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Furnace and Fugue: Sound and Vision

The Alchemical Epistomology of Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens

This article explores the modes of reading and chymical practice called forth by the German alchemist, Rosicrucian, and physician Michael Maier's extraordinary alchemical emblem book, Atalanta fugiens. Maier's multimedia masterpiece could be read in multiple ways: horizontally, as a linear sequence of emblems, vertically, the eye travelling down any single emblem's page to contemplate the relationships between text, music, and image, or even out of order entirely, jumping from emblem to emblem in search of hidden connections. These practices, as well as the elements of the emblems themselves, activated the reader's body, making the very act of reading Atalanta fugiens into an exploration of the relationship between intellect and senses and, ultimately, of the proper practice of chymistry.

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