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The Demon Other and Other Demons

ENGL 430.940
instructor(s):
Thursdays 5:30-8:30 pm
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 3: Early Literature to 1660 of the Standard Major

 

 

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 nationalities, 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 members of the opposite gender, e.g. a witch or a whore. 
One striking feature of early modern demonization is the capacity for 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); Marlowe’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.