English/Religion 196 – Satan in Literature and Culture

Introduction – The Devil…. Lucifer…. Satan. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. We’ll look for his hoof-prints throughout four centuries of western history, finding him in places as varied as Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus to William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Through it all we’ll focus on the cultural, religious, and literary implications of one of history’s most fascinating characters, hoping to answer the question of why the Devil always gets the best lines.

Note: As an upper level literature class it is assumed that all students have familiarity with evaluating the relevance and credibility of secondary sources and integrating them into a research project. If you feel that you are unfamiliar with what this entails please let me know and I can individually work with you as the semester progresses.

Required Literary Texts

(You will need these books in roughly this order. I have chosen the editions I did for particular reasons, if you are using a different edition please check with me first).

Mephistopheles: The Devil in the Modern World (Cornel University Press) by Jeffrey Burton Russell

Doctor Faustus and Other Plays (Oxford World Classics) by Christopher Marlowe

The Exorcist (Harper) by William Peter Blatty

The Master and Margarita (Vintage) by Mikhail Bulgakov

Eichmann and the Holocaust (Penguin) by Hannah Arendt

The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. (University of Chicago Press0 by George Steiner

Required Cinematic Texts

(You will be required to watch assigned films by the class we will be discussing them. It is the students’ responsibility to locate films themselves. Most will be available on NetFlix, YouTube, or Amazon Prime. Depending on interest it is possible that I will schedule screenings outside of class).

Schedule of readings and assignments

All readings and assignments due on the date that is indicated

(Note: This is a tentative schedule, and it is subject to change).

Tuesday January 26th – Introduction to course, and discussion on “Who is Satan?”

Unit One: Satanic Origins

Thursday January 28th – Read chapter 1 of Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Mephistopheles, discussion of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode “The Howling Man.” STUDENT PRESENTATIONS WILL BE SCHEDULED TODAY.

Tuesday February 2nd – Read William Blake’s The Book of Job (available on CourseSite) and chapter 2 of Russell’s Mephistopheles.

Thursday February 4th –Read the first two acts of Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, as well as chapter 3 of Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Mephistopheles

Tuesday February 9th –Read the last three acts of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, and chapter 4 of Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Mephistopheles.

Thursday February 11th – Read Book I of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (available on CourseSite).

Tuesday February 16th – Read Book II of Milton’s Paradise Lost (available on CourseSite).

Thursday February 18th – Read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Grand Inquisitor as well as Matthew 4:1-4:11 in the King James Translation (both available on Course Site), and watch clips from Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (to be supplied by me).


Unit Two: Satanic Evil

Thursday February 25th – Read Flannery O’Conner’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (available on CourseSite) and chapters 5 of Russell’s Mephistopheles.

Tuesday March 1st – Read “The Beginning” in William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and chapter 6 of Jeffrey Burton Russell’s Mephistopheles.

Thursday March 3rd – Read “The Edge” in Blatty’s The Exorcist.

Tuesday March 8th – Read “The Abyss” in Blatty’s The Exorcist.

Thursday March 10th – Read “And Let My Cry Come Unto Thee” in Blatty’s The Exorcist and watch William Friedkin’s film adaptation. CREATIVE ASSIGNMENT TWO IS DUE TODAY.

Tuesday March 15th – NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK

Thursday March 17th – NO CLASS: SPRING BREAK

Unit Three: Satanic Trickster

Tuesday March 22nd – Read Stephen Vincent Benet’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster” (available on CourseSite).

Thursday March 24th – Read chapters 1-9 of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and watch Kevin Smith’s Dogma.

Tuesday March 29th – Read chapters 10-18 of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

Thursday March 31st – Read chapters 19-25 of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

Tuesday April 5th – Read chapter 26 to conclusion of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

Thursday April 7th – Read T.C. Boyles’ “Stones in my Passway, Hellhound on My Trail” (available on CourseSite) and listen to a selection of music (links will be supplied on CourseSite) by Robert Johnson and the Rolling Stones.


Unit Four: Satanic Metaphor

Thursday April 14th – Read chapters 7-8 of Russell’s Mephistopheles.

Tuesday April 19th – Read all of Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann and the Holocaust. RESEARCH PAPER ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY DUE TODAY.

Thursday April 21st – Read “The Last Demon” by I.B. Singer (available on CourseSite).

Tuesday April 26th – Read chapters 1-7 of George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

Thursday April 28th – Read chapter 8-11 of George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

Tuesday May 3rd – Read from chapter 12 to the conclusion in George Steiner’s The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

Thursday May 5th – Conclusion of class.



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