Saturday, April 3, 2010
Close Reading Questions for Le Fanu's "Carmilla"
1. Wrting in The Uncanny, Freud reminds us that “whatever has an uncanny effect in real life has the same in literature. But the writer can intensify and multiply this effect far beyond what is feasible in normal experience…fiction affords possibilities for a sense of the uncanny that would not be available in real life” (157). In what way does Carmilla convey this deepened sense of the uncanny? What elements of the uncanny do we find here that are similar (or more pronounced) to what we find in Green Tea and/or The Familiar?
2. The word “languor” is used several times in the story, each time to characterize Carmilla’s appearance and demeanor. What is the significance of this word, and why does Laura see this as a negative quality? You might consult the OED to shed light on this facet of the story.
3. Examine the numerous passages where Carmilla “woos” Laura, as in the following: “In the rapture of my enormous humiliation I live in your warm life, and you shall die—die, sweetly die—into mine. I cannot help it; as I draw near to you, you, in your turn, will draw near to others, and learn the rapture of that cruelty, which yet is love” (263). What do you make of the frank sexual nature of Carmilla’s speech (and actions)?
4. What role do dreams play in the story? Why are several pivotal events portrayed as dreams or dream-like memories? Consider Robert Tracy’s note in the Introduction, “To dream is dangerous in Le Fanu’s world” (xxv). Who dreams and why in this story—and how, as readers, are we invited to play the role of Freud in interpreting them?