“Potterversity” Episode 32: “Death Eaters”

This episode grapples with two omnipresent themes in Harry Potter: death and immortality.



Although the series has sometimes been deemed too dark for children, death can happen to anyone at any time, making it not purely an adult theme but something kids should also learn to encounter. Katy and Emily are joined by Dr. John Anthony Dunne, associate professor of New Testament and director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Bethel Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota, and cohost of The Two Cities podcast, to explore the meaning of death and approaches to it in Harry Potter.

John disagrees with the popular fan theory approved by the author that Dumbledore plays the role of Death from “The Tale of the Three Brothers.” Voldemort seems much more closely tied to Death and Dumbledore to the Resurrection Stone. We discuss the connection between Death Eaters and ancient religious conceptions of death, in which death is something that consumes.

John argues that Harry Potter is an anti-transhumanist text. Transhumanism is the idea of an extreme extension of life, in which humans can advance and upgrade themselves with increased longevity and well-being. Potter pushes against that idea and rejects the desire for immortality, instead emphasizing the importance of living on by passing things onto the next generation, like the Invisibility Cloak. Creating Horcruxes through murder to extend life lacks the hopeful, humanist goal at the core of transhumanism, and someone who would go to such lengths for eternal life seems highly unlikely to have a child, despite the events of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

We also talk about death in The Christmas Pig and the capitalist connection between hoarding life and hoarding money.

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.

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.