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Introduction & Overview of The Alchemy of Day

This Study Guide consists of approximately 17 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Alchemy of Day.
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The Alchemy of Day Summary & Study Guide Description

The Alchemy of Day Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains For Further Reading on The Alchemy of Day by Anne Hébert.

Anne Hébert's "The Alchemy of Day" was published in her poetry collection, Mystere de la Parole (Miracle of the Word) in Canada in 1960. Like most of her works, this poem received little critical attention, especially from English-speaking critics, since, even though much of Hébert's work was translated into English, Hébert was not well-known outside of Canada. Also, Hébert's best-known work, Kamouraska (1970), a novel that was adapted into a film, has overshadowed much of her other work. "The Alchemy of Day" is on its surface a nature poem, which seems to have spiritual significance as well. When one examines its historical context, however, as well as the author's preface to Mystere de la Parole, the poem takes on added meaning. When she wrote the poem, her native Quebec was undergoing a drastic change known as the Quiet Revolution. During this time period, many residents stressed the need for a unique Quebec culture, a sentiment that ultimately led to a movement that advocated separating from Canada. As Hébert notes in her preface to the book, she feels that Quebec can never have its own identity without a unique language. In her mind, the imprecise language that existed in Quebec in 1960 kept the province from achieving cultural autonomy. The poem, then, through its depiction of a difficult conversion—symbolized with nature imagery—becomes Hébert's attempt to ritually give birth to this language of Quebec. A current copy of the poem can be found in the reprint of A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, edited by Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone, which was published by Schocken Books in 1992.

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Poetry for Students
The Alchemy of Day from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.