Color Symbolism in the Works of Stendhal

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Most studies to date concentrate on Stendhal’s color symbolism to convey a specific meaning in Le Rouge et le Noir. This study shows that a distinctive pattern of color symbolism in Stendhal’s works is apparent, and that it serves as a fil conducteur in unifying the characters and the events in Stendhal’s fiction. The analysis starts with Stendhal’s nonfiction writings because his journals and correspondence reveal his sensitivity to colors and because his autobiography serves as a touchstone to the elaboration of his color symbolism. The examination of Stendhal’s fiction shows a sequential color clustering starting with an emphasis on black and white and then moving on to Armance, which is Stendhal’s first attempt at deploying his complete color palette. The analysis of these works by Stendhal further demonstrates that blue and green, when paired, represent the ideal in Stendhal’s distinctive color palette.


“ ... Dr. Cheryl Hansen[‘s] remarkable and entirely original insights into the role of color in the writings of Stendhal served as the basis for [this work] … In my prior experience in reading and teaching Stendhal, I had repeatedly been struck by Stendhal’s frequent allusions to color, especially the fact that he had used color designations in the titles or tentative titles of several of his works, but I did not regard it as being essential to a full appreciation of Stendhal’s character and writings until Dr. Hansen developed her concept of a color code operating at several levels in Stendhal’s works.” – (from the Preface) Professor Richard J. Cummings, University of Utah

“ ... readers of this meticulous study of the color symbolism in Stendhal’s writings are sure never to read any literary work again without a heightened awareness of and sensitivity to the hues and shades the author may be employing ... to enhance his style, deliver his themes, and reveal ... fascinating meanings behind his words.” – Professor Helynne Hollstein Hansen, Western State College of Colorado

“ ... The conclusion that emerges from Dr. Hansen’s study is that Stendhal himself had indeed ‘le sentiment de la couleur’ – he used a palette of colors such as blue, green, yellow, white, orange and purple to add layers to the dramatic background of his works. Dr. Hansen has shown in this comprehensive study of Stendhal’s works that the mosaic of colors in his work is worth paying attention to because it helps deepen our understanding of his art.” – Professor Françoise Hibbs, Salt Lake Community College

Table of Contents

Preface by Richard J. Cummings
1. Introduction to Stendhal’s Color Symbolism
2. A Touchstone to Stendhal’s Color Symbolism
3. The Evolution of Stendhal’s Color Code
4. The Red and Black Cluster
5. The Red and the Black Revisited
6. The Ideal of Blue and Green
Chronology of Stendhal’s Works

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