Hair colors literary, artistic
Princeton NJ -- Jonathan Swift and James Joyce first made
Anne Margaret Daniel see red.
Consider "Gulliver's Travels," where Swift notes that young,
female Yahoos are most dangerous to poor Gulliver when "the
hair of the Brute is of a red colour." Joyce topped that in
"Ulysses," where Buck Mulligan states simply: "Redheaded
women buck like goats."
That was enough for Daniel, a lecturer in English, to
begin a study of literary, artistic and cultural represen-
tations of redheads from about 1600 through today. In her
work, based primarily in English, Irish and American
literature, Daniel examines real redheads, fictional
redheads, and even redhead-wannabes who dye their hair a
"It started when I became interested and repelled by
depictions of redheads in Irish literature, particularly in
Swift and Joyce," said Daniel, a redhead herself. She soon
found that throughout literature and the arts, redheaded
women typically are portrayed as smart but venal, amoral,
sexy, ill-tempered, unpredictable, and either evil or zany.
Redheaded men generally are depicted as large, noisy,
politically involved or great warriors.
Her subjects are mostly women, because when people think
of redheads, they don't think of men, she says. "We think of
the dizzy and dazzling Katharine Hepburn, or the lavish and
lustful Rita Hayworth," Daniel writes in a synopsis of her
work. "We think of copperheads and irresistible peril."
Daniel's subjects include Mary Magdalene ("the reformed
prostitute -- always a redhead"), Ludwig Bemelmans' Madeline
(smart and always in trouble, usually with young, suave
Pepito) and Queen Elizabeth I (a strong woman who sometimes
pretended to be weak and used her red hair to prove she was
not a bastard). Daniel also considers artistic
representations such as Michaelangelo's "The Temptation"
fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in which Eve's
hair changes from mousy brown to copper after she accepts
the apple from a red-headed serpent.
Daniel hopes to finish a book based on her research in
about a year.
May 21, 2001
Vol. 90, No. 28
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