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Elizabeth Gruner headshot

Elisabeth Gruner, associate professor of English, can discuss how elements like Lead, Element 82, and Gold, Element 79, play a role in literature.

Specifically, Gruner can discuss the broader use of alchemy in literature, for example, in Harry Potter.

“The most popular children’s/YA series in recent history, the Harry Potter series, begins with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But what most American readers may not know is that the original English title was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Rowling deliberately draws on the history of science and magic, which were once intertwined, in this title: the quest for the philosopher’s stone, which would supposedly turn lead into gold (as well as brew an elixir of life) motivated the alchemists who were the forebears of today’s chemists. In the fiction of Harry Potter (and in many other fantasy novels, including Laini Taylor’s recent Strange the Dreamer and Muse of Nightmares two volume set, Michael Scott’s The Alchemyst—a 6 book series, even the Game of Thrones series) alchemy is one way that the book anchors its fantasy in real history. While alchemists—as far as we know—never did transmute lead into gold, their experiments did pave the way for the development of modern chemistry,” said Gruner.

Media Placement: Alchemy in Literature

Gruner authored Why the ancient promise of alchemy is fulfilled in reading for The Conversation.


Contact Lindsey Campbell, media relations specialist, to connect with Libby Gruner today.