Thinking in Color
Color is at once one of the most ubiquitous features of our daily experience and one of the most puzzling: Is it in our minds or in the world? Is it a physiological phenomenon (something that affects us all the same) or a cultural category (something that means different things to different social groups)? How do particular colors get linked to particular identities such that, for instance, blue is gendered male and pink female? And how do these associations change over time? In this seminar, we will address these color conundrums by looking at how philosophers, artists, and writers have described—and used—the power of color. We’ll begin with philosophy, asking what color is and how we know it, and then consider cultural accounts of how color came to be simultaneously alluring and threatening for people in the West. We will then turn our attention to the central role that color plays in modern painting, with a look at how this celebration of color migrates into other media, particularly literature and film. Towards the end of the course, we will take a trip to the MOMA to experience the power of “modern color” firsthand.