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The Colors of Literature

ENGL 361.401
crosslisted as: COML 271, FNAR 361
instructor(s):
TR 3-4:30 pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

We perceive the world in color, yet colors are often considered as mere ornaments. By taking the theme of color as a way of reading literature, we will map contemporary culture differently. Starting with historical accounts of the production, use and symbolic values of the colors by Michel Pastoureau, we will engage with cultural, political, philosophical investigations of color. Reading color entails reconstructing a social and cultural history. Literature and film are uniquely placed to allow us to understand the logics of identity and exclusion, and to show the variety of human emotions condensed by color. The books that will we read will range from mainstream novels and films to more experimental texts.  Primary readings: for each color, we will read one book and discuss one or several films. We will read in this order: Patricia Hampl, Blue Arabesque: A Search for the Sublime  (2006), Orhan Pamuk, The Black Book (in the 2006 translation), Aubrey Beardsley, The Yellow Book, (1894-1897, online), Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight (1993), Amy Butler Greenfield, A Perfect Red (2005), Alice Walker, The Color Purple (1982), Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange (1995).  

Supplementary reading:
William Gass, On Being Blue
Michel Pastoureau, Blue, the history of a color
Michel Pastoureau, Black, the history of a color.
Sabine Doran, The Culture of Yellow.
Bruce R. Smith, The Key of Green.

Films will include: The Blue Angel, Yves Klein Documentary, Blue Valentine, Derek Jarman’s Blue, Black Swan, Yellow, Solvent Green, Red Desert, The Color Purple, Orange Clockwork, Orange is the new black.     

Course Policies. The following will determine your final grade: 1) Attendance and participation: 15%, 2) Oral presentation: 15%, 3) Papers: 70%: first paper, a film journal of 8 pages, 30 %, and final paper of 12  pages,  40%.  Paper topics are not assigned but will be discussed in class (an abstract will be provided one week before). Oral presentations should not exceed 20 minutes and should be accompanied by a one-page hand-out.