The Alchemist's fever

  • Christa Knellwolf

    Student thesis: Master's Thesis


    This novel describes the uncompromising struggles of two very different characters against the crippling influences of conventional morality. The autobiography of the late medieval Johannes Faustus is interwoven with the third-person story of the twentieth-century figure Sybil Wagner. In their different historical contexts they fight against abuse, violence and depression in order to gain the ultimate objectives of sexual fulfilment, professional success, and a harmonious relationship with self and others. Part I describes the two characters' first encounters with love and death. It shows how their indomitable spirits cope with the hypocrisy of the adult world, with the confusing experience of their adolescent bodies, and the puzzling moment of losing their virginity. Part II describes their respective attempts to find out who they are and what they want. The structural parallelism between a male and a female Faustus from different social and historical backgrounds invites the reader to think about the barriers of historical and gender difference. Both narrative strands engage in a sophisticated play with the ambiguities of the archetypal story of transgression and allow for a number of different interpretations of, for instance, the nature and role of immaterial forces such as the devil. Both narrative strands portray a credible or 'realistic' framework for the uncanny elements of the Faustus narrative and thereby explore the borderlines between conventional and subjective reality.
    Date of Award2001
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMaureen Bettle (Supervisor) & Jen Webb (Supervisor)

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