Darke Hierogliphicks: Alchemy in English Literature from Chaucer to the Restoration

Darke Hierogliphicks: Alchemy in English Literature from Chaucer to the Restoration

by Stanton J. Linden
     
 

The literary influence of alchemy and hermeticism in the work of most medieval and early modern authors has been overlooked. Stanton Linden now provides the first comprehensive examination of this influence on English literature from the late Middle Ages through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Drawing extensively on alchemical allusions as well as on the

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Overview

The literary influence of alchemy and hermeticism in the work of most medieval and early modern authors has been overlooked. Stanton Linden now provides the first comprehensive examination of this influence on English literature from the late Middle Ages through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Drawing extensively on alchemical allusions as well as on the practical and theoretical background of the art and its pictorial tradition, Linden demonstrates the pervasiveness of interest in alchemy during this three-hundred-year period. Most writers — including Langland, Gower, Barclay, Eramus, Sidney, Greene, Lyly, and Shakespeare — were familiar with alchemy, and references to it appear in a wide range of genres. Yet the purposes it served in literature from Chaucer through Jonson were narrowly satirical. In literature of the seventeenth century, especially in the poetry of Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Milton, the functions of alchemy changed. Focusing on Bacon, Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Milton — in addition to Jonson and Butler — Linden demonstrates the emergence of new attitudes and innovative themes, motifs, images, and ideas. The use of alchemy to suggest spiritual growth and change, purification, regeneration, and millenarian ideas reflected important new emphases in alchemical, medical, and occultist writing. This new tradition did not continue, however, and Butler's return to satire was contextualized in the antagonism of the Royal Society and religious Latitudinarians to philosophical enthusiasm and the occult. Butler, like Shadwell and Swift, expanded the range of satirical victims to include experimental scientists as well as occult charlatans. The literary uses of alchemy thus reveal the changing intellectual milieus of three centuries.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780813192123
Publisher:
University Press of Kentucky
Publication date:
08/04/2008
Series:
Studies in the English Renaissance Series
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction1
1"A Clew and a Labyrinth": Backgrounds, Definitions, and Preliminaries6
2"concluden everemoore amys": Chaucer and the Medieval Heritage of Alchemical Satire37
3Posers and Impostors: Sixteenth-Century Alchemical Satire62
4The Reformation of Vulcan: Francis Bacon and Alchemy104
5"Abstract riddles of our stone": Ben Jonson and the Drama of Alchemy118
6"a true religious Alchimy": The Poetry of Donne and Herbert154
7"that great & generall refining day": Alchemy, Allegory, and Eschatology in the Seventeenth Century193
8"Under vailes, and Hieroglyphicall Covertures": Alchemy in the Poetry of Vaughan and Milton224
9"Teutonick Chimericall extravagancies": Alchemy, Poetry, and the Restoration Revolt against Enthusiasm260
10Cauda Pavonis294
Notes294
Bibliography344
Index361

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