Alchemical Construction of Genders in Anglo-american Fiction, 1799-1852: Visions of Utopia as Androgynous

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This book examines unnoticed aspects of characters in both marginal and canonical works of American and English fiction.


“…is able to demonstrate convincingly how literature thematises and evaluates a large number of intellectual and aesthetic traditions in order to establish alternatives to given historical situations and to project a meaningful future.” -Prof. Hans-Ulrich Mohn, Dresden University of Technology

“…succeeds in addressing contemporary concerns with gender, cultural, and transatlantic studies, making the book all the more attractive to today’s readers of American classics…”-Prof. Theo D’haen, Leuven University

“…it opens up new vistas on our understanding of transatlantic Romanticism, utopian movements, gender ideology, and the profession of authorship. All scholars of nineteenth-century literature should want in on the secrets this book contains”-Prof. Bryan Waterman, New York University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Hans-Ulrich Mohr



Alchemy in the transatlantic Romantic age

Romanticism and the Hermetic worldview

The alchemist in Romantic fantastic fiction

Chapter 1: Alchemy, Androgyny and Utopianism


The Utopian impulse of alchemical transmutation

Alchemical androgyny

Gendered symbolism in alchemical texts

Romantic versus alchemical androgyny

New Romantics: Roszak's and Todd's androgynous ecotopia

Chapter 2: Alchemists - Self-Portraits and Interpretations


Philalethes (Starkey): on the secret life of alchemists

Agrippa: the magician as divine prophet

Paracelsus: the alchemist as an elitist, benevolent sage br>
Sandivogius: Christian Utopian

The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross and other German pietists

The alchemists in Hermippus Redivivus (1744)

The Romantic alchemist: from mad scientist to outcast Utopian

Chapter 3: William Godwin and his Necromancers


The spiritual sensibility of the rational anarchist

Lives of the Necromancers (1834) reconsidered

Godwin as necromancer

Weber's Sorcerer: an overlooked source for St Leon

Chapter 4: William Godwin's 5/ Leon (1799)


The two stories of St Leon

Patriarchy, the family and alchemy in St Leon

Transforming the aristocratic patriarch into an alchemist

The marginalisation and persecution of the alchemist

Chapter 5: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818)


Shelley-circle alchemy

Walton's ventriloquism of Victor's voice Patriarchy, the family and alchemy in Frankenstein

From alchemist to mad, bad and dangerous scientist

Frankenstein's tragedy

Chapter 6: Edward Bulwer Lytton's Zanoni (1842)


Bulwer: aristocrat, artist, politician, visionary

Manuscripts and character-types in Zanoni

Patriarchy, the family and alchemy in Zanoni

"philosophical alchemy": Zanoni's Utopian impulse

Zanoni's sacrifice

Chapter 7: George Lippard's Paul Ardenheim (1848)


Lippard's alchemical revolution

Lippard and the Romantic tradition

Patriarchy, the family and alchemy in Paul Ardenheim

Transforming the Hermit into a revolutionary hero

The outcast Hermetic alchemist as a prophet of Utopia

Chapter 8: Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter (1850)


The alchemical romancer on the margins of Utopia

Framing Chillingworth' s tale with Hester Prynne' s story

Patriarchy, the family and alchemy in The Scarlet Letter

Transforming the benevolent alchemist into a jealous husband

The alchemist's demise and Hester's sacrifice

Chapter 9: Herman Melville's Pierre (1852)


The ideology of gender polarisation in America's age of gold

Pierre and the Romantic alchemists

Patriarchy, the family and alchemy in Pierre

Transforming the amateur poet into an alchemical author

The rejection of the Soror Mystica - the death of the alchemist

Afterword: The Birth and Death of the Romantic Alchemist

Charles Brockden Brown's disciple of Hermes

Dr. Dolliver: Hawthorne's last and melancholy alchemist



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