ELIT “Invited Talks” (Sajed Chowdhury) / Andrea Selleri
Time: Feb 8, 2022, 19:45.
***This is an online event. To obtain Zoom link and password, please contact to the department.
Women Writers and Alchemy in Early Modern Britain
It has long been established by scholars that writers such as William Shakespeare (1564-1616), John Milton (1608-1674) and Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) and were drawing upon alchemy – the craft of chemical transmuation – to depict the transformative operations of the male literary imagination. But how did the female contemporaries of these male authors utilize alchemical discourse? I argue that alchemy had particular relevance for women because of its affiliation with ‘kitchen chymistry’: the domestic production of medicine, culinary ingredients and cosmetics. I then explore how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women writers manipulated ‘chymical’ discourse to foreground the spiritual-material agency of the female alchemical practitioner. This argument will be explicated by examining a range of authors and genres, including the recipe books and prose meditations of Grace Mildmay (c. 1552-1620); the dialogues and prose fiction of Margaret Cavendish (1623?-1673); and the poetry of Katherine Philips (1632-1664). By restoring the identity of the woman alchemist, I aim to reconstruct a more inclusive and expansive understanding of Renaissance chymical cultures.
Dr Sajed Chowdhury is Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at Leiden University. His research engages with Renaissance literature, early modern women’s writing, manuscript studies and the history of science. He has published in these areas in several peer-reviewed journals, and he is currently completing two monographs: Women Writers and Alchemy in Early Modern Britain (which is under review with Cambridge University Press) and The Reception and Circulation of Women’s Writing in Early Modern Manuscript Miscellanies, 1550-1700 (which is co-authored with Marie-Louise Coolahan and Erin McCarthy).