“Potterversity” Episode 27: “Jim Kay’s Illustrated Harry Potter Editions”

Explore the whimsical, fantastical, compelling images in Jim Kay’s illustrated Harry Potter editions.


On this episode, Katy and Emily talk with artist and fantasy scholar Emily Austin (Signum University) and literary scholar Beatrice Groves (Trinity College, Oxford) about the rich, marvelous world depicted in Jim Kay’s gorgeous illustrations of the Potterverse. Looking at Books 1 to 4, we dissect Kay’s style and the range of his artistry and also decode some of the symbolic language in his visual storytelling. Emily Austin and Bea help us understand Kay’s artistic process and how we can see that coming through the books’ images. We talk about how art and design comingle in the “visual feast” provided by these editions and how much of his own sensibility Kay includes in his depictions. You’ll hear about our favorite images – the ones that amuse us and the ones that move us.

Bea and Emily share their thoughts on Kay’s artistic influences and visual references. He uses a lot of nature imagery and symbols from the natural world, which we analyze for their meaning. He brings in many elements from the history of magic that deepen the reader’s experience of the wizarding world. We also dish about where to find “Easter Eggs”: special references, intertextual allusions, and hidden jokes. From landscapes to portraits to depictions of particular scenes, we investigate and marvel at the wonderful imagery Kay brings to the Harry Potter series.

What are your favorite images from these books, and what are you excited to see in Kay’s illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? What would you like to hear more about from our podcast? We’d love to hear from you! Send us an email at PotterversityPodcast@gmail.com, and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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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.