Looking at the way colors appear in a text is a key strategy for literary/cultural analysis. Colors are coded to so many distinct semiotic conventions: mood, emotion, lightness, darkness, and, perhaps most urgently, to one's individual and social identity: to race, ethnicity, political affiliation, and class. Their position in a text matters, in other words, not merely as adjectival descriptors but as key words that both shade and shape meaning. This tool hopes to enhance the process of analyzing color words in a text by providing a simple, reductive 'snapshot' of any text's color palette.

This 'text palette' has several limitations, namely: it does not account for different parts of speech, plurals, slang, truncations, or the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of colors that are not so basic or that are in a different language than English.

That is to say, it searches for 'green' but not 'greenish' nor 'greens' nor 'verdant'—so it would miss, for example, the 'greens' of summer in one of my favorite songs (Paul Simon's 'Kodachrome').

In other words, the palette does not replace the hard work of close reading; nor does it offer any sort of analysis in and of itself. Instead, it provokes questions about color, syntax, form, and mediation that will foster deeper engagement with cultural analysis.

Upload a txt file here to try it out for yourself. Another web page will open up that gives you your palette as a png. If you don't have a text file handy, the following are great places to get one: Project Gutenberg, Bartleby, Archive.org


For more information, click here.