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The Colors of Literature Part I: Black and Blue

ENGL 016.302

We perceive the world in color, yet colors are often thought of as mere ornaments. By taking the theme of color seriously to read literature, we will try to map contemporary culture differently. The class will be divided into two sections, one devoted to Blue and Black, the second one to Red, Yellow and Green.  Starting with historical accounts of the production, use and symbolic values of the colors black and blue (Pastoureau), we will engage with philosophical and poetic investigations of color (Wittgenstein and Gass). Any history of color entails a whole genealogy that is both a social and cultural history. Literature and film are uniquely placed to allow us to understand the logics of racial and social exclusion, and to show the variety of human emotions condensed by color. The books will we read will range from mainstream novels to experimental texts.   We will also discuss several films.



William Gass, On Being Blue  and  In the heart of the heart of the country.

Jeffery Deaver, The Blue Nowhere.

Anna Quindlen,  Black and Blue.

The Oxford W. E. B. Du Bois Reader.

Shakespeare, Othello.

Richard Wright, Black Boy.

Lawrence Durell, The Black Book.

Oran Pamuk, The Black Book.


Suggested supplementary reading:  Michel Pastoureau, Blue, thehistory of a color and Black, the history of a color. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on color and The Blue and Brown Books.  Richard Wright, Lawd Today!


Films: The Black Cat (1934, 1941 and 1981),  Blue Velvet, TheBlue Angel, The Big Blue, Blue Valentine, Black Swan, The Black Dahlia.

fulfills requirements
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major