Upcoming Meeting Schedule

Upcoming meetings:

Friday April 26th 4-5pm: “Prussian Blue: Dyeing Fast and Permanent with the World’s First Synthetic Pigment”

Location: The Frank and Vera Brown Color Room in McCabe Library

Led by BuYun Chen

This talk examines the connected histories of Prussian blue as a pigment and dyestuff in Europe/America and in East Asia, with a particular focus on the Ryūkyū islands (modern-day Okinawa). More broadly, the talk will explore the plural processes by which chemical knowledge about color was produced and codified during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Past meetings:

Friday March 1st 4-5pm: An Opponent Theory of Color Vision

Location: The Frank and Vera Brown Color Room in McCabe Library

Led by Frank Durgin

Frank will present the ‘opponent process theory of color vision’ which was developed by Leo Hurvich and Dorothea Jameson at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1950s. To prepare for Frank’s discussion please take a look at the first few pages of this article (in particular pages 384, 385, and the left column of 386). Frank will present a simplified version of their theory, which remains the standard model in Perception textbooks today.


Friday, April 27th 4-5 pm: Meares-Irlen syndrome

Led by Jonathan Washington
Meares-Irlen syndrome is a proposed visual disorder that has to do with sensitivity to certain types of light (and color), and which can interfere with literacy.  Current approaches to treatment include the use of tinted glasses and colored overlays.  One goal of this discussion is to explore the debate surrounding the causes (physiological, neural, psychological, some combination?), but other topics for discussion might include literacy consequences, educational and social ramifications, the debate about whether to screen children, and controversies surrounding proprietary screening methods.

Some resources to look at before the meeting:

• A TEDx Talk that introduces Meares-Irlen syndrome.

 An example of “distortions” of the sort experienced by those affected.

•  A 2005 conference talk by James Irvine (requires Swarthmore login) that presents findings of quite a few experiments related to color perception and reading, among other things.  Touches on some ideas about physiological and neural connections to Irlen syndrome.

 The Irlen website.


Friday, March 23rd 4-5 pm: The Color of Politics

Led by Bob Weinberg

Have you ever given thought to why certain colors represent certain political movements and ideologies? What are the political messages conveyed by colors? What are the historical origins of this phenomenon and how are they reflected in literature, flags, art, and other political symbols?  I hope to shed some light on these questions through an examination of visual representations of politics through color.

Friday December 1st 4-5 PM Beardsley 318 

Poetry, Synesthesia and Neuroscience 

We will focus on the poem “Vowels”. Read as many versions as you can and pick one you like!

The readings for this meeting can be found in the following links:

• Translations of Rimbaud’s poem ‘Vowels’: Version 1, Version 2, Version 3, Version 4, Version 5 (several different translations)

• A short biography of Rimbaud: Poetry Foundation

A review of the neuroscience of synesthesia (PDF)

-Meeting led by J. V. Blanchard

Friday March 31st 4-6 PM Beardsley 318 


The color blue is fascinating.  As we discussed at a previous meeting, it is the last color term to be created in a wide range of languages (see Color word order).  One reason for this might be that blue does not occur often in nature (at least it doesn’t often occur in a manipulatable form).  However, blue things are all around us: from the sky, to large bodies of water, to some people’s eyes… During this meeting we will start by talking about what makes the sky blue and make our own cyanometers.  A cyanometer is a collection of different color chips of varying blue hues (usually arranged in a circle) which can be used to ‘quantify’ the color of the sky.  It was instrumental in developing a physical answer to the (literally) age-old question: “why is the sky blue?”

-Meeting led by Tristan Smith

Readings for this meeting: History of explanations of the blueness of the sky

Friday April 7th 4-6 PM Beardsley 318


The things that fascinate me about our color readings are the very different lines of intellectual inquiry “color” produces in each of our work.  As a student of twentieth-century literature, I’ve come to associate color, first and foremost, with race.  From DuBois’s declaration that “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line” to the one-drop rule, “color” has come to connote a complex intersection of social and juridical policings of bodies and rights.

To that end, we’ll discuss two theoretical readings on coloredness and two primary texts–an excerpt of Nella Larsen’s Quicksand, in which the central character uses the colors of a dance club in 1920s Harlem to think through (or repress) her relationship to being mixed-race, and Carrie Mae Weems’s Colored People, 1989-90–a series of photographs on color and race.

 – Meeting led by Gina Patnaik

Readings for this meeting:

Carrie Mae Weems, Colored People, 1989-90

Singh The Whiteness of PoliceSpillersLarsen Quicksand excerpt




Subtractive Color Interaction Workshop

“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is- as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.”

-Josef Albers

After discussing some of the work of Josef Albers and Johannes Itten we will create collages exploring of the complex nature of color. We will work through several exercises addressing the phenomenology of color interaction and color harmony using colored paper. All supplies will be provided.

-Meeting led by Logan Grider