Colonel Snape’s Veritaserum: Teaching Jane Austen in a Harry Potter World

As part of a fall 2011 honors seminar on Jane and the Austenites, my students analyzed various cinematic adapations of Austen's novels. When they viewed a clip involving Alan Rickman, who played Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee's production of Sense and Sensibility (1995), they immediately linked the actor to his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. This essay examines how students utilized their knowledge of the Harry Potter series and films as a gateway for a close reading of Sense and Sensibility. Their understanding and affinity for Snape provided a blueprint for unlocking Colonel Brandon's emotions, motives, and the way he conducts himself in tension-filled situations.