I’m due to teach a new course in September, which sets out to use angelology and demonology as a way into medieval theology and philosophy. We don’t currently have any modules that focus specifically on the medieval period, though my students read a little of Augustine on the fall of the angels in their first year, and we touch on a few medieval thinkers in some of the other modules I teach.
Here’s the catalogue summary for the module:
Belief in angels and demons has come to seem eccentric and disconnected from real life, in talking about these spiritual beings, medieval theologians explored many of the issues which were, to them, of central concern. By studying the work of medieval angelologists and demonologists, we can come to understand crucial debates about the nature of reality, matter and time; what it means to be human; and how society should be organised. This module will explore key questions of medieval philosophy and theology through an examination of debates about angels and demons.
I’ll be planning the course over the summer; currently my key points of reference are Adam’s The Prince of This World; David Keck’s Angels and Angelology in the Middle Ages; Hoffman’s A Companion to Angels in Medieval Philosophy; Lenz and Iribarren’s Angels in Medieval Philosophical Inquiry; and Federici’s Caliban and the Witch. I think I’ll probably include Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchy because it’s so foundational for 13th century thinkers, and I’m tempted to edge into the early modern period and look at angels in John Dee. I think I’m going to try for a mix of primary and secondary texts, so any suggestions for good translations would be much appreciated, as would any other ideas or suggestions about key – and undergraduate friendly – readings, scholarship, etc.
2 thoughts on “Help me plan a module on angels and demons in medieval theology”
If you’re going to be teaching pseudo-Dionysius’ angelology, it would be helpful to assign at least the portions of Proclus’ Elements of Theology pertaining to the divine henads, inasmuch as ps-D essentially converts Proclus’ henads into angels.
So, this is outside of both of our periods, but I always teach de Certeau’s Possession at Loudun when I teach about demons. I like it because it clearly lays out the stakes – how “demon” is always a cypher for certain societal tensions and how exorcisms are designed to alleviate those tensions. The book is also a brilliant distillation of the problems attendant to historical method and what happens when we as historians and all our sources have agendas. Despite all this intellectual heft, my students don’t have problems reading it. I also like Francis Young’s survey on demons and exorcism (A History of Exorcism in Catholic Christianity). It’s not designed for undergrads, but I mine it for primary sources all the time.
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