Lady Hester Pulter and the Poetics of Self-Transmutation


  • Laurence Chen Independent Scholar


Hermeneutics, Alchemy, Form, Poetry


This essay will argue that Pulter’s alchemical poetry engages in what I term her poetics of self-transmutation. Whilst critics such as Jayne Archer have explicated the prevalence of alchemical thought and discourse upon her poetics, my essay seeks to suggest that it is specifically the self that is treated as a site of alchemical production within her poems. Drawing heavily on the alchemical processes of calcination, dissolution, and refinement, Pulter’s self-transmutative poetics lend her work a spiritual and emotive productivity, often working to reaffirm the faith of doubtful devotional speakers. This essay proposes that two facets of alchemical verse prove particularly resonant for Pulter: the devices of metaphor and verse form. Inheriting a Hermetic semiotics, Pulter variously experiments with metaphor and verse form to attain an emotive productivity in the face of the griefs and traumas that instigate her poetic production. By drawing upon the unique hermeneutic affordances of Hermeticism, Pulter realizes a newfound set of correspondences between macrocosm and microcosm, depicted as a sympathetic relationship between natural world and physical body. The essay will thus argue that her engagement with metaphor and verse form allows her to craft her alchemical pseudo-sonnets, renegotiate the central agential dilemmas of her poems, and relocate the poetic self within the natural world.


Download data is not yet available.







How to Cite

Lady Hester Pulter and the Poetics of Self-Transmutation. (2024). Postgraduate English: A Journal and Forum for Postgraduates in English, 45.