By Theodore Ziolkowski
Not like so much different reviews of alchemy and literature, which concentrate on alchemical imagery in poetry of particular classes or writers, this ebook strains the determine of the alchemist in Western literature from its first visual appeal within the 8th Circle of Dante's Inferno right down to the current. From the start alchemy has had elements: exoteric or operative (the transmutation of baser metals into gold) and esoteric or speculative (the religious transformation of the alchemist himself). From Dante to Ben Jonson, throughout the centuries while the idea in exoteric alchemy was once nonetheless robust and exploited by way of many charlatans to lie to the gullible, writers in significant works of many literatures taken care of alchemists with ridicule that allows you to divulge 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 virtually completely 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 energy. The fin-de-siecle observed another transformation as poets observed within the alchemist an emblem for the poet in line with se and others, encouraged through the existing spiritism, as a manifestation of the spiritual spirit. through the interwar years, as writers sought surrogates for the frequent lack of spiritual religion, esoteric alchemy underwent a said revival, and lots of writers became to the determine of the alchemist as a religious version or, in terms of Paracelsus in Germany, as a countrywide figurehead. This tendency, theorized by means of C. G. Jung in different significant stories, encouraged after global battle II an enormous popularization of the determine in novels--historical, set within the current, or juxtaposing earlier and present-- in England, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and the USA. 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 offers 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
Why soe noble a Scyence, as all Men this Arte call, Is here set out in English blunt and rude, For this is soe made to teach a Multitude Of rude people which delen with this Werkes, Ten Thousand Laymen against ten able Clerks: Whereby yearely greate Riches in this Londe Is lewdly lost, as Wisemen understonde; And manie men of Everie degree Yearely be brought to great Povertee. Cease Laymen, cease, be not in follie ever; Lewdnes to leave is beter late than never. (106) Unlike Gower, Norton does not offer even the sketchiest of ﬁctions as a vehicle for his teachings: his Ordinall, as the ecclesiastical title suggests, is simply a book of instructions.
6 Albertus Magnus, who was well acquainted with the writings of the alchemists and discusses them in his Book of Minerals (1261–3; chapters 7–9), agrees with the Arabic philosopher and physician Avicenna (980–1037) that metals cannot be transmuted. Instead, like skillful physicians who use cleansing remedies to clear out corrupt matter that prevents good health, adept alchemists ﬁrst “cleanse thoroughly the material of quicksilver and sulphur, which are present in metals. And when it is clean, they strengthen the elemental and celestial powers in the material.
Franz Strunz (Munich– Planegg: Barth-Verlag, 1927), 166. 10 Petrus of Ferrara Bonus, The New Pearl of Great Price, ed. Giano Lacinio (New York: Arno, 1974), 19. 11 See the discussion in Schmieder, Geschichte der Alchemie, 159–61. See also Charles Mackay, Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions, 2 vols (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1850), vol. 2, 158–9. 12 See Karin Figala, “Alchemieverbot(e),” in: Alchemie: Lexikon, 39–40. Satirizations, or Nigredo 19 based on the belief in the transmutation of metal—not on any spiritual or esoteric meaning of alchemy.
Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present by Theodore Ziolkowski