CC 325 DX - The Devil and the Problem of Evil

3-4 Credits
TR 2:50-4:05pm - Professor Upton
Fulfills upper level theology requirement.

Satan, Mephistopheles, Lucifer, the Devil, Beelzebub: whatever the name, the Prince of Darkness makes his appearance throughout the Western literary and artistic tradition. This course will focus on the figure of the devil as a way to explore the problem and symbolism of evil in literature and in life. Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, it is clear that the personified character of the devil has been used in numerous ways to represent and explain the reality and power of sin, error, and evil in the world. To paint a portrait of the devil in poetry, novels, or film is to explain our own sense of alienation from the divine. How did we come to be separated from God? How was it possible to “fall”? Why do we give in to temptation? And how could God allow us stray so very far? On another level, the figure of the devil prompts us to wonder why it seems more powerful, and compelling, to represent the “forces of evil” as a “personal” character—the devil—rather than as an abstract idea or power.

Human engagements with the devil in literature express the reality of temptation, and the very real decisions we make in life that intensify our estrangement from God and from one another. To be tempted, and to yield to temptation, can be understood as making a “deal with the devil,” as we find in the Faust narrative. Such narratives, and others we will examine, focus our attention on the existential decisions we make every day, decisions that continue to orient our lives long after we make them. Literature and film bring these questions to our attention in an immediate, visceral way, provoking us to reflect on our own struggles with temptation, evil, malice, and sin.

Texts for this class may include:

• Dante, Alighieri, Inferno
• Milton, John, Paradise Lost
• von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, Faust
• Shelley, Mary, Frankenstein
• C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
• Pullman, Phillip, His Dark Materials

Films could include The Exorcist and No Country for Old Men.