Thursday, December 7, 2017 at 6:00 pm at the National Humanities Center
Literature, unlike the other arts, has no material content. The pictures are made on the mental retina. When we imagine a color, do we think of a piece of language that spells out the name of the color or does a physical (or quasi-physical) event take place in the brain? This lecture traces out the moments at which two great colorists, Marcel Proust and Lady Murasaki, summon color into being both in the worlds of their respective novels, and on the “mental retina” of the reader. Using contemporary neuroscience as well as classic experiments on the imagination from cognitive psychology, the lecture examines the phenomenon of color threads, the background colors against which our imagination carries out its acts of image-production, and the unexpected relationship between color and mortality.
Elaine Scarry photo by Rick Friedman