A magical day for PhD graduate and Harry Potter researcher Mary Pyle

Posted on: 04 November 2022

Mary Pyle, at the record age of 84, graduated with a PhD for her thesis focused on JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book series.

It was a magical day for the Trinity School of English on November 4th and a first for the university as Mary Pyle, at the record age of 84, graduated with a PhD for her thesis focused on JK Rowling’s famous Harry Potter book series. 

Mary Pyle pictured with her PhD thesis

Mary Pyle, a psychotherapist by training (she is a founding member of the Irish Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and was involved in the establishment of the MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy in Trinity), set out to answer the question: “What is it that is so important at an unconscious level in Harry Potter, that people respond to it?”.  Read her thesis here.

Her thesis: Harry Potter and the Unconscious Dimension, is her response to that question and was completed part-time while Mary continued to work in her chosen career. 

She used her work as a psychoanalyst to read the Harry Potter books in a new way, shedding light on why readers of all ages return to these books over and over again. She has become Trinity's oldest PhD graduate on record.

Mary (on right below) posed with her supervisor Jane Carroll in Front Square ahead of her graduation ceremony. She was wearing a brooch of the Golden Snitch, from the Harry Potter game of Quidditch.

Two women in graduation robes at Trinity

Jane Carroll, Ussher Associate Professor in Children's Literature, said: 

"Mary’s thesis is a fabulous piece of work. It is an exciting and important contribution to our knowledge about the Harry Potter series and to the wider critical conversation about children’s literature. As a project that drew equally on Mary’s professional expertise in psychoanalysis and her deep passion for children’s literature, this is an interdisciplinary thesis and there is so much in it for both scholars of psychoanalysis and scholars of children’s literature to learn from and benefit from. It opens up whole new ways for these disciplines to speak to one another.  

"Mary’s work demonstrates that there are complex unconscious reasons behind our decisions to read and re-read certain books. Her work tackles many of the difficult themes in the series, notably, the central role of death in the books, and shows that combining psychoanalysis with children’s literature offers us rich and innovative ways to understand and engage with these texts. This PhD is the culmination of many years of hard work and meticulous research. It is a fantastic achievement and I am so very proud of Mary."

Media Contact:

Catherine O’Mahony | Media Relations | catherine.omahony@tcd.ie