Seeing in colour
in Perception and analogy
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Looking to the presentation of colour in Thomson’s Seasons, Blackmore’s Creation, Akenside’s The Pleasures of Imagination, Mallet’s Excursion and several other topographical poems, this chapter demonstrates how explanatory descriptions of their occurrence and perception in the natural environment become for writers a way to stimulate the reader’s empirical perception and knowledge. The relationship between natural philosophy, subjectivity, and experience is established in the first section through an investigation of Newton’s optical experiments. The second section considers challenges to the analogical significance of colour categories by looking at representations of the rainbow and individual colours in a range of religious, natural philosophical, and literary examples. Alternatives to Newton’s account of colour production and perception are also explored: Louis-Bertrand Castel’s materialist theory, George Berkeley’s equation of both colours and physical phenomena as non-material in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, and Christopher Smart’s religious poetry, which provides an anti-Newtonian spectrum. The chapter closes by presenting three analogical tropes that poets use to describe the effect and experience of perceiving colour in the natural world: colour as painting or dye, colour as tapestry or weaving, and colour as clothing or covering.

Perception and analogy

Poetry, science, and religion in the eighteenth century

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