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Between Black and White

Between Black and White

(p.85) Chapter Three Between Black and White
The Key of Green
Bruce R. Smith
University of Chicago Press

Since Isaac Newton's experiments with prisms in the 1660s, we have come to think of white light as the presence of all colors and black as the absence of any color. Nicholas Hilliard, in his Treatise Concerning the Arte of Limning (ca.1598–1603), acknowledges the primacy of line over the two other elements his technique: shadowing and color. In a curious reversal of cinema, the history of psychology begins in color but ends in black and white. This chapter is concerned with “thinking” color. It presents the most vigorous critique of color blindness in modern and post modern theory. The dominant psychoanalytical theorists of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and Jacques Lacan, are much more attuned to light versus dark than they are to hues. Aristotle's black-to-white spectrum of colors offers a way of arranging sixteenth- and seventeenth-century thinkers—philosophers, medical writers, scientists, and ethical writers as well as poets—along a continuum from those most attuned to the body at the black end to those most in denial of the body at the white end.

Keywords:   black, white, color, color blindness, Nicholas Hilliard, shadowing, Aristotle, psychology, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud

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