By Theodore Ziolkowski
In contrast to such a lot different stories of alchemy and literature, which specialize in alchemical imagery in poetry of particular classes or writers, this ebook lines the determine of the alchemist in Western literature from its first visual appeal within the 8th Circle of Dante's Inferno all the way down to the current. From the start alchemy has had facets: exoteric or operative (the transmutation of baser metals into gold) and esoteric or speculative (the non secular transformation of the alchemist himself). From Dante to Ben Jonson, through the centuries whilst the assumption in exoteric alchemy used to be nonetheless robust and exploited via many charlatans to lie to the gullible, writers in significant works of many literatures taken care of alchemists with ridicule so as to reveal their methods. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, as that trust weakened, the determine of the alchemist disappeared, even if Protestant poets in England and Germany have been nonetheless keen on alchemical pictures. but if eighteenth-century technology nearly utterly undermined alchemy, the determine of the alchemist started to emerge back in literature--now as a humanitarian hero or as a spirit striving for sublimation. Following those esoteric romanticizations, as scholarly curiosity in alchemy intensified, writers have been interested in the determine of the alchemist and his quest for strength. The fin-de-siecle observed an extra transformation as poets observed within the alchemist a logo for the poet consistent with se and others, motivated by means of the existing spiritism, as a manifestation of the non secular spirit. through the interwar years, as writers sought surrogates for the common lack of non secular religion, esoteric alchemy underwent a stated revival, and plenty of writers grew to become to the determine of the alchemist as a religious version or, in relation to Paracelsus in Germany, as a countrywide figurehead. This tendency, theorized by means of C. G. Jung in different significant stories, encouraged after international battle II an enormous popularization of the determine in novels--historical, set within the current, or juxtaposing previous and present-- in England, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and the U.S.. The inevitable results of this popularization was once the trivialization of the determine in ads for therapeutic and cooking or in articles approximately scientists and economists. In sum: the determine of the alchemist in literature presents a seismograph for significant shifts in highbrow and cultural history.
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Additional resources for Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present
G. 25 However, he remarked later (596–7), the disappearance of alchemy from the book market did not mean its destruction. “It retreated into a concentrated position. ” Accordingly they gathered in secret groups, such as the so-called Hermetic Society, and publicized their activities only to the extent necessary to provide the instigation and opportunity for likeminded thinkers to join them. 24 Johann Heinrich Zedler, Großes Vollständiges Universal-Lexikon aller Wissenschafften und Künste, 64 vols (Halle/Leipzig: Zedler, 1732–50), vol.
2588–91) 48 John Gower, The English Works, ed. G. C. Macaulay (London: Oxford University Press, 1900), vol. 1. 49 Theatrum chemicum Britannicum, 470. The Alchemist in Literature 34 The craft can no longer thrive as it is practiced at present; it would be wiser to refuse it altogether. He concludes by listing the alchemists upon whom the craft was based. “Hermes was on the ferst of alle, / To whom this art is most applied” (ll. 2606–7), followed by the Arab Geber (Jabir ibn Hayyan), Ortolan (Hortulanus, presumably the fourteenth-century French writer Martin Lortholain), the Alexandrine Christian Morien (Morienus), and the Arab Avicen (Avicenna, or Abu ibn Sina), “which fond and wrot a gret partie / The practique of Alconomie” (ll.
But when the priest tried to duplicate the experiment, “byjaped and bigiled was he” (l. 1385). During the entire episode the actual alchemical experiments are described in only the most general terms: quicksilver is warmed over a ﬁre, and a powder is added. In contrast to the earlier episode the author’s 46 Linden, Darke Hierogliphicks, 48–50. 32 The Alchemist in Literature interest is focused wholly on the interaction between the clever alchemist and the gullible priest. The moral of the episode is simply: Medleth namoore with that art, I mene; For if ye doon, youre thrift is goon ful clene.
Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present by Theodore Ziolkowski