Vision and Cognition in the Middle Ages
Getting the Blues: Vision and Cognition in the Middle Ages is an interdisciplinary study of medieval color. By integrating scientific and literary approaches, it revises our current understanding of how people in medieval Europe experienced color and what it meant to them. This book insists that the past perception of the world can be recovered by joining timeless universal constraints on human experience (discovered by science) to the unique cultural expressions of that experience (revealed by literature).
The Middle Ages may evoke images of the multicolored stained glass of gothic cathedrals, the motley garb of minstrels, or the brilliant illuminations of manuscripts, yet such color often goes unnoticed in scholarly accounts of medieval literature. Getting the Blues restores some of the most important literary works of the Middle Ages to their full living color. Particular consideration is given to the twelfth-century Arthurian romances by Chrétien de Troyes and the thirteenth-century Lancelot-Grail Cycle.
Getting the Blues engages debates within the humanities and the sciences over universalist and relativist approaches to how humans see and name color. Scholars in the humanities often insist that color is a strictly cultural phenomenon, eschewing as irrelevant to the Middle Ages recent developments in cognitive science that show universal constraints on how people in all cultures see and name color. This book contributes to the recent cognitive turn in the humanities and sheds new light on some of the most frequent and meaningful cultural experiences in the Middle Ages: the perception, use, and naming of color.
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- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2019. XIV, 252 pp., 5 b/w ill., 4 colored ill., 3 tables
- About the author(s)/editor(s)
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- List of Illustrations
- Introduction: Color, Cognition, and Criticism
- Part 1. Seeing Color
- Chapter 1. Thinking About Seeing, Fast and Slow
- The Site of Sight in Cligès
- Festina Lente
- The Setting Son
- Sight at First Love
- Alexander’s Tragic Theory of Vision
- The Discourse of True Love
- The Eye of the Problem
- The Sense of Fire
- But Does It Work in Theory?
- Our Confused Inner Opticist
- But Back to That Arrow
- Autrement dire le m’estuet
- Chapter 2. The Colors of Irony
- The Blank Stag
- An Empty Suit
- Idealess Green Colors
- What’s in a Name?
- Un chevalier sans divertissement
- Coda to Part 1: I See a Blityri!
- There Was No First Scientist
- First Ideas
- Bonne atmosphère!
- Variations on a Thema
- Developmental Themata
- Platonic Themata
- Thematic Origins of Naturalism
- The Cognitive Ease of Grammatical Platonism
- Speaking Otherwise About Medieval Platonism
- Envoi to Part 2: Socrates est blavus (Socrates Is Blue)
- Part 2. Naming Color
- Chapter 3. Britain’s Missing Shade of Blue
- A Tale of Many Marys
- Polychromy and Color Terms
- Medieval Mary
- A Spectrum of Britains
- Blue Britain
- Green Britain
- Yellow Britain
- White Britain
- Hairy Britain
- Black Britain
- Shiny Britain
- Britain Gets the Blues
- Chapter 4. Blue Mythology
- “Our Old Romances”: The Lancelot-Grail Cycle Texts
- Edition of the Sad Britain Passage
- The Sad Britain Passage
- A Confusion of Britains
- A Metalepsis of Britains
- From Britannia to Bretaigne
- Arthurian Crossings
- A Tropics of Metalepsis
- Bloie Bretaigne in the Lancelot-Grail Cycle
- The History of the Holy Grail: Contretemps and Salvific History
- The Prose Merlin: Praefulget quod non visitur
- The Merlin Vulgate Continuation: Great and Beastly Britain
- The Merlin Vulgate Continuation, Alpha Version: Sad Britain
- Envoi to the Coda to Part 2: Acts of Literature
- Coda to Part 2: Mood Bloi
- Metalepsis on Trial
- Non-intentional Metalepsis
- Agents and Others
- Searle’s Suffering, Coloring Cogito
- Transgressing the Boundaries
- Series index
Getting the Blues: Vision and Cognition in the Middle Ages argues for a humanist approach to literature and illustrates that approach by exploring our understanding of medieval color vision. I have found that the description of my approach as humanist invites dismissal from my colleagues in the literary Humanities. This is the age of the Post-human, of Ecocriticism and Animal Studies. I don’t believe that any of these emerging fields is necessarily incompatible with the humanism put forth in these pages. Indeed, to take them in reverse order, humanism relies on: our shared evolutionary inheritance with other animals; our perception of and interaction with the external world; and our human ability to exceed, at least in imagination and with technology, the constraints our human nature puts upon us. There are many levels at which one can investigate human achievement, and I have simply limited myself to exploring the literary and cultural achievements of the Middle Ages as they reflect, derive from, or struggle with those constraints.
My humanist aim as a medievalist is to access the individual world-views expressed in the texts that survive to us from the European Middle Ages. By world-view, I do not just mean the sometimes pithy summations of a general attitude toward or understanding of the world, like Social Darwinism or Direct Realism. To be sure, such guiding principles existed in the Middle Ages, ← xiii | xiv → like Neo-Platonism. And, to be sure, medieval individuals, like their modern semblables, held such world-views...
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