“Reading, Writing, Rowling” Episode 13: “Harry Potter Fan Pilgrimages”

Are you a Harry Potter Pilgrim?

If you’ve journeyed to Platform 9 ¾, to a coffee shop in which J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the series, or to sites used in the Harry Potter films and experienced the sacred or transcendence along the way, you may be a Harry Potter pilgrim.

On this episode, we discuss the practice of Harry Potter fan-travel to sites of importance in the writing and filming of the Harry Potter series. Caroline Toy (Ohio State University) explains the nature and variety of fan travels as well as the emotional and psychological resonance of places associated with the Harry Potter series. We debate whether such travels are genuinely pilgrimages—and what elements of narrative and ritual contribute to the feeling among some fans that they are. Beatrice Groves (author of Literary Allusion in Harry Potter) helps us connect fan pilgrimages to early modern religious pilgrimages to compare how they function for those undertaking the journey. Are places where Rowling wrote the novels more inspiring or “authentic” than film sites? Through mediation, ritual, “queueing up,” and management of space, popular attractions may interfere with fans’ direct experience of a site or allow fans to enter the world of Harry Potter in our imaginations and generate a feeling of community.

And don’t forget to visit the gift shop! We also analyze the role of commerce and souvenirs in the fan travel experience. What do you take back home with you, and how does it help you remember your journey? Whether you’ve been a fan traveler or are planning your next holiday, you won’t want to miss this discussion!

If you’ve performed a fan pilgrimage and would like to help Caroline with her research by sharing that experience, please visit her page to take a survey at fanpilgrimageproject.tumblr.com.

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

Renae McBrian

I am a social media wizard, a YA author, a mom, and a caffeine connoisseur. When I'm not reading, breathing, or living all things Potter, I can be found listening to true crime podcasts or drinking way too much coffee.