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Mary Jerram Pyle is the oldest person to receive a doctorate in Trinity’s 400-year history

Mary Jerram Pyle describes herself as a “lateish developer,” which is one way of defining someone who, at the age of 84, has received a PhD.

Her PhD, titled Harry Potter and the Unconscious Dimension, makes her the oldest PhD graduate in Trinity College Dublin’s long history, which began in 1592. Her ancestors have been students at the institution since the 18th century.

Mrs. Pyle, the widow of former Irish Times editor Fergus Pyle, who died in 1997, started her PhD in 2014 and would have completed it sooner if not for the pandemic. She is also a founding member of the Irish Forum for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy and teaches psychoanalytic treatment at Trinity. “That took up a lot of time,” she said.

Before beginning her PhD, she had a lengthy and illustrious career as a psychoanalyst. Her dissertation is based on an intriguing premise: why are the Harry Potter novels so popular with adults while being created for children?

She feels she has some answers to that issue as a psychoanalyst and Harry Potter lover. “I’d always wanted to do some academic work, but there wasn’t a lot of time when I was working,” she stated.

“There was more time to accomplish it when my family had grown up.” I’m more relieved than proud. This has never been done before. It’s a whole new piece of work. “I’m honoured to be a part of the Trinity’s lore.” She added.

When she acquired the Harry Potter novels for her granddaughters and began reading them herself, she came up with the idea for her PhD. She subsequently gave the books to her partner, marine biologist Christopher Moriarty, who also enjoyed them.

“From a psychoanalytic standpoint, there has to be an unconscious motive. For one thing, it addresses many of the challenges that people face as they grow up,” she explained.

“On that one, the very few persons who have published psychoanalytic papers on it agree. It somehow delves into extremely deep difficulties that begin in infancy but can resurface at any point in life.”

Mrs. Pyle has four children, the eldest of whom is 58 years old, and three grandchildren.

She hopes to have her work published as a non-academic book, and a well-known publisher has indicated interest in it.

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