“Potterversity” Episode 1: “Orientation”

Catch a glimpse of the latest in Harry Potter scholarship and get oriented to our new podcast!



In our first episode, Emily and Katy introduce the virtual Potter studies education you can expect from Potterversity. We discuss the Harry Potter Academic Conference (HPAC) at Chestnut Hill College, which this year was held virtually. Kudos to Karen Wendling and Patrick McCauley for pulling off this gathering successfully in a way that allowed Potter scholars from all over the world to interact with one another. Hear about some of our favorite presentations, including Brent Satterly’s talk on LGBTQ responses to J.K. Rowling and several excellent close readings of the books and movies. Many former Reading, Writing, Rowling guests appeared to discuss humor (Louise Freeman), Hogwarts: A History (Lana Whited), “creative maladjustment” (Beth Sutton-Ramspeck), Merlin and Dumbledore (Laurie Beckoff), and Quidditch (Caitlin Harper). In his featured presentation, Chris Bell wondered about whether we could read Harry as biracial to understand his position between two worlds. On Tyranny author Timothy Snyder’s keynote was an eye-opening political analysis connecting the history of totalitarianism to the Harry Potter books – with insights for us today as well.

You’ll also get to hear about the papers Emily and Katy presented at the conference. Emily explains the thinking behind her talk about food and the Eucharist in the wizarding world. As a liturgist, Emily became interested in the table fellowship at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, which has eucharistic overtones. Looking closely at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Emily tells us why there is so much emphasis on food and how food is represented as transformative in an alchemical sense. Stay tuned for a “Dining Hall” episode on a future Potterversity episode, where we’ll explore this topic even more. Katy’s presentation pondered whether Arthur Weasley’s “misuse of Muggle artifacts” is actually cultural appropriation, particularly with his bewitching of the Ford Anglia. Cultures do not stay static and isolated, but when does cultural borrowing become theft or offensive? The divide between Muggles and wizards – including wizard secrecy – makes this a complex question and helps us approach the issue with sensitivity and nuance.

The HPAC this year showed that Potter studies reflect current social and political developments. Our times themselves are politically charged, and the Harry Potter books reveal that these trends have a long arc visible even two decades ago. Talking about issues in the context of the wizarding world allows us to engage with complex problems and political realities in a more neutral setting. Some problems recur in successive generations, which the series reflects, and this will continue to keep the Harry Potter books relevant.

Our special segment for this episode: “Overheard in the Potterversity Staff Room” (with Katherine Sas)

If you have a show idea or a comment for us, please send us an email at potterversitypodcast@gmail.com, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Join our conversation! We’d love to hear from you.


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Laurie Beckoff

My Harry Potter journey began in 2000 when I was six and continued through a bachelor's thesis and master's dissertation on medievalism in the series. I'm a Gryffindor from New York City with a passion for theatre, fantasy, Arthurian legend, and science fiction.