Literary Alchemy and the Mythic Context ‘Reading, Writing, Rowling’ Episode 25


From the MuggleNet podcast page:

In this episode, Katy and John do a deep dive into the symbolism and transformative power of J.K. Rowling’s work. First, John describes the concept of literary alchemy and how literature can effect an alchemical transformation on readers. Then, special guest Evan Willis (University of Dallas) explains how Renaissance alchemical symbolism intertwines with classical myth in Harry Potter and Cormoran Strike. From the Orestes myth to Castor and Pollux and Leda and the swan, we learn about the well of myths Rowling draws from in her literary creations. Willis particularly directs us to the importance of a Hermes/Mercury figure to serve as the invisible force behind the uniting of opposites. Who is this mysterious figure in Harry Potter and in the Strike books? Listen to find out the surprising answers!

Does literary alchemy work on us the same way when we’re watching films? We tackle this issue in light of the classical references in the Fantastic Beastsmovies. We also try to predict the next developments in Strike and Fantastic Beasts based on our understanding of the deep mythic context in both series. We’ll help you sort out the stories of Leta and Theseus, Dumbledore and Grindelwald, Cormoran and Robin, and Shanker and Rokeby and anticipate where they might be headed.

Reading, Writing, Rowling: King Arthur!


From the MuggleNet page:

Three generations of Potter scholars gather to talk about J.K. Rowling’s Arthurian influences. From the significant naming of characters to points of plot and theme, Katy and John discuss the many connections between the wizarding world and the medievalism of the King Arthur stories with special guests Laurie Beckoff (MuggleNet, MSc University of Edinburgh) and Beatrice Groves (Oxford University, author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter)….

We talk gender, Christianity, the liturgical calendar, magical and violent spaces, heroism, the medieval Gothic, and much more!

Come along for this wide-ranging and meaningful discussion about knights and enchanters and women in ponds distributing swords!

Reading, Writing, Rowling: The Movies!


Janet Batchler teaches a ‘wow’ course at the University of Southern California on the Harry Potter film adaptations. Prof Batchler is an award winning screenplay writer and certified Potter Pundit (and a friend of this blog from way, way back!). Listen to her discuss the class she teaches, the highs and lows of the Hogwarts movies, and about adaptations of books in general with Reading, Writing, Rowling hostess Katy McDaniel and guests Elizabeth Baird-Hardy, this site’s Deputy Head Mistress, and Kat Sas. 

FYI, I was asked to participate but politely declined as I am not a fan of movies in general or these film-adaptations in particular. I am such a Batchler fan, though, that I can say I suggested the idea of the show and know it is a great one! Enjoy!

Investigating ‘Crimes of Grindelwald’: Reading, Writing, Rowling Episode #20


Straight from the MuggleNet page announcing the release of the Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast on Crimes of Grindelwald! Read all about it — then tune in for some cutting edge conversation about the second Beasts film.

This month, join us at alchemist Nicolas Flamel’s house, where we’re searching for answers to the profound questions raised by the second film in the Fantastic Beasts series. Spoilers abound!

Crimes of Grindelwald, the second movie in the Fantastic Beasts film series, left a lot of fans and critics scratching their heads. With our guests Elizabeth Baird Hardy (Mayland Community College), Megan Kelly (SpeakBeasty), and Lana Whited (Ferrum College), Katy and John investigate the mythic, literary, and alchemical references in this movie to answer key questions and decipher where the series may be headed next.

Elizabeth points out that Newt’s case – which is bigger on the inside than the outside – is our first clue that this series contains much more than it appears to on the surface. Megan also reminds us that these films give us the opportunity to revisit the “Harry Potter glory days,” when we were waiting for the next installments and weren’t sure what would ultimately happen; we have the excitement of looking for clues to help us predict the series’ trajectory.

We consider the criticisms of the film: in theme, plot, and character. Is this film true to J.K. Rowling’s artistic vision? Fans are frustrated with the way the series retcons certain characters and even undermines the original wizarding world vision from the Harry Potterstories. Despite the flaws (which Elizabeth likens to poisonous fangs) in this beast of a movie, there are important and meaningful ideas that enrich our view of the wizarding universe.

More after the jump!

Lana explains her groundbreaking theory about Grindelwald as a dragon (compared to Dumbledore’s phoenix), the literary and historical tradition of dragons and phoenixes, and what this hidden aspect of Grindelwald may mean for the next episodes in the series. We reflect on the meaning of Dumbledore’s Mirror of Erised scene, specific beasts like the Kelpie and Pickett the Bowtruckle, Dumbledore’s Chocolate Frog card (and the twelve uses of dragon’s blood), Nagini the Maledictus, “Aurelius” Dumbledore, and Rowling’s views of the beastly potential of humanity. We also explore the movie’s alchemical symbolism (water, fire, gold, and Flamel’s role in the film’s climax), ties to King Arthur, humoral theory, and Shakespearean pairings.

Hear what we think about major puzzles: What do we know about the deleted scenes and how they affected both Leta’s and Nagini’s character arcs? What is going on with Queenie? Why is Newt so important to Dumbledore’s mission? Where and when will the next film be set? J.K. Rowling has said that the end of the movie is not all that it seems, and we explore the narrative misdirection at the film’s conclusion. A treasure trove of provocative theories awaits you in this episode!

Please also join the conversation via email (, Twitter (ReadWriteRowl), or our Facebook page! We’d love to hear from you.

Or share your thoughts here by clicking on the ‘Reply’ button up by the post headline! Join in the conversation and let us know what you think about Crimes of Grindelwald.

Reading, Writing, Rowling: Lethal White!


The Reading, Writing, Rowling podcast about Robert Galbraith’s Lethal White that I sat in on last month with host Kathy McDaniel and special guests Beatrice Groves and Louise Freeman has been posted on It may not be the best of this program’s podcasts — how does one compare the quality of such things? — but it has my vote. Why?

I’m all but certain that the guests on this show are among the most serious Strike readers on the planet, I know because I was there that the conversation was fast, fun, and challenging, and the host kept us honest and the discussion rolling at a nice clip.  For Cormoran Strike fans, this is essential listening.

Check it out through the link embedded in the image above — and let me know what you think by clicking on ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the post’s headline. One good conversation should jump start another! I look forward to reading your opinions of this gang’s thoughts, predictions, and interpretations.