Download e-book for kindle: Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present by Theodore Ziolkowski
By Theodore Ziolkowski
In contrast to so much different reports of alchemy and literature, which concentrate on 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 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 religious transformation of the alchemist himself). From Dante to Ben Jonson, in the course of the centuries while the idea 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 handled alchemists with ridicule with the intention to disclose their tips. 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 photographs. but if eighteenth-century technological know-how nearly 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 a different transformation as poets observed within the alchemist an emblem for the poet in step with se and others, stimulated by way of the present spiritism, as a manifestation of the non secular spirit. in the course of the interwar years, as writers sought surrogates for the common lack of non secular religion, esoteric alchemy underwent a mentioned revival, and plenty of writers grew to become 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 way of C. G. Jung in numerous significant reviews, encouraged after global conflict 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 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 info for Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present
26 Among the many objects of his satire is, almost unavoidably, the newly fashionable practice of alchemy. Paradoxically, the eighty-four ambivalent lines that he devotes to the topic earned Jean de Meun the reputation of being himself an alchemist. ”28 Another called him “a ﬁrm believer in the art. . 30 The relevant passage (ll. 16,035–118) occurs within a longer discourse in which we learn that Nature, in her continuing struggle with Death, constantly recreates the species from any remaining model, just as the ideal form of the phoenix is constantly reborn from its own ashes.
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.
40 The Alchemist in Literature Both Brant and Erasmus satirized alchemists and warned against their fraudulence but had nothing to say about alchemy as such. Another writer from those years, in contrast, focused entirely on the alchemist’s training and career: Salomon Trismosin, allegedly the teacher of Paracelsus and principal author of the Aureum vellus or “Golden Fleece,” which, in circulation from 1490 onward, was published in 1598 as the ﬁrst part of the important collection Eröffnete Geheimnisse des Steins der Weisen oder Schatzkammer der Alchemie (“Secrets Unveiled of the Philosopher’s Stone or Treasury of Alchemy”).
Alchemist in Literature: From Dante to the Present by Theodore Ziolkowski