Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Close Reading Questions for Le Fanu's "Green Tea"
(to left: Eli Grasso's drawing of a Gothic castle (2010), which has nothing to do with Green Tea specifically, but I wanted to show off my 5 year-old's artistic prowess!)
1. “Green Tea” seems contradictory in its obsession both with quasi-scientific detail and more arcane spirituality, such as Swedenbourg’s Arcana Caelestia. How does the work reconcile these two points of view, and does one ultimately “cancel out” the other?
2. At the end of the story, Dr. Hesselius writes that “I have not, I repeat, the slightest doubt that I should have first dimmed and ultimately sealed that inner eye which Mr. Jennings had inadvertently opened…I have never yet failed” (39). Why do we get this extended disclaimer? How does this affect how we read Hesselius as a narrator?
3. How do Freud’s theories in “The Uncanny” play into this work? What passages or ideas from it can help us interpret Le Fanu's intentions? Note that Freud wrote quite a bit after “Green Tea” was written, so Le Fanu could not have read it…though the two may have been thinking along the same wavelength.
4. Consider the title, “Green Tea” itself: why does Le Fanu call our attention to it, when it plays a relatively minor role in the story? What does this say about the story or the characters who inhabit it? Is this all merely a case of bad tea?