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Book Workshop with Nicholas Gaskill

Location: Social Sciences 0.19

Professor Nicholas Gaskill (University of Oxford) will be leading a workshop on his new book, Chromographia: American Literature and the Modernization of Color (Minnesota, 2018). Staff and graduate students are encouraged to come.

In Chromographia, Gaskill tells the story of how color became modern and how literature, by engaging with modern color, became modernist. The only study of modern color in U.S. literature, Chromographiapresents a new reading of perception in literature and a theory of experience that uses color to move beyond the usual divisions of modern thought.

If you'd like to participate in the workshop, please send Jonathan Schroeder an email letting him know you'd like to come and he'll put you down on the list.

In the workshop, will be discussing the introduction and a chapter or two from Nick Lawrence's recently published book, Chromographia: American Literature and the Modernization of Color . Here are two of the most important passages on the philosophical, historical, and material histories that the book recovers:


[I]n the early twentieth century color emerged as a privileged sign of modernity. The new synthetic dyes that unleashed chromatic and linguistic chaos altered the very stuff of color, its materials no less than the economic networks that brought it to consumers. Educational and scientific endeavors to organize these brilliant, chemical colorants generated dynamic accounts of color perception that unseated long-held philosophical beliefs about the feeling body and the sensory world. Color at once changed the perceptual feel of modernity and provided a paradigm for its most distinctive philosophical and artistic formulations. [This book] bring[s] into view the multiform and overlapping concerns that made color an essential part of what it meant to feel and be modern—or, by contrast, "primitive"—in the United States in the decades between 1880 and 1930.


In other words, the book addresses three major topics:


[T]he emergence of a relational model of color experience, made explicit in psychology and philosophy but on display in a range of color practices; the proliferation of synthetic dyes and their impact on the materials and meanings of color; and the formulations of a distinct 'color sense' that could be enhanced through training or diminished through neglect, a distinctive faculty for feeling colors that many believed marked a perceiver as 'primitive' or 'civilized.'


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