More Than Meets The Eye: A Textual Examination of Old English Color Resonances

Summer 2014

Amy Clark : English

Mentor: Emily Thornbury, English

A native English speaker will not, generally, be surprised to hear that the color pink is associated with love, or green with envy; we are naturally attuned to the color symbolism embedded within our own language. One challenge of working with the literary tradition of a reconstructed language like Old English, however, is that many such tacit symbolic resonances have been lost to us. This summer, I will analyze the contexts in which the Old English color words sweart, réad, and fealo appear in existing Old English literature, systematically tracking patterns of color association. Does réad, for example, in being used to depict both blood and gold, create an intuitive connection between wealth and violence? In exploring such resonances, I hope to contribute to the reestablishment of a frame of reference for Old English color symbolism, and thus to restore some small piece of what has been lost.

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to pursue my research through SURF. Already the program has pushed me to engage with my field, my mentor, and my own interests at a level I would never have otherwise aspired to; I cannot begin to express how exciting it has been to develop and execute my own independent contribution to the study of Old English literature. In combination with the funding provided by the Anselm Fund necessary to pursue my research full time for several months, the encouragement and skill-building opportunities offered through SURF constitute an invaluable contribution to my academic career.