When Harry Potter first boards the Hogwarts Express, he journeys to a world which Rowling says has alchemy as its internal logic. The Philosopher's Stone, known for its power to transform base metals into gold and to give immortality to its maker, is the subject of the conflict between Harry and Voldemort in the first book of the series. But alchemy is not about money or eternal life, it is much more about the transformations of desire, of power and of people--through love. Harry's equally remarkable and ordinary power to love leads to his desire to find but not use the Philosopher's Stone at the start of the series and his wish to end the destructive power of the Elder Wand at the end. This collection of essays on alchemical symbolism and transformations in Rowling's series demonstrates how Harry's work with magical objects, people, and creatures transfigure desire, power, and identity. As Harry's leaden existence on Privet Drive is transformed in the company of his friends and teachers, the Harry Potter novels have transformed millions of readers, inspiring us to find the gold in our ordinary lives.
Anne J. Mamary teaches at Monmouth College in Monmouth, Illinois, including a course called Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Soul. Her articles have appeared in journals, such as Reason Papers, International Studies in Philosophy, Women's Studies and Feminist Studies.