The Colour of Our Memories
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The Colour of Our Memories

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What remains of the colours of our childhood? What are our memories of a blue rabbit, a red dress, a yellow bike? Were they really those colours? And later on, what colours do we associate with our student years, our first loves, our adult life? How does colour leave its mark on memory? How does it stimulate memory? How does it transform it? Or, to reverse that question, how does colour become the victim of memory's whims and lapses? In an attempt to reply to these questions - and to many others - Michel Pastoureau presents us with a journal about colours that covers over half a century (1950-2010). Through personal memories, notes taken on the spot, uninhibited comments, scholarly digressions and the remarks of a professional historian, this book retraces the recent history of colours in France and Europe. Among the fields of observation that are covered or evoked are the vocabulary and data of language, fashion and clothing, everyday objects and practices, emblems and flags, sport, literature, painting, museums and the history of art. This text - playful, poetic, nostalgic - records the life of both the author and his contemporaries. We live in a world increasingly bursting with colour, in which colour remains a focus for memory, a source of delight and, most of all, an invitation to dream.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 152 x 232 x 26mm | 439.98g
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New
  • 0745655718
  • 9780745655710
  • 326,279

Review quote

"In this lovely memoir, Pastoureau shares some of the colour associations that signposted his childhood and young adulthood. Embracing the belief that our identities depend on the memories we accumulate, Pastoureau elegantly shows how memories themselves are shaped by colour." Times Higher Education "The ubiquity of colour in modern society blinds us to its cultural significance. In his dazzling new book - a kaleidoscopic mix of historical research and personal memoir - Michel Pastoureau brilliantly reflects on what colour means, and what colours mean, from the underwear drawer to the TV screen." Jonathon Keats, author of Virtual Words and Forged "In this book the distinguished medievalist Michel Pastoureau uses his memoirs to frame reflections on a variety of historical topics that include the history of jeans, the history of signalling and the language of colour in ancient Greece. The author carries his learning lightly and writes with fluency, grace and humour." Peter Burke, University of Cambridge "A wonderful book made up of personal memories, those of a generation born after the war, of notes taken at the time and of scholarly explanations. Thanks to Michel Pastoureau and to the generosity of his erudition and clarity of his analyses, our life suddenly seems much richer." L Express "This unusual autobiographical reflection is consistent with Michel Pastoureau s reputation as a leading historian of colours. Here he draws readers into his distinctive way of thinking about the role that colours play in our memory, showing how our memories open up new fields of research: one rediscovers the objects of everyday life and of mass consumption, the cinema, literature and art, not to mention his cherished theme of heraldry. Through these reflections the reader retraces the history of colours and their theorization in the West. This book is a delight and it will awaken in readers a new curiosity about the world around them." Etudes: Revue de Culture Contemporaine "the writing is informative, often amusing, and delightfully readable." Australian Journal of Politics and Historyshow more

About Michel Pastoureau

Michel Pastoureau is chair of the history of medieval symbolism at the Ecole pratique des hautes etudes, and one of the world s leading authorities on the history of colours. His many previous books include Blue, Black and The Devil's Cloth.show more

Table of contents

Colour. An aide-memoire I. CLOTHING In the beginning was yellow Turbulent stripes The navy-blue blazer Subversive trousers A particular blue From the garment to the myth Colour against flesh Neutral shades in good taste Mitterand beige Slimming colours In the London Underground II. DAILY LIFE My mother's pharmacy The sad tale of young Philippe Sweet-dispensers Choosing a colour: an impossible undertaking? Greyness Metro tickets Red or blue? Traffic lights Colour and design: a missed chance? Eating colours III. THE ARTS AND LETTERS In a painter's studio A painter caught between two volumes In darkened halls Ivanhoe 'Vowels' The Red and the Black Chretien de Troyes at the cinema Pink pigs and black pigs When Dali assigned marks The colours of a great painter Historians without colours The workings of time IV. ON SPORTS GROUNDS Goals and referees The yellow bike Bartali and the Italian flag The Tour de l'Ouest Colour by default Easy colours and difficult ones Pink and orange V. MYTHS AND SYMBOLS Little Red Ridinghood Long live school Latin My discovery of heraldry The black cat Green superstitions The colour of destiny Furling the colours A historical object that is alarming Playing chess Wittgenstein and heraldic colours VI. ON TASTES AND COLOURS An American gift Sunbathing through the years The 'bling' of the 1950s A brief history of gold A mysterious shade of green Do you see red clearly? No purple for children The whims of memory Preferences and opinion polls VII. WORDS Brown and beige Spelling and grammar A day at the races The zero degree of colour A part that stands for the whole The Greek blue The demise of nuances Speaking of colours without showing them What is colour? Bibliography Index A few helpful chronological detailsshow more

Review Text

"In this lovely memoir, Pastoureau shares some of the colour associations that signposted his childhood and young adulthood. Embracing the belief that our identities depend on the memories we accumulate, Pastoureau elegantly shows how memories themselves are shaped by colour." Times Higher Education "The ubiquity of colour in modern society blinds us to its cultural significance. In his dazzling new book - a kaleidoscopic mix of historical research and personal memoir - Michel Pastoureau brilliantly reflects on what colour means, and what colours mean, from the underwear drawer to the TV screen." Jonathon Keats, author of Virtual Words and Forged "In this book the distinguished medievalist Michel Pastoureau uses his memoirs to frame reflections on a variety of historical topics that include the history of jeans, the history of signalling and the language of colour in ancient Greece. The author carries his learning lightly and writes with fluency, grace and humour." Peter Burke, University of Cambridge "A wonderful book made up of personal memories, those of a generation born after the war, of notes taken at the time and of scholarly explanations. Thanks to Michel Pastoureau and to the generosity of his erudition and clarity of his analyses, our life suddenly seems much richer." L'Express "This unusual autobiographical reflection is consistent with Michel Pastoureau's reputation as a leading historian of colours. Here he draws readers into his distinctive way of thinking about the role that colours play in our memory, showing how our memories open up new fields of research: one rediscovers the objects of everyday life and of mass consumption, the cinema, literature and art, not to mention his cherished theme of heraldry. Through these reflections the reader retraces the history of colours and their theorization in the West. This book is a delight and it will awaken in readers a new curiosity about the world around them." Etudes: Revue de Culture Contemporaine "the writing is informative, often amusing, and delightfully readable." Australian Journal of Politics and Historyshow more

Rating details

70 ratings
3.88 out of 5 stars
5 24% (17)
4 47% (33)
3 21% (15)
2 7% (5)
1 0% (0)
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