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A Fantastic Failure: Displaced Nationalism and the Intralingual Translation of Harry Potter

Keywords: Children's literature , nationalism , transatlantic linguistics , intralingual translation , Harry Potter , Fantasy , J.K. Rowling

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British author J.K. Rowling’s hugely successful Harry Potter novels have been translated into a variety of different languages including, most peculiarly, American English. This paper examines the effects on textual interpretation of alterations to diction and syntax in the American edition. Central to my argument are the notions that American English is replacing British English as the new global Standard, that Americanization interferes with and crudely appropriates the nationalist imperative of the original texts, and, finally, that the Americanization of Harry Potter reductively enforces and devalues Britain’s cultural distinctness from the United States. I approach intralingual translation from a Derridean perspective, interrogating the contradiction that American audiences are expected to infer the relative meaning of neologisms in Fantasy writing and yet are paradoxically presumed incapable of deciphering diction from the British vernacular. The translationof Harry Potter raises interesting questions about transatlantic translation, and the nature of contemporary publishing practices.


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