Colour in Early Modern English Literature and Culture

  • Sarah Louise Bingham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In early modern England, colour was both a material and a textual preoccupation. However, the polychromatic palette that surrounded English men and women, and the particoloured palette of early modern writers, has thus far received little scholarly attention. This thesis rethinks the culture of colour in England between c. 1580 and c. 1660 to stimulate and enhance critical appreciation of colour in early modern literature. In contradistinction to the monochromatic trend of current cultural histories and early modern research, in this thesis I analyse all colours, situating these within their original socio-cultural contexts to substantiate the significance of colour in a literary text. My contextualised and polychromatic colour-concern offers an alternative method to traditional quantitative or symbolic approaches to colour in literature, as it takes into consideration how colour was experienced during an era that was attentive both to the material qualities and textual existence of colour. This thesis explores five “colourscapes,” which include the workplace, household, Church, New World, and theatre, in order to finesse connections between colourful environs and attendant colour-configurations in early modern English literature. Attending to rhetorical instantiations of colour, and to the lived experience of colour as manifested in literature, this thesis offers an analytical lens through which early modern scholars, and literary scholars alike, can approach colour in literature.
Date of AwardNov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SupervisorRamona Wray (Supervisor) & Edel Lamb (Supervisor)

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