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The Demon Other and Other Demons

ENGL 430.940
instructor(s):
TR 5:30-8:40

In this course we will examine texts that reflect Renaissance ideas about the demonic. Notions about an ideal "self" necessitate the construction of an opposite. In early modern England this evil "other" was often associated with alien nations, but increasingly it could be found very close to home. We will use the vantage point of religion to look at various "evil ones," analyzing portraits of Satan as well as some of his minions. We will be especially interested in exploring the relationship between a cultural process of demonization and the religious persecution of heretics. We will also connect demonization to the rise of English nationalism. The early modern "other" can be defined as a racial or ethnic group, a category that often also contains religious and moral error thus the literary proliferation of villainous Moors, Jews, Turks, French, Catholics, and Italian Machiavels. The "demon other" can also appear as a fallen member of the opposite gender, e.g. a witch or a whore. One striking feature of early modern demonization is the capacity of a single individual to contain a number of these differing categories. Among the texts we will be reading are The Malleus Maleficarum (the official handbook for the persecution of witches); Marlow's Jew of Malta, Massacre at Paris, and Doctor Faustus; Shakespeare's Othello, Henry VI Part I, and Titus Andronicus; Webster's The White Devil; and Milton's Paradise Lost.