Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Renaissance Alchemy (RSA 2012, Washington DC)

Medieval and Renaissance alchemists often described mercury not merely as the quintessence, but as the medium within which opposing elements combined to produce the philosopher’s stone. In many respects, the practice of alchemy itself was a medium uniting diverse--and sometimes opposing--elements:
  • Its practitioners included earnest philosophers and materialistic charlatans;
  • it formed a transition from medieval mysticism to modern medicine and chemistry;
  • it was a thoroughly international practice whose texts and adepts constantly traveled from one country to another;
  • it was a thoroughly interdisciplinary practice which, although it seems not to have produced much gold, produced voluminous texts and significantly influenced literature and the visual arts.
This panel explores alchemy as a phenomenon of transition and transformation in virtually any discipline: architecture, art, chemistry, history, literature, psychology, theology, science, etc. Papers might address the work of alchemy itself, or the ways in which the alchemical language, images, and ideas appear in other fields.
To submit a proposal, please email a brief CV and 200-word abstract to Chad Engbers ( by Wednesday, May 25.