One of my goals as a teacher is to show my students how to look into the material themselves, rather than just spout information at them. So I tend to focus on disputed points in the scholarship, especially stuff like the “Spiritual vs. Physical” Alchemy debate. Since this is an art class I don’t have an urgent interest in motivating my students to do hardcore history of science study of alchemy, but I do want to make them aware of how contemporary history of science is revealing many things about alchemy that are of great interest to students of art. So I try to ask my students as many questions as possible about why we are interested in alchemical art and what it means for our lives, as well as what it tells us about (magical or nonmagical) “operative practice” and artistic craft. Alchemy is a Theorist’s heaven and a Literalist’s Hell.
Interestingly, it turned out that my students liked the lecture parts more than the class participation part. This was no problem in the sense that I can talk about this stuff until the cows come home, but it did leaving me feeling that I should have prepared more speeches, and perhaps should have brought in more xeroxed materials to look at and take notes on.