By Barbara DiBernard
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Additional resources for Alchemy and Finnegans Wake
Joyce Page 5 could have derived the alchemy in Finnegans Wake from a few standard translations and histories available at the time. Examinations of the lists of Joyce's books in The Personal Library of James Joyce and The Consciousness of James Joyce do not reveal any specific sources for the use of alchemical allusions in Finnegans Wake, 8 but the Wake does contain allusions to The Hermetic Museum, published in London in 1893. "9 The articles on "Alchemy," "Hermes Trismegistus,'' "Thoth," and "Paracelsus" in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, which we know Joyce consulted, also contain much of the information on alchemical theory and practice referred to in Finnegans Wake.
On the other hand, the literal-minded alchemists, who combined the most vile substances to form the Stone, remained mired in the physical, unaware that the texts and Page 8 processes could be interpreted on another level. Joyce's view of the artist/alchemist harmonizes these two views. The artist, Joyce suggests in all his works, but most strongly in Finnegans Wake, uses the elements of the messy, chaotic, fragmented everyday world to create an art which transforms but does not lose sight of its origins.
Material from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce, copyright 1916 by B. W. , New York; Jonathan Cape, London; and the Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of James Joyce. , New York; The Bodley Head, London; and the Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of James Joyce. , New York, and the Society of Authors as the literary representative of the Estate of James Joyce. Material from the Collected Letters of James Joyce, Vol. , London.
Alchemy and Finnegans Wake by Barbara DiBernard