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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Podcast Review: Seeing the “Harry Potter” series through the eyes of divinity scholars

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In each podcast, hosts Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan analyze the meaning of the Harry Potter series chapter by chapter.

There is often a distinction made in academic literature as to which texts are deserving of analysis and merit a deep reading and which do not.
It is this navel-gazing distinction that often prevents texts that reach the most people from being understood on a deeper level. Hosts Casper ter Kuile and Vanessa Zoltan saw this problem and decided to try and do something about it. As two graduates of divinity school — ter Kuile a Christian, and Zoltan a humanist chaplain respectively — they chose to analyze the incredibly popular Harry Potter series the best way they knew how: with the tools they have for examining sacred texts. Harry Potter and the Sacred Text seeks meaning in a work that, while incredibly successful, is often seen by some as devoid of meaning due to that very success.
In each episode, the hosts analyze one chapter from the books through the lens of a theme, such as trust, forgiveness, kindness or promises. Zoltan and ter Kuile take the text in full earnestness, making a point to assume no detail in the novels is unworthy of analysis. Perhaps the essential part of their approach relates to inconsistencies, or what some may see as plot holes or subpar writing. The hosts chose to take a different view of these things, and read them as though they are intended and add to the meaning you can find in the text, rather than subtract from it.
This podcast sounds beyond strange, but I would really encourage anyone who has even the slightest interest to give it a try. It is uniquely earnest in a world filled with cynicism, and I think the attitude of the hosts is something that we could all stand to learn from. I for one have little particular interest in Harry Potter, having only read a couple of the books, and a tenuous at best relationship with religion at large. However, I still love to hear what ter Kulie and Zoltan have to say about these texts. I really appreciate their genuine effort to understand and find meaning in a text so many would write off as simply being for children, and thus not worthy of more serious analysis.
Even if you don’t feel encouraged to listen to the entirety of the podcast, I would encourage the skeptical to take a listen to the first episode and appreciate the hosts’ attitudes — and maybe be as encouraged by them as I have been.

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