By Theodore Ziolkowski
Not like such a lot different reports of alchemy and literature, which specialise in alchemical imagery in poetry of particular classes or writers, this e-book strains 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 features: 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, through the centuries while the idea in exoteric alchemy was once nonetheless robust and exploited through many charlatans to misinform the gullible, writers in significant works of many literatures handled alchemists with ridicule with a purpose to reveal their tips. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, as that trust weakened, the determine of the alchemist disappeared, although Protestant poets in England and Germany have been nonetheless keen on alchemical photos. but if eighteenth-century technological know-how virtually fully 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 yet another transformation as poets observed within the alchemist a logo for the poet according to se and others, prompted through the existing spiritism, as a manifestation of the non secular spirit. through the interwar years, as writers sought surrogates for the frequent lack of non secular religion, esoteric alchemy underwent a said revival, and lots of writers grew to become to the determine of the alchemist as a non secular version or, in relation to Paracelsus in Germany, as a countrywide figurehead. This tendency, theorized by way of C. G. Jung in numerous significant reviews, encouraged after international battle II an unlimited popularization of the determine in novels--historical, set within the current, or juxtaposing prior and present-- in England, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and the USA. The inevitable results of this popularization used to be 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
Singleton, Bollingen Series LXXX (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1970), Inferno 2: Commentary, 535–43. ”35 In his book Remedies for Fortune both Good and Bad (De remediis utriusque Fortunae, 1370), where he turned his keen intelligence and skeptical eye on many facets of contemporary life and society, Petrarch also addressed the question of alchemy (chapter 111: “De alchimia”). 36 Reason responds that alchemy never worked effectively for any man, and even when such a report was made, it was uttered by those for whom it was expedient to believe it.
28 Schmieder, Geschichte der Alchemie, 163–4. 29 Mackay, Memoirs, 159. 30 Le Roman de la rose, ed. Félix Lecoy (Paris: Champion, 1973), vol. 2, 298–9. I quote the text from vol. 2 of this edition. See also the notes in: The Romance of the Rose, trans. Charles Dahlberg, 3rd edn (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995), which refers to Lecoy’s notes. 31 See Curtius, Europäische Literatur und Lateinisches Mittelalter, 522–3. Satirizations, or Nigredo 25 se tant ne fet qu’el les ramaine a leur matire prumeraine.
23 At the same time, in such writings as his Dialogue on Transmutation, he reafﬁrmed his belief in transmutation and the powers of alchemy. The Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher, one 19 John Ferguson, “Some English Alchemical Books,” Journal of the Alchemical Society 2 (1913): 2–16, here 5; quoted by Linden, Darke Hierogliphicks, 200. 20 21 Linden, Alchemy Reader, 246–7. Priesner, Geschichte der Alchemie, 93. : Smithsonian Institution Libraries, 1990), vol. 4, 2. 23 Priesner, Geschichte der Alchemie, 89.
Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present by Theodore Ziolkowski