We warmly welcome Liesl Yamaguchi to the CALLIOPE team!
Yamaguchi’s current book project, The Colors of Vowels: Archaeology of a Metaphor investigates the emergence of linguistic synesthesia (i.e., hearing the vowel ‘A’ as ‘red’). First recorded in 1812, reports of vowels experienced as intrinsically tied to colors proliferated over the course of the nineteenth century, turning up in disciplines as disparate as medicine, music, acoustics, psychology, linguistics, and poetry. Reading these accounts by the light of one another, and with an eye to contemporary scientific research, Fulbright Finland Foundation Fellow Yamaguchi traces the migration of the idea of aural color from its ancient home, musical sound, to vowels, linguistic entities newly conceived in 1859 in terms of musical overtones. Combining historical, linguistic, and philological approaches, The Colors of Vowels elucidates the interplay between sensation and imagination, suggesting synesthesia’s enduring centrality to aesthetic experience.
An early chapter of the book, “Sensuous Linguistics: On Saussure’s Synesthesia,” appeared in New Literary History in 2019, garnering the Ralph Cohen Prize for the best essay by an early-career researcher as well as High Commendation for the Society of Dix-Neuviémistes’ 2020 Publication Prize.