'Le blanc souci de notre toile': Writing White in Modern French Poetry and Art

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White has the value of an optical sensation that exceeds colour: it is the condition of light, the sum total of all the colours of the spectrum combined. While it can therefore signify totality, it is also synonymous with the unfinished, the colour of the blank canvas, and the empty page. Perhaps on account of this ambivalent status, at once stopping short of and transcending perceptible phenomena, white has the power to evoke a more spiritual realm that might lie beyond the three dimensions of the material world. Unsurprisingly, then, white holds an iconic status in the development of abstract art and modern poetry alike. Examining a range of instances from Mallarmé to Malevich, Apollinaire to Arp, Didi-Huberman’s reflections on the work of Simon Hantaï, Sarkis and Esther Shalev-Gerz, and the intermedial poetry of Caroline Bergvall, this reading of colour will explore some of the different significations that white has acquired in poetry and art writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
JournalFrench Studies
Issue number3
Early online date10 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • French literature
  • French poetry
  • History of art
  • colour theory

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