The application and modification of human resource management in the critical analysis of Harry Potter

Cox, Alexia Georgina (2016-03)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This thesis revisits the much-discredited idea of a “common sense” way of reading a literary text. It proposes that a common sense reading – one that treats narrative fictions as reflections of the real world, and that focuses on the didactic message of the story – can provide particular kinds of insights about social life. Such insights are not readily available to the hermeneutics of suspicion that characterise literary and cultural studies in the academy today. The case study for this exercise is J.K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter series, and the theoretical wager advanced in this thesis is that Human Resource Management (HRM) theory can act as a powerful, if unconventional, tool for exploring common sense assumptions about human behaviour in the context of neoliberal Western culture. In order to conduct this kind of theoretical experiment, it is necessary for a narrative to comply with three components: (1) a formal institution must be present; (2) the institution can be regarded as a learning organization, (3) there is a clearly articulated common objective against which to compare and analyse individual behaviour. By ensuring that these three components are present in the narrative, the language of HRM, its theory and general practices, can be retooled for a specialised form of literary analysis that provides insight into common sense assumptions that circulate in present-day society. This can be achieved by applying four HRM relatable topics: (1) organizational structure, (2) organizational culture, (3) identity and emotional intelligence and (4) leadership. This thesis demonstrates how organizational structure theory can be used to identify Hogwarts, the fictional school, as a bureaucratic institution. By positioning the fictional characters within this specific framework, it becomes possible to determine various culturally mediated dispositions by analysing the bureaucratic structure in light of the issues typical of such a structure in HRM theory. HRM theory, then, provides a language for thinking about the historical context and the impact of environmental forces on Hogwarts in a way that employs the fictional school as a didactic model that speaks to real-world situations. Simultaneously, the application of HRM theory allows us a unique way of thinking about narrative design and plot development in relation to institutional processes. In other words, HRM theory allows us to consider the possible connections between a fictional environment and the real world, while also providing us with an unusual approach to narratology: one that thinks about literary actors, functions, narrative development and so on in relation to the idea of an institution or organisation. HRM processes such as recruitment, career development, performance management etc. can find surprising applications in literary analysis, especially when benchmarked against scholarly findings about British national culture and its predominantly neoliberal economic base. In general, this thesis argues that it is not only possible to apply general HRM theory language, theory, and practice to an apposite narrative, but also that this theory can serve as a viable tool for surfacing and critiquing particular cultural assumptions embedded in a text. Such a critique can be called a “common sense” critique because it is not based on a hidden foundation such as class conflict, the operation of the unconscious or the concealed structure of the sign, but instead on empirically based, practical scholarly observations working in the service of institutional efficiency.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie tesis ondersoek die ongewilde idee van ‘n alledaagse nie-akademiese benadering tot ‘n letterkundige teks, dit wil sê ‘n benadering waarvolgens verhalende fiksie beskou word as ‘n ondersoek van ‘n reële wêreld met ‘n fokus op die didaktiese boodksap van die verhaal om sodoende spesifieke insig omtrent die moderne samelewing aan die lig te bring — insigte wat nie noodwendig deur die hermeneutiek van wantroue ten opsigte van hedendaagse akademiese literêre en kulturele studies erken word nie. J.K. Rowling se gewilde Harry Potter reeks is as gevallestudie gebruik met die veronderstelling dat personeelbestuur-teorie ‘n beduidende instrument vir ‘n ondersoek na die alledaagse beskouings omtrent menslike gedrag in die konteks van neo-liberale Westerse kultuur kan bied. So ‘n teoretiese navorsingstegniek vereis dat ‘n vertelling aan drie vereistes moet voldoen: (1) dit moet oor ‘n formele institusie handel; (2) die institusie moet as ‘n opvoedkundige instelling beskou word; (3) daar moet ‘n duidelik-geformuleerde algemeen aanvaarde maatstaf wees waarvolgens individuele gedrag gemeet kan word. Indien hierdie drie komponente in die vertelling teenwoordig is, is dit doenbaar dat die taalgebruik, teorie en algemene praktyke van personeelbestuur heraangewend kan word ten einde ‘n gespesialiseerde vorm van letterkundige ontleding daar te stel en sodoende insig aangaande die alledaagse vooropgestelde menings in die huidige samelewing te kry. Dié doelwit kan bereik word deur vier verwante kwessies rakende personeelbestuur aan te wend, naamlik (1) organisasie-struktuur, (2) organisasie-kultuur, (3) identiteit en emosionele intelligensie en (4) leierskap. Hierdie tesis dui aan hoe die teorie van organisasie-struktuur kan dien om Hogwarts, die fiktiewe skool, as ‘n burokratiese onderneming te identifiseer. Deur die verhaalkarakters binne hierdie raamwerk te plaas, kan verskillende kultureel-bemiddelde ingesteldhede vasgestel word deur die burokratiese struktuur te benader in die lig van tipiese personeelbestuur-aangeleenthede. Personeelbestuurteorie voorsien dus ‘n leksikon wat besinning omtrent die historiese konteks en die impak van omgewingsdruk op Hogwarts vergemaklik sodat die fiktiewe skool as didaktiese model kan dien om situasies in die werklike wêreld aan te spreek. Terselfdertyd verleen die aanwending van personeelbestuurterorie ‘n unieke denkwyse oor die ontwikkeling en die intrige van die vertelling soos dit verband hou met institusionele prosesse. Met ander woorde, personeelbestuurteorie kan lig werp op die moontlike ooreenkomste tussen ‘n fiktiewe omgewing en die werklike wêreld en tegelykertyd ook ‘n ongewone benadering tot die verhaalkuns verskaf; meer nog, kan dit besinning oor karakters, funksies, intrige-ontwikkeling en so meer soos dit met ‘n organisasie of instelling verband hou, vergemaklik. Personeelbestuur-prosesse soos personeelwerwing, loopbaan- en persoonlike ontwikkeling kan verrassend aangewend word in letterkundige ontleding, veral wanneer dit aan die hand van ingeligte navorsing oor Britse nasionale kultuur se weerspieëling van ‘n oorwegend neo-liberale ekonomie aangewend word. Hoofsaaklik voer hierdie tesis aan dat dit nie alleen moontlik is om algemene personeelbestuur-woordgebruik, teorie en praktyk op ‘n toepaslike vertelling toe te pas nie, maar dat dit ook werkbaar aangewend kan word om spesifieke kulturele beskouings uit te lig en te kritiseer. Dit is ‘n kritiek wat as alledaagse gesonde verstand (“common sense”) beskou kan word omdat dit nie ‘n onderliggende grondslag het soos die onderbewussyn of ‘n verhulde betekenis nie, maar eerder op empiriese, prakties-ingeligte waarnemings wat in diens staan van institusionele doeltreffendheid, staatmaak.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98545
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