Kelly Stephens

Kelly Stephens
Mentor: Dr. Anastasia Ulanowicz
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
"I have always been incredibly interested in reading, writing, and thinking about children's literature, especially young adult fantasy. During the summer after my sophomore year, I realized that I really wanted to take my interest further when I took Professor Ulanowicz's children's literature class and wrote my final paper on Harry Potter. Since then, I've continued working with Professor Ulanowicz on expanding that project, so when I found out about the University Scholars Program, I found it a natural fit. I hope to use this research experience to better prepare me for graduate school, where I would love to get an MA in Children's Literature and an MFA in Writing for Children."


English (Children's Literature and Creative Writing); History


Educational Studies

Research Interests

  • Children's/Young Adult Literature
  • History
  • Ethics

Academic Awards

  • University Scholars Program 2014-15
  • Pamela Frank Cambridge Scholarship Summer 2014
  • UFIC's Summer Study Abroad Merit Scholarship 2014
  • Hazen E. Nutter Scholarship 2014-15


  • UF English Society
  • Tea Literary Magazine
  • UF Gator Marching Band


  • United Ways Reading Pals
  • Career Showcase

Hobbies and Interests

  • Reading
  • Creative Writing
  • Music
  • Soccer

Research Description

A Power the Dark Lord Knows Not: Love as a Moralizing Force in Harry Potter

For my research I am going to examine how J.K. Rowling’s best-selling Harry Potter series envisions the relationship between love and ethics, and how it both shapes and challenges conventional concepts of the ethical good. I will do this by conducting a comparative character analysis of Rowling’s eponymous hero, Harry, and Harry’s nemesis, Voldemort. Voldemort’s and Harry’s childhoods, I argue, reveal not only the connection between the two characters, but also the necessity of love for one’s development into a socially ethical person. This case study thus poses larger philosophical and contemporary questions for child and adult readers alike. For instance, how does the positive portrayal of Harry’s reliance on others challenge modern Western notions about individualism, and what does this emphasis on ethical relationships mean for us as we interact more and more with other cultures in a globalizing world? Additionally, what roles do adults—both parents and community members—play in children’s development into socially responsible and ethical individuals? And finally, for those children who grew up during the 1990s and 2000s when more and more households began to have nontraditional makeups, what does Harry’s journey from an unloving, nontraditional home to a happy, extended family say? In order to answer these questions, I will be drawing upon a number of sources, including analyses of the Harry Potter books, interviews with J.K. Rowling, and works by Charles Taylor and Judith Butler, which I will use to define ethics and its relationship with Western notions of identity. By drawing on these sources in combination with research on the cultural and historical context of the 1990s and 2000s, I thus plan to use this case study of children’s literature to reveal some of the core issues that 21st-century people face.