“Histories of Darkness and Light”

April 21-22 | CLA 1.302B

Glickman Conference Center

The contrast between darkness and light often serves as an oppositional metaphor in which darkness, with its connotations of ignorance, superstition, criminality, and evil, is contrasted with the light that dispels darkness or triumphs over it. This metaphorical contrast between darkness and light figures prominently in theology, philosophy, literature, politics, psychology, and science. In many cultures actual darkness, such as the darkness of the night, the darkness of a cave, or the dark color of one’s skin, also bears negative connotations. Some cultures, however, find beauty in blackness, view the night as a time of cultural creativity, and use dark colors to represent what is desirable or inspirational. This conference will explore the ways in which the negative connotations of darkness have been either validated or challenged in different cultural contexts from ancient times to the present. Papers will explore changing attitudes toward the night, claims that the Enlightenment dispelled the darkness of the Middle Ages; references to darkness and light in Christianity and Islam; the role of darkness and whiteness in the development of racial and ethnic attitudes; and the representation of light and darkness in Western art.

Program and Presenters:






Convened by:

Brian P. Levack, John E. Green Regents Professor in History; and

Program Coordinator, 2015-16, Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas at Austin

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Generously co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies and the Department of History, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Institute for Historical Studies | Department of History | University of Texas at Austin

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