Restoring Pluto

Abstract : This paper treats of early modern alchemy and theatricality. I focus on the theatrical characteristics of some kinds of alchemy, in relation with natural magic and other practices, by exploring a case study: I investigate the story of the baron and baroness of Beausoleil, who were famous for their mining, divining and alchemical practices in the first half of the seventeenth century. First, I show that their contemporary Francis Bacon considered alchemy an 'imaginative science', and that this gives us an important cue for understandings alchemy's theatricality. From the Baconian perspective, it is the power of the imagination that gives alchemy its poetical and theatrical aspect, that places alchemical practice and theatre between reality and fiction, and that transforms the self of both adept and spectator. The imagination generated the marvellous, and hence the particular theatricality that could be found in certain types of early modern stage-plays as well as in alchemy and natural magic. Second, I focus on the theatrical play of veiling and unveiling in alchemical practice. Here, openness and secrecy are not oppositional but go seamlessly together. In this analysis, the theme of illusion and reality, simulation and dissimulation, and the problematic of the revealing, ordering and demonstration of knowledge, which both characterise the baroque concept of the theatre, coincide.
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Contributor : Koen Vermeir <>
Submitted on : Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 3:45:23 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 21, 2019 - 12:22:02 PM
Long-term archiving on: Friday, April 6, 2012 - 2:36:21 AM


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  • HAL Id : halshs-00656959, version 1


Koen Vermeir. Restoring Pluto. 2010. ⟨halshs-00656959⟩



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