Shining Light Into the Shadows: Canon Clues to Seeing Snape
Jessica Aldis, Elisabeth Carnell, Lorrie Kim, Mara Stein
Snape Through Adult Eyes - Jessica Aldis, M.A.
Harry Potter has friends, a foe, and a foil. The nature of his friends is unquestioned; the nature of his foe is evident; but his foil? Severus Snape was one of the good guys, but for many people he remains an unsympathetic character, while for others his heroism is rarely in doubt. Why? In the text, narrative point of view means that we relate to Snape through a child/adult dynamic, but as adult readers we are given sufficient textual clues to interpret the character from a mature perspective. I will explore the interplay between these two views of the Potions Master, and reflect on how this affects our reader-relationship with him.
The Bullies, the Bullied, and the Bystanders: In Just Seven Years You Can Unmake a Man - Elisabeth Carnell, M.A.
It wasn't a stretch for readers, encountering The Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone for the first time, to identify with Harry in the face of a terrible bully of a teacher—the scene is seen through the eyes of a child, our sympathies clear. With the series concluded—and the full context of Snape's formation revealed—the mature reader has the opportunity, and responsibility, to apply this information to reach a deeper understanding of the complex forces that worked to make Severus Snape that bully, and to recognize how those same forces operated in shaping their own life experiences.
The Bravest Git I Ever Knew - Lorrie Kim
Snape's author described him as “a very flawed hero. An anti-hero, perhaps.” But a close look at the conditions Snape endured for his espionage work reveals why many readers believe passionately in his heroism. It took courage for him to accept hatred and misunderstanding, return to Voldemort and forgo recovery from trauma, forgo all credit, and do the daily work of hiding his true self as he undertook Dumbledore's missions. His story is about choosing “what is right” over “what is easy” despite relentless thanklessness, and how this form of heroism resonates with many readers and even with his author.
Developmental Alchemy: The Transformation of Severus Snape - Mara Stein, Psy.D.
Characters evolve throughout the HP series, but perhaps none as profoundly, nor as secretly, as Severus Snape. With the text as our guide, we will trace the evolution of the lonely boy, to angry adolescent, to bereaved and repentant man. What do we make of Dumbledore's comment, “Sometimes, I think we sort too soon”? What are the pathways by which insight and repentance can lead to meaningful change? Textual clues illuminate the alchemical process of change experienced by Snape over the course of his lifetime, and the ways in which this is the most magical transformation of all.
Jessica Aldis (M.A.) was one member (with Mara Stein and Elisabeth Carnell) of a successful panel presenting on the question of identity in the Potter books at Azkatraz 2009. She is an expert in English Renaissance Literature, and speaks German and French. She writes both original fiction and fanfiction as well as literary criticism, and is currently raising a young family.
Elisabeth Carnell (M.A.)'s academic work focuses on medieval magic and magical texts, the contra-arcana treatises of Inquisitor Nicholas Eymerich, and the late-medieval European witch hunts. By day she coordinates the International Congress on Medieval Studies; by night she is a potter (clay, not Harry!), occasional blogger, and a writer of Harry Potter fanfiction (as juniperus) and original prose and poetry.
Lorrie Kim (drinkingcocoa) has presented talks at Azkatraz and Potterdelphia, including “The Fully Knowable Severus Snape.” She is an erstwhile journalist and editor who has found priceless support from J.K. Rowling's books in her current work as the middle-aged mother of small children. Lorrie's Harry Potter-related essays are archived at the Online Wizarding Library, http://owl.tauri.org.
Mara Stein, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist in private practice, specializing in developmental issues across the lifespan, and adjustment after traumatic loss, where the themes and metaphors of the HP universe have come in very handy. She is a published author and conference presenter in her area of specialty. As “Machshefa,” she has won awards for her SS/HG stories “Tree of Life,” “The Couch,” and “Between the Lines,” and is a staff member on the Online Wizarding Library.