Curtis RunstedlerFeb 3, 2023
Alchemy and Exemplary Poetry in Middle English Literature
Palgrave Macmillan 2023
Curtis Runstedler's book Alchemy and Exemplary Poetry in Middle English Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023) explores the different functions and metaphorical concepts of alchemy in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Middle English poetry and bridges them together with the exempla tradition in late medieval English literature. Such poetic narratives function as exemplary models which directly address the ambiguity of medieval English alchemical practice. This book examines the foundation of this relationship between alchemical narrative and exemplum in the poetry of Gower and Chaucer in the fourteenth century before exploring its diffusion in lesser-known anonymous poems and recipes in the fifteenth century, namely alchemical dialogues between Morienus and Merlin, Albertus Magnus and the Queen of Elves, and an alchemical version of John Lydgate’s poem The Churl and the Bird. It investigates how this exemplarity can be read as inherent to understanding poetic narratives containing alchemy, as well as enabling the reader to reassess the understanding and expectations of science and narrative within medieval English poetry.