By Theodore Ziolkowski
In contrast to so much different experiences of alchemy and literature, which specialize in alchemical imagery in poetry of particular sessions or writers, this e-book lines 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, in the course of the centuries whilst the assumption in exoteric alchemy used to be nonetheless powerful and exploited through many charlatans to mislead the gullible, writers in significant works of many literatures taken care of alchemists with ridicule with a purpose to disclose their methods. From the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, as that trust weakened, the determine of the alchemist disappeared, even supposing Protestant poets in England and Germany have been nonetheless keen on alchemical pictures. but if eighteenth-century technology nearly entirely 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 a different transformation as poets observed within the alchemist a logo for the poet in line with se and others, inspired through the present spiritism, as a manifestation of the non secular spirit. throughout the interwar years, as writers sought surrogates for the common lack of spiritual religion, esoteric alchemy underwent a suggested revival, and plenty of writers grew to become to the determine of the alchemist as a religious version or, with regards to Paracelsus in Germany, as a countrywide figurehead. This tendency, theorized through C. G. Jung in different significant reviews, encouraged after global warfare II an enormous 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 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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Extra info for Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present
Nevertheless, the passage continues, alchemy is a true art (l. 16,054: “alkimie est art veritable”) because, even if it cannot create life as Nature does, it can achieve transformations that place matters into different species and deprive them of their primary species (ll. 16,064–5: “les et souz espieces estranges / et leur tost l’espiece prumiere”). Here the author uses the example of glass-blowing, in which the master craftsman creates glass from ferns through a simple process of puriﬁcation (l.
Robert Belle Burke (Bristol: Thoemmes, 2000), vol. 2, 626. 77, 3). 7 Albertus Magnus, Book of Minerals, trans. Dorothy Wyckoff (Oxford: Clarendon, 1967), 171–9, here 178. ”9 A century later Petrus Bonus in his Pretiosa margarita novella (1330) accepted the premise of transmutation but with the proviso that it could be accomplished only with the help of God. ” Their hearts are as hard as the ﬂints which they wish to change into the precious metals, and they are as ignorant withal of the elementary facts of Nature as the poorest labourer.
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. By the sixteenth century these attitudes had begun to change. A convenient terminus a quo—though, again, it should not be taken absolutely—is 1462, when the humanist Marsilio Ficino was commissioned by Cosimo de Medici to translate the Byzantine manuscript of the Corpus Hermeticum that had come into his possession.