; it also presents a case of author-fan bonding over the death of a character, Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. Chapter Three analyzes interviews from early and later in Rowling’s career, offering a longitudinal view of her developing authorial identity and categorizing two main reader approaches to the Harry Potter books: Potter as phenomenon and Potter as text. Chapter Four is a study of the public readings Dickens undertook late in his career; it demonstrates that during the readings, Dickens fulfilled the roles of celebrity author, ultimate reader/fan, and beloved character. Finally, Chapter Five offers a close reading of Pottermore, the website where Rowling posts her recent short writings about Harry Potter and where fans can interact in limited ways with the text, each other, and Rowling. The chapter shows that despite the conflicting goals of the site (interactivity, safety, and revelation of new information), Pottermore represents an unprecedented effort by an author to extend the world of a fictional text beyond the boundaries of the book(s). The conclusion of the study speculates on what Pottermore might mean for the future of authorial identity, fan activity, and author-reader interaction.

Share

COinS