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The Alchemist in LiteratureFrom Dante to the Present$
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Theodore Ziolkowski

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746836

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746836.001.0001

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Romanticizations, or Cauda Pavonis

Romanticizations, or Cauda Pavonis

Chapter:
(p.62) 3 Romanticizations, or Cauda Pavonis
Source:
The Alchemist in Literature
Author(s):

Theodore Ziolkowski

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746836.003.0003

This chapter begins with examples of alchemical imagery in the poetry of Milton and John Donne as well as religious poets in England, Germany, and the American colonies that provided a transition from the earlier satirizations of the alchemist to the new romanticizations of the figure. Several English works take the figure of the alchemist to provide moralizing examples for the dire social consequences stemming from the pursuit of gold. As a youth Goethe actually practiced alchemy in its medical form of iatrochemy; but by the time he wrote his Faust he had become disenchanted with the Art, presenting it as a corrupting force. His younger contemporary E. T. A. Hoffmann, while similarly criticizing the alchemist for his presumption in tampering with human life in his story “The Sandman,” presented alchemy in “The Golden Pot” as a metaphor for the higher poetic reality toward which his protagonist Anselmus aspires.

Keywords:   cauda pavonis, romanticization, William Godwin, Goethe, Hoffmann, religious metaphors, John Donne, John Milton

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