Dismembered According to the Rigor of Harmony: A Structuralist Reading of Zosimos' "Visions"

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2022
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en
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The "Visions", a spiritual alchemical text by the Late Antique alchemist Zosimos of Panopolis, abounds in bizarre and violent imagery: a sacrificing priest is dismembered harmonically, people are boiled alive and transformed into spirit, a man gnaws off his own flesh before vomiting it back up, and a snake is dismembered before being made into the step of a temple. The odd and confusing imagery makes the text difficult to interpret. In this thesis, I utilize a structuralist reading of the "Visions" in order to argue that Zosimos’ role and agency change throughout the text, a transformation that is mediated through Zosimos’ regular and repeated emphasis on proper method and systematicity. Since the events of the text reflect both practical and spiritual alchemical processes, the "Visions" represents Zosimos’ transformation into a competent alchemist, simultaneously capable of transmuting copper into gold and purifying his soul by liberating it from the constraints of the body in a methodical and systematic manner.
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