Elizabeth Bishop’s pink

Gill, J. (2021) Elizabeth Bishop’s pink. Review of English Studies, 72(303), pp. 147-168. (doi: 10.1093/res/hgaa077)

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Abstract

This article argues for the significance of the colour pink in the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. While Bishop’s interest in painting, architecture and sculpture has been widely noted, the importance of colour—and the specific resonance of pink—has hitherto been overlooked. I propose that across Bishop’s career, from early New York and Key West poems and drafts through the poetry of Brazil, such as ‘The Armadillo’, to the late great poems, ‘In the Waiting Room’ and finally, and disturbingly, ‘Pink Dog’, shades of pink operate to crucial effect. This is the case even, or especially, where pink is only tacitly registered (see, for example, ‘In the Waiting Room’ where the pink body is strategically covered by ‘gray’ clothes). Whether directly or by allusion, Bishop uses pink to suggest difference, unease and alarm, particularly in relation to gender, sexuality and the temptations and risks of self-exposure. In pursuing the point, I look to representations of pink in contemporary popular culture, to colour theory such as the work of Johannes Itten, and to the psychology and physiology of shame. By tracing the significance of pink, I suggest, we reach a better understanding of Bishop’s aesthetics of self-knowledge, subjectivity and display.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gill, Professor Jo
Authors: Gill, J.
College/School:College of Arts
Journal Name:Review of English Studies
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0034-6551
ISSN (Online):1471-6968
Published Online:09 October 2020
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2020 The Author
First Published:First published in Review of English Studies 72(303): 147-168
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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