Smith 2009

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Light at 500-510 Nanometers and the 17th-Century Crisis of Consciousness

Marvell, "The Garden"

Derrida, The Truth in Painting; color as a power, force, transgressive, refusing the strictures of the line

"Color is not an object out there in space, waiting to be named; it is a phenomenon, an event that happens between an object and a subject." (15)
"With color there is no 'thing-in-itself'. Color asks to be thought about, not as an object to be observed or as a text to be read, but as a transation to be experienced. That transaction happens within three coordinates -- space ,time, and body -- which are, in fact, the fundamental coordinates of all human experience." (16)

green curtains covering portraits; protecting them from light, dust

Green Closet at Ham House; framing of room by doors and portraits by frames; hanging locks of hair and curtain pulled back creates multisensory experience (20)

  • English equivalent of Italian studiolo

Wittgenstein, Remarks on Color -- color as a language game

"Color makes it impossible to separate subject from object." (24)

"to green" as "to desire" in c16 and Scots (36-7)

colors of rhetoric (38); "the graphic line is to logical proof what colors are to passionate persuasion" (38)

historical phenomenology

  • "In place of the universalizing assumptions that marked new criticism as a method of reading and liberal humanism as a controlling ideology, new historicism insists on the historical contingency of sense experience and the constructedness of verbal meaning. In a move beyond new historicism and deconstruction, historical phenomenology recognizes a continuity between intellect and other ways of knowing." (40)

Nietzsche on color (24-5)

c17: Kuhnian paradigm shift in ideas about color; beginning of c17, mostly Aristotelian idea of color as "differing material transparencies ranged between black and white"; by the end of the century, Newtonian -- colors "understood to be an effect of light" (29)

sensation as a whole-body experience (30)

"A green thought would have involved not just the stimulation of the retina by waves of light at 500-510 nanometers and the brain's matching up this sensation with the concept 'green' but also (1) the fusing of the sensation with reports from the other senses by the faculty known as common sens, (2) the referral of this enhanced sensation to the combinatory powers of the faculty known as imagination or fantasy, (3) the transmission of the resulting kinesthetic sensation to the heart, and (4) the excitation there of the body's four humors according to whether the heart dilated in desire or contracted in avoidance. the perceiver experienced this rush of humors throughout the body as passion of one sort or another. Only then did ratiocination come into play." (30)

Descartes, Hobbes, La Chambre on passions (32ff); "at the moment Marvell was writing, an older model of subjective knowledge, known through the body, was being shallenged by a newer model of objective knowledge, known through the exercise of reason" (34)

Green Stuff

"green man"; out of fashion by 1600

Bacon, Sylva Sylvarum, color as "material stuff" (56)

Foucault, knowledge through analogy: "That Hermes = Mercury = mercury = quicksilver = an excellent green is coincidence enough to detain the most enlightened skeptic. Under the aegis of Hermes' epistemology, to know metals is to know plants is to know the human soul. and to know all three, at the moment of transmutation, is to know green." (67)

"In experiment 327 of Sylva Sylvarum, Bacon again speaks of metals as if they were living, growing things." (64)

Between Black and White

Margaret Cavendish, "juxtaposition of rational argument and fanciful fiction" in pairing Observations with Blazing World (102)

"animate materialists": Isaac Barrow, Francis Glisson, unknown author of Raleigh's Sceptick; refuse mind-body binary; for Barrows, magnetism proves extension of spirit into matter (103-4)

Mapping Renaissance theories of mind to the color spectrum:

  • Helkiah Crooke and Descartes (104-5)
  • Montaigne; Edward Herbert, De veritate (1624) -- all but forgotten now, but grounds for Kant and phenomenology (107-8)
  • Margaret Cavendish
  • Descartes, Thomas Browne, Ralph Cudworth, Locke and a scene of writing (4.11) (121-2)
  • spectrum can't be read chronologically (123)
  • using Raymond Williams: at any given moment, residual, dominant and emergent ideas/cultures exist simultaneously

Green Spectacles

Ut pictura poesis, poetry is like a picture;

  • picture is capacious word in Renaissance, can refer to tapestry, sculpture, painting, emblems, poetry;
  • from Horace's "Ars Poetica"
  • arts weren't distinguished by media until eighteenth-century aestheticians like Shaftesbury and Lessing sorted them that way

for Horace, both poetry and painting share the "coordinates of space, light value, and time" (126)

connection to book history:

"Recent histories of 'the book' (note the singular) -- Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean martin's The Coming of the Book (1976), Eliza eth Eisenstein's The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (1983), Adrian Johns's The Nature of the Book (1998), John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie's The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, vol. 4 (2002), Roger Chartier's Inscription and Erasure (1007) -- tend to assume a 'reader' (note the singular) who is absent in body, unlocated in space and time, sedentary in posture, totally absorbed by the printed text he holds in his hands. He never yawns, he never lets his mind wander, he never even looks around. Should he have done so, there would have been plenty to distract him in the spaces where sixteenth- and seventeenth-century men and women actually did much of their reading: gardens like Marvell's and 'cabinets' or 'closets' like William Murray's at Ham House. The interplay of visual objects and printed texts in spaces like the Green Closet at Ham House produced, according to Stephen J. Campbell, a 'semiotic vituosity' in which texts might provide 'a poetic and metaphoric commentary on objects in the collections.' That virtuosity could, it seems to me, operate i nthe other direction as well, as images in the room informed texts in hand. In England at least, the ambience in such spaces was usually provided by folds of woven fabric in the form of tapestries, hangings, painted cloths, bed curtains, needlework cushions, and carpets. These woven artifacts figure as physical, period-specific versions of the assemblage, the interlacing, the weaving, the infolding that Derrida finds in the space between one letter and another. They give us reference points for understanding how Renaissance men and women walking, sitting, and reclining within arbors and chambers might have taken printed texts in hand and read them. Ambient reading in such spaces encourages constant -- and constantly varying -- interplay between the verbal and the visual." (127-8)

using ekphrasis to understand how c17 men and women ordered their perceptions

painted mirror hung atop a tapestry; situates the viewer in the scene (138)

Hardwick Hall, portraits hung atop tapestries; up close, the portraits serve as borders; far away, the grand narrative of the tapestries dwarf the portraits (139)

  • "Boundaries between words and pictures are not fixed. Rather, words can inform pictures, and pictures can inform words, to produce the state of 'semiotic virtuoisty' that Campbell describes." (144)
  • visual environment is "layered: pattern upon pattern, story upon story" (144)

plants "provide the green matrix" for tapestry narratives (146-7)

"To shift one's gaze from tapestries, painted cloths, and painted panels to the printed page was not, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, so disruptive as it might seem today. ... tapestries or painted cloths might provide the surroundings for reading a book. ... one of the most frequent fictional locations that might be discovered by drawing back a curtain was a study, often with the character in the pose of a reader, asleep in a chair over a book. And among the productions of the sheldon workshops were tapestry book covers ... Whatever a books' content, the effect of such bindings as a reader took the book in hand would have been the equivalent of the verdure and antic work of tapestries. If an engraved title page were present, framing printed letters with strap work, plant motifs, or antic figures, the reader would have entered the book via an intermediary between the visual fantasy of the cover and the printed words of the text" (152)

ekphrasis, relation between words and things in the Faerie Queene, Rape of Lucrece, Richard Crashaw's Flaming Heart

Listening for Green

sound as color; see Rabelais, Newton

"Greensleeves" (178)

ballads, psalms

oral events, noise, hubbub -- from Michel Serres, Genesis -- from the beginning of Shakespeare's plays; "all of these aural events -- the 'O' uttered by public voices of command, the 'Tush' of private voices in conversation, rolls of thunder, staged hubbub, consorted music -- belong to the same space as grotesquerie and antic work in tapestries. they offer the audience's ears a time for sense, common sense, imaginatino, fantasy, and passion to begin their play." (193)

  • white noise of the theatre (193)

"The green potential in Renaissance verse is even more radical than that. It dissolves words, not into other words, but into non-semantic sound. It does not just break words down into phonemes that can be recombined with other phonemes in new and interesting ways; itliquefies words. That potential, present in all languages, whatever the time and place in which speakers and listeneres find themselves, is positively encouraged by a physiology of knowing, current among speakers of English in the c17, in which the passions 'hear' sensations before reason does. The sensations circulate throughout the body as an aerated fluid on which reason's imprint is always insubstantial." (206)

The Curtain between the Theatre and the Globe

close of the Theatre in 1597; for 20 months, plays were performed at the Curtain, before the Globe opened

modern assumption that c16-17 stages were bare, black; but would have been hung with curtains, arras, hanging cloth, tapestries

  • "with respect to stage performance, like everything else, we want what we know to be clear and distinct. We have accepted flacknoe's distinction between the black-and-white clarity and solidity of the verbal text, which we hear in performance and later can verify in the printed script, and the colored blur and ceaseless motion of jthe live visual experience, which eludes us as soon as it happens. Color and movement are not appropriate objects of knowledge" (211)

new media like CDs, video tapes, etc., "let us maintain the subject/object distance that has proved so reassuring since the late seventeenth century"; but scripts from the Curtain "suggest ways o watching and listening in which the relationship of subject and object is dynamic, not fixed" (212)

Flecknoe: taking in a play is like walking through a garden, an ambient experience

curtains pulled aside, "words and spectacle seem to work in tension, if not in opposition" (221); "In moments of revelation, when the arras was pulled aside, spectator-listeners could experience eloquence in both forms, a coming together of words and vision, within a suddenly unified perceptual space, at a keenly anticipated moment in time" (221)

if the scripts associated with the Lord Chamberlain's Men at the Curtain are evidence, "we need to imagine woven hangings of some sort -- arras, tapestry, curtain, traverse -- as a frequent if not constnat visual feature of stages in early modern London's outdoor theaters" (221)

"narrative events on the stage platform were played in front of -- and often enough out of -- woven or painted hangings. .. Did these figures extend antic work that was to be seen in the woven hangings themselves?" (226)

"the term 'hanging's is too inert. Far from just being there, stage fabrics in Shakespeare's theater were involved in actions, in doing things. Beds were thrust forth between them, swords were thrust through them, they were drawn back, they were closed, through them on certain occasions actors went out and in, they moved the spectators' imaginations from one place to another." (242)
  • implicated in activities like hiding, discovering, sexual pleasuring, sleeping, dying, reading, writing, dreaming, eating, moving
"The passion inspired by the curtain, I have been suggesting, is a desire not just to hear the words and see the spectacle but to go there. On occasion, spectators were physically able to do just that, and we can follow them.. To make such a move, one has to stop thinking of the curatin as a barrier and consider it as a medium." (243)

in Restoration, backstage becomes "green room" (245); "the liminality of the space behind-the-curtain" (246)

"The Theatre and the Globe: between those two entities a medium was required in 1597-1599 and is still required today. That medium was and is the Curtain." (247)