furnace and fugue

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Sound and Vision

The Alchemical Epistemology 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.

About Furnace and Fugue

Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier's "Atalanta fugiens" (1618) with Scholarly Commentary brings to life in digital form an enigmatic seventeenth-century text, Michael Maier's alchemical emblem book Atalanta fugiens. This intriguing and complex text from 1618 reinterprets Ovid's legend of Atalanta as an alchemical allegory in a series of fifty emblems, each of which contains text, image, and a musical score for three voices. Re-rendering Maier's multimedia masterpiece as an enhanced digital publication, Furnace and Fugue allows contemporary readers to hear, see, manipulate, and investigate Atalanta fugiens in ways that were perhaps imagined when it was composed but were simply impossible to realize in full before now. An interactive, layered digital edition provides accessibility and flexibility, presenting all the elements of the original book along with significant enhancements that allow for deep engagement by specialists and nonspecialists alike. Three short introductory essays invite readers to get acquainted with early modern alchemy, and Michael Maier. Eight extended interpretive essays explore Atalanta fugiens and its place in the history of music, science, print, and visual culture in early modern Europe. These interdisciplinary essays also include interactive features that clarify and/or advance the authors' arguments while positioning Furnace and Fugue as an original, uniquely engaging contribution to our understanding of early modern culture.

In collaboration with University of Virginia Press, Project MUSE is proud to host one of these introductory essays, "Sound and Vision: The Alchemical Epistemology of Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens" by Tara Nummedal, as an Open Access sample of this innovative Digital Humanities project, complete with the dynamic display and rich multimedia that make the full Furnace and Fugue project such a valuable resource.

Readers are encouraged to explore the full product at: https://furnaceandfugue.org/

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