VVP: Art 434 & Engl. 410

Website for Vision Voice and Practice: An Interdisciplinary Course in Art and Creative Writing

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Words as Access Points

In today's class, we talked about Walker Percy's essay "Metaphor as Mistake," which, among many other things, asserts that metaphor is more than simply a utilitarian means of describing empirically observed reality or an aesthetically motivated pleasure-trip through language play. Instead, he says that metaphor is (can be?) a "discoverer of being."

In our discussion, we brought up the claim, first discovered by me (Chris) via an episode of Radiolab, that until there was a word for blue there was no concept of blue in anyone's consciousness. Language, being itself metaphorical, gives us access, Percy says, to a "definite but fugitive" something. In other words, language gives access to experience and reality. (It also, of course, can be used to manipulate, reduce, and confuse.) Anyway, when we mentioned the notion that "blue" as a concept didn't exist because it didn't exist as a word, there was a minor delighted/dismayed upheaval among the students. Dan subsequently recommended the book Color, by Victoria Finlay. And here's a short write-up about this notion of blue.

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