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Tea time for Evelyn Funda’s American Lit class

October 21st, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life

By Chris Lee

LOGAN—It was tea time for English Professor Evelyn Funda’s American Literature class last week as students were transported to Victorian England for a British tea party to help them relate to the characters in Henry James’ nove Portrait of a Lady.

I know it seems strange to be doing this in an American lit class,” said Funda, “but almost all of the characters are American expatriates living in Britain or Italy.”

By reenacting a Victorian tea party, the class was able to experience the period’s strict rules of conversation and manners, and put themselves in the shoes of the novel’s characters.

The class didn’t just sit around and drink tea. Every student was asked to bring at least one period costume piece like a hat or gloves, speak in a British accent, and provide other services for the class. Some students brought food or drink and others brought things such as music or information about the customs.

As in Victorian times, roles in society were random. Back then, nobility and class were controlled mostly by birth, but in Funda’s class it was decided by hats. Some students were nobles and wealthy landowners, while others were servants, who walked around the room pouring tea as the other students socialized and ate their traditional Victorian food.

The party was as authentic as could be achieved in a USU classroom. There was plenty of food and drink and everyone left class with a full belly to help them tackle the rest of the day.


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