“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 7: “The Beast Within: Chiasmus and Ring Composition in ‘Fantastic Beasts'”

Come along with cohosts Katy and John and special guest Brett Kendall to explore the structure and meaning of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film.

“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 7: “The Beast Within: Chiasmus and Ring Composition in ‘Fantastic Beasts'”


Chiasmus and ring composition refer to patterns in literature where parts of a text repeat, echo, or reference earlier parts and where “the meaning is in the middle.” John credits Brett Kendall as the first to discuss chiasmus in regard to the Harry Potter series, and now Brett reveals to us how J.K. Rowling uses this structure even as a screenwriter in her latest artistic venture, Fantastic Beasts. Although typically employed as a technique of the written word, chiasmus can be used effectively in film, and Rowling undoubtedly still has chiasmus on the brain.

Discover which scenes are in the meaningful middle, and what theme they emphasize, along with other plot parallels not immediately apparent. How does this structure point us to important characters and ideas and where does it suggest the films might be headed?

Come along for an eye-opening discussion of the wonders of Jacob Kowalski as a character and surprising predictions for his future, how the Niffler and Dougal the Demiguise reflect each other, and insights from deleted scenes and the original screenplay. We also discuss the importance of the wild and chaotic amid ordered civilization and creeping authoritarianism, institutional power versus sacrificial love, and how such stories help us understand how to live a good life. Brett and John explain how understanding the chiastic structure of the first film can help us predict what will happen in the next four films.

We’d love to hear your thoughts! Please join the conversation via email (ReadingWritingRowling@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@ReadWriteRowl).

Amy Hogan

I was 9 years old when I discovered the magic that is “Harry Potter.” I am a proud Hufflepuff and exceedingly good at eating, reading, being sarcastic, and over-thinking small tasks. Since I spent too much time worrying about the correct way to write this bio, this is all I was able to come up with before the deadline.