Literary Alchemy and the Transformation of the Transformation
Alchemy is a pseudoscience that has persisted throughout millennia as a result of its own ability to change while retaining its primary purpose: transformation. What began as a means of wielding and evolving metals developed into both a scientific and spiritual quest. Eventually, alchemy was no longer considered a viable science; however, it became a philosophical and psychological framework for analyzing internal transformation. This transformation of alchemy can be seen in literature throughout time. Authors have incorporated elements of the alchemical process into their own works, creating a "literary alchemy" with the same purpose of transformation. After an introduction to alchemy and literary alchemy, this thesis will present four permutations of literary alchemy in Western Literature—William Shakespeare's The Tempest, Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter—in three separate time periods to demonstrate how literary alchemy both reflects the attitudes towards alchemy in the respective time period and remains consistent in its message of transformation.