GER 536: Politics of Color

GER 536: Politics of Color


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This seminar explores the politics and aesthetics of color in visual and literary media. Whether associated with particular moods or mental states (“red with anger,” “pale white”), with particular ideologies (Communist red, the environmental Greens) or with particular races (black for African Americans, white for Caucasians, red for Native Americans, yellow for Asians), color has always been seen as an index of meaning. Yet the broad cultural significance of specific colors is rarely been addressed. Reduced to its symbolic – that is, highly conventionalized – function, color is typically understood as a fixed system of reference that is easily decoded. However, this approach to color obscures its dynamic nature, its culturally conditioned ambiguities, and dualities. “Every hue, real or imagined, bodes a world,” writes Jeffery Cohen in his introduction to Prismatic Ecology. Ecotheory beyond Green (2013) and the vibrant worlds of colors that climate changes, both politically and ecologically, emerge as they energize movements (from “Black Panther” to the “Yellow People Revolution”) and reflections on the color of skin, contaminants, plants, atmospheres. Readings and viewings include Goethe’s Color Theory, Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow, Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Kieslowski’s Color Trilogy, Kurosawa’s Ran, and Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing – to look at perspectives that recognize the complex nature of color and its inscriptions in political networks.


Arts and Humanities