Advice thread: The Devil

Dearest readers, as I’ve often mentioned here, my next major project is going to be on the devil. My tentative title is The Prince of This World: The Devil as a Political Symbol, and I plan to flesh out the subthread of Politics of Redemption on the devil, both by adding more figures and by extending it into the early modern period — I figure Milton is a good place to end. I’m also intending to limit it to the devil in the Christian tradition, though perhaps I’ll need to extend it to other monotheistic traditions as well.

I’d like to get started on some preliminary research this summer, and so I thought I would see if any readers know of good primary or secondary sources on the devil or closely-related topics. I intend to have maybe one brief chapter on the devil in the Bible, but my main concern is with the devil in the patristic, medieval (probably mostly Western, though we’ll see how that goes), and early modern periods. Again, either primary texts (i.e., references to where major figures discuss the devil in detail or use devil-centric rhetoric) or good secondary texts (just assume that I’ve heard of Girard here). Secondary texts on the devil in Judaism and Islam would be helpful as well.

Thanks in advance for your help.

33 thoughts on “Advice thread: The Devil

  1. Then I’d suggest looking at Marlowe vs. Goethe (vs. Thomas Mann) interpretations, if you’re into that sort of comparison, there are some interesting nuances in their takes on the narrative of selling your soul, esp. around the idea of supernatural, magic, sublime as the realms only a devil can give access to etc etc. Mann’s Doctor Faustus and Schoenberg/Schnittke (who has an opera on Faustus) could be a futile take, if you want to include contemporary music/art…

    Not much of an advice, but the project looks promising.

  2. I mentioned it in another thread, but Constructing Antichrist by Kevin Hughes is interesting. As the title indicates, it is about the development of the doctrine of the Antichrist, not the devil. Hughes explores how the doctrine of the antichrist develops out of eschatological expectations, and how different medieval theologians concieve the Antichrist’s relationship to the devil and the powers. The theme of the body of the Antichrist fits in well with your social-relational ontology.

  3. I would think you’d want to look at David Hawkes’ book on Faust. That’s beyond great, really, and would likely have some implications that could be of use to your particular project.

  4. While outside the historical scope of the project, Byron’s works involving the devil are quite fascinating. There’s the poem “The Devil’s Drive” but also his closet dramas “Manfred,” which builds off of the Faust legend, and “Cain,” which has Lucifer as one of its two main characters.

  5. Correction: “Manfred” should be “The Deformed Transformed” although “Manfred” does have some themes that are apropos.

  6. When I was working on a Foucault and Byron project, I came across Jeffrey Burton Russell’s book _Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World_. On the one hand, this particular text won’t help if you’re looking at Milton and prior. On the other hand, the text is part of five volume series on the devil. The first three volumes may be of help.

  7. I’m encouraged by the fact that there are a couple different multi-volume Authoritative Works on the devil — frees me to do the conceptual work and outsource the hard-core scholarly reconstruction, etc.

  8. Bernard McGinn’s book on the AntiChrist (simply titled “AntiChrist,” I believe) is also helpful, particularly in its bibliography and footnotes.

  9. This sounds like a great project. You’ll need to look seriously at the works of Jakob Böhme (1575-1624), especially if you’re going to be ending with Milton (Böhme being an important influence on a number of people, from Milton and Blake, to Schelling and Hegel).

  10. It’s true that the devil cannot be collapsed into or conflated with the Antichrist in the Christian tradition; however, the two characters are (for obvious reasons) intertwined throughout patristic, medieval, and early modern writings, which is why scholarship on the Antichrist would (I think) be of interest to someone writing on the figure of the devil. That’s certainly true of McGinn’s book, at least.

  11. Adam, on Milton and satan, see (sorry for the length):

    Bennett, Joan. “God, Satan, and King Charles: Milton’s Royal Portraits.” PMLA 92 (1977): 441-457.

    Calloway, Katherine. “Beyond Parody: Satan as Aneas in Paradise Lost”. Milton Quarterly 39.2 (May 2005) 82-92.

    Hamilton, G. Rostrevor. Hero or Fool? A Study of Milton’s Satan. New York: Haskell House Publishers Ltd., 1969.

    King, John N. Milton and Religious Controversy: Satire and Polemic In Paradise Lost. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

    Lewis, C.S. A Preface to Paradise Lost. London: Oxford University Press, 1941.

    Newlyn, Lucy. Paradise Lost and the Romantic Reader. New York: Oxford University Press. 1993.

    Revard, Stella. “Milton’s Critique of Heroic Warfare in Paradise Lost V and VI.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 7 (1967): 119-139.

    Steadman, John M. “The Idea of Satan as the Hero of ‘Paradise Lost.’” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 120 (August, 1976): 254-294.

    Werblowsky, R.J. Zwi. Lucifier and Prometheus: A Study of Milton’s Satan. Great Britain: Western Printing Services Limited. 1952.

    There are others, but that was the most accessible bibliography I had on hand.

  12. E.P Evans “Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals” has an extensive discussion of spiritual warfare against insects, largely through the use of anathemas, as authorized by ecclesiastical courts because, as everyone knows, insects are the agents of Satan.

    Question: are Lucifer and Satan the same beings?

  13. This doesn’t fit your time-frame, but might be useful methodologically or otherwise – a Marxist anthropology of devil beliefs as linked to proletarianisation: Michael Taussig, The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America.

  14. I’m not sure the Anthony/desert fathers material will really help here: they are most interested in demons rather than Satan himself. He is only mentioned once in the entire Greek Systematic Collection of the Apophthegmata Patrum (not my encyclopaedic knowledge – the SC version has a concordance).

    I realise your time period nicely sidesteps the reformation, but I think you might find it interesting to look at some Luther, who does more than simply reinstating the Biblical strategy of satan=my political enemies. See especially section 80 of his commentary on the Lord’s prayer in the large catechism

  15. If you do become more interested in fitting Luther into the project, and if you haven’t read this biography already, Heiko Oberman’s _Luther: Man Between God and the Devil_ (the best bio of Luther in English, IM0) has some very good sections on Luther’s views of Satan. It includes plenty of quotations of the more colorful sections from Luther’s writings concerning Satan, particularly the extended scatological pieces…

  16. In my mind, including mediaeval and early modern writings omits the 16th century: it’s not the Middle Ages any more, but the early modern period doesn’t start until the early seventeenth century. Hence sidestep.

  17. Ah, I see how the confusion arose. I apologize for being unclear. In my own mind, the Reformation is early modern, and I definitely intend to include Luther and Calvin. On Calvin in particular, I suspect I may have an idea that is either creative or idiosyncratic, depending on your disposition.

    (That being said, I’m not a huge fan of Reformation-era stuff.)

  18. Political theory usually marks the onset of modernity (or, at least, the beginning of a break with what came before) at some time between Dante’s De Monarchia and Machiavelli. This temporal period would seem to include the Reformation.

  19. Yeah, there are loads of ways of plotting it. Hence the confusion. 1639 is modern philosophy’s birth I believe.

    I’ve been dabbling in reformation thought recently as well, although I share Adam’s preference for almost everything before and after. But since I live in a Lutheran country, I should pay lip service at least. I found the spoken word documents at librivox to be useful ways of getting familiar with texts I couldn’t be bothered to study in great detail yet.

    Now I’m really curious about the Calvin: I shall try to read the institutes before your work goes to press!

Comments are closed.