Alchemy and Finnegans Wake

By Barbara DiBernard

Subjects: Literature
Paperback : 9780873954297, 163 pages, June 1980

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Table of contents




The Excremental Vision: Spiritual and Physical Alchemy

"As Above, So Below," and Death and Rebirth

Number Symbolism

Colors and Forgery

Ingredients and Equipment

Shem the "Alshemist"





In the first full-length study of Joyce's direct and indirect use of alchemical allusions, DiBernard shows how an awareness of the alchemical metaphor guides a reader through the richness of Finnegans Wake. For example, the alchemical transmutation of lead into gold parallels the transmutation of the dross and commotion of ordinary life into a work of art.

This study shows how the themes of Joyce's novel—death and rebirth, the conflict between physical and spiritual, incest, colors, forgery, and the reconciliation of opposites—relate to the alchemical process. The author then presents a theory, based on alchemical metaphor, on the much debated subject of Joyce's view of the artist.