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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Wednesdays 13:30-14:30 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course aims to examine how people of earlier times and different cultures extracted colours from their environment for different uses in their daily lives. This course also aims to empower students to work collaboratively in small groups, undertake independent projects, and make presentations with confidence.

By the end of the course, students should be able to analyze colours in terms of their properties and above all, they should have acquired the inquiry skills to deconstruct the meaning of colour in the cultural context of the producers and users of colour.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Ball, Philip. 2001. Bright Earth, art and the invention of color (The University of Chicago Press). N 7432.7 .B35 2003

Deutscher, Guy. 2010. Through the Language Glass, why the world looks different in other languages (Picador).

Finlay, Victoria. 2002. Colour, travels through the paintbox (Sceptre). ND1488 .F56 2002

Pentak, Stephen and Richard Roth. 2004. Color Basics (Thomson and Wadsworth).

Ball, Philip, Mark Clarke, and Carinna Parraman. 2013. Colour in the Making (Black Dog Publishing).

Please note that students will pay for materials such as paper, cardboards and color crayons or pencils or watercolors or acrylic, etc. for making presentations.

Method of Assessment:

Written Assignment 1 due September 12, 10%

Presentations on September 26, 15%

Term Journal due October 29, 10%

Take-home Midterm due Midterm October 22, 20%

Take-home Exam due December 15, 2014, 25%

Term Journal due December 15, 2014, 10%

Full Attendance, 5%

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

No extensions and Make-up Quiz without a timely medical certificate.

Late penalties: for every day past the due date, 5% of the assignment’s grade.

To get A+ requires correct spelling and grammar on all written work.


Grading Scale:


A+ 90-100     B+  77-79        C+  67-69         D+      57-59

A   85-89        B    73-76        C    63-66        D         53-56

A-  80-84        B-   70-72        C-   60-62        D-       50-52

                                                                       F           0-49

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Texts plus additional materials accessed online or on reserve at Mills Library.


Week 1 (Sept. 5)            Introduction, Form Groups

Through the Language Glass, Part I, The Language Mirror


Week 2 (Sept. 10, 12)            Perception and Verbal Expression, First Assignment due Sept. 12

Color Basics, Ch. 1 Introduction

Through the Language Glass, Part II, The Language Lens


Week 3 (Sept. 17, 19) Theories of Colour

Color Basics, Ch. 2 Color Systems


Bright Earth, Ch. 1 The Eye of the Beholder and Ch. 2 Plucking the Rainbow

Gage, John. 1999. Ch. 9 Newton and Painting in his Color and Meaning: Art, Science and Symbolism (University of California Press), pp. 134-143.

ON RESERVE AT MILLS ND 1488 .G344 1999



Colour, a handbook of the theory of colour,

by Hurst, George Henry. Published 1916

Located: ONLINE: Online XX(2502533.1)Item type: e-Book


Week 4 (Sept. 24, 26) Early Pigments, Group Presentations on Sept. 26

Color Basics, Ch. 3 Color in Context


Bright Earth, Ch. 3 The Force of Vulcan and Ch. 4 Secret Recipes

Colour in the Making, Early Colour Making, pp. 1-65.

Colour, travels through the paintbox.


Week 5 (Oct. 1, 3) Cultural Constructions

Finlay, R. “Weaving the Rainbow: Visions of Color in World History” in Journal of World History 18, 4 (2007), pp. 383-431. Stable URL:


Bright Earth:  Ch. 5 Masters of Light and Shadow and Ch. 6 Old Gold

Boulogne, Stéphanie Karine. “Glass Bracelets in the Medieval and Early Modern Middle East: Design and Color as Identity Markers” in A. Feeser et al. (eds.) The Materiality of Color, The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400-1800 (Ashgate), pp. 185-198. ON RESERVE


Week 6 (Oct. 8, 10) How Colours Work

Color Basics, Ch. 4 Color in Practice: Two-Dimensional


Taussig, Michael. 2006. “What Color is the Sacred?” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 33, No. 1 (Autumn 2006), pp. 28-51. Stable URL:

Bassett, Molly Harbour and Jeanette Favrot Peterson, “Coloring the Sacred in Sixteenth-Century Central Mexico” in A. Feeser et al. (eds.) The Materiality of Color, The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400-1800 (Ashgate), pp. 45-64. ON RESERVE

Hemming, Jessica. 2012. “Red, White, and Black in Symbolic Thought: The Tricolor Folk Motif, Colour naming, and Trichromaric Vision” in Folklore 123, 3 (2012), pp. 310-329.


Week 7 (Oct. 15, 17) The Colour of Skin (Take-home Midterm due Oct. 22)

Color Basics, Ch. 5 Color in Practice: Three-Dimensional


Goldenberg, David M. 2003. Part Two The Color of Skin in his The Curse of Ham, Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton University Press).

ON RESERVE AT MILLS BS 580 .H27 G65 2003


Week 8 (Oct. 22, 24)           

Color Basics, Ch. 6 Color in Nature and Culture

Buono, Amy. “Crafts of Color: Tupi Tapiragei in Early Colonial Brazil” in A. Feeser et al. (eds.) The Materiality of Color, The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400-1800 (Ashgate), pp. 235-246. ON RESERVE




Week 9 (Oct. 29)            Synthetic Colours

Colour in the Making: Nineteenth Century Colour, pp. 88-147

Gage, John. 1999. Ch. 15 Chevreul between Classicism and Romanticism in his Color and Meaning: Art, Science and Symbolism (University of California Press), pp. 196-208.

Bright Earth: Ch. 7 The Prismatic Metals


Week 10 (Nov. 5, 7)            Asian Paradigms

Forbes, Edward. 1932. “Materials Used in Japanese Painting” in Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, 1, 3 (1932): pp. 48-52. Stable URL: .

Yu, Fei’an. 1988. Transl. by Jerome Silbergeld and Amy McNair. Chinese Painting Colors: studies on their preparation and application in traditional and modern times (Hong Kong University Press and University of Washington Press).

Chapters 1 The Varieties an d Nature of Chinese Painting Colors and Chapter 2 The Development of Chinese Painting Colors. Chapter 3 The Characteristics of Chinese Ink.


ON RESERVE at Mills ND1510.Y813 1988


Week 11 (Nov. 19, 21) Light and Dark

Bright Earth: Ch. 8 The Reign of Light and Ch. 13 Mind over Matter

Gage, John. 1999. Ch.18 Matisses’ Black Light and Ch. 19 Colour as Language in Early Abstract Painting in his Color and Meaning: Art, Science and Symbolism (University of California Press), pp. 228-240.


Week 12 (Nov. 26, 28) Colour as Disguise and Marker

Schafer, Edward H. 1956. “The Early History of Lead Pigments and Cosmetics in China.” In T’oung Pao, Second Series, 44, 4/5 (1956): pp. 413-438.

Stable URL:

Lozier, Jean-Francois. 2012. “Red Ochre, Vermilion, and the Transatlantic Cosmetic Encounter” in A. Feeser et al. (eds.) The Materiality of Color, The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400-1800 (Ashgate), pp. 119-138.

Blaszzczyk, Regina Lee. 2012. “Nationalism” in her The Color Revolution (MIT Press), pp. 71-93. ONLINE

Please note that there might be some adjustment to the above topics and dates depending on the progress of the class. If so, such adjustment will be announced in class.

Other Course Information:

Attendance of all classes is mandatory. Lectures will cover supplementary materials.


REFERENCES, all on reserve at Mills Library:


Harley, R. D. 1970. Artists’ Pigments, c. 1600-1835, A Study in English documentary Source. (London: Butterworths). ND 1510. H36

Yu, Fei’an, transl. by Jerome Silbergeld and Amy McNair. 1988. Chinese Painting Colours, Studies of Their Preparation and Application in Traditional Modern Times. (Hong Kong University Press and University of Washington Press).

ND1510.Y813 1988

Gage, John. 1999. Color and Meaning: Art, Science and Symbolism (University of California Press). ND 1488 .G344 1999

Feeser et al. (eds.). 2012. The Materiality of Color, The Production, Circulation, and Application of Dyes and Pigments, 1400-1800 (Ashgate).

Goldenberg, David M. 2003. The Curse of Ham, Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (Princeton University Press). BS 580 .H27 G65 2003

Blaszzczyk, Regina Lee. 2012. “Nationalism” in her The Color Revolution (MIT Press). ONLINE access through Mills.

When necessary, additional references will be posted on Avenue to Learn.