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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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Popularizations, or Projectio

Popularizations, or Projectio

(p.188) 7 Popularizations, or Projectio
The Alchemist in Literature

Theodore Ziolkowski

Oxford University Press

World War II led to a wave of historical fictions by authors featuring alchemists, such as Marguerite Yourcenar’s Bildungsroman The Abyss and Paolo Coelho’s fantasy The Alchemist. Other novels juxtapose the historical past with the present, as in Lindsay Clarke’s The Chymical Wedding; Peter Atwood’s The House of Doctor Dee; and Adam Williams’s The Book of the Alchemist. Another group of novelists, including Robertson Davies, Hilary Mantel, and Umberto Eco, introduce alchemy and alchemists into the twentieth century. In Michael Butor’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Ape, the clearly autobiographical hero undergoes an alchemistic apprenticeship that prepares him for his artistic career as a writer. The last section summarizes the reasons for the surprising appeal of alchemy and alchemists to the late twentieth-century mind.

Keywords:   projectio, occult, historical novel, novels of juxtaposition, aestheticization

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