The Uses of Evil: Historical Encounters
with the Devil
The course: The Uses of Evil: Historical Encounters
the Devil. The course explores the presence and role
of demonic and diabolical supernatural figures — most
often described as "the Devil" — in the natural world
throughout history, using philosophy, theology, education,
arts, literature and film as a lens. Limited to 20
students. 3 credits.
of the History of Science and Technology.
The instructor: Mark Waddell, graduate student in the Department of the History of Science and Technology.
Meeting time : 10:30 to 11:50 a.m., Thursdays and Fridays.
Syllabus: For more than 2,000 years, humans have believed that supernatural beings could manipulate nature with miraculous ease. This course examines, through careful reading of works devoted to science, philosophy and theology, humanity's changing conceptions of these supernatural figures' presence in the world.
Coursework: This class demands active participation, and 25 percent of a student's final grade depends on that. Students also are required to write three papers. There are no exams.
Required Reading : Inferno, by Dante Alighieri; Doctor Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe; and The Crucible, by Arthur Miller.
Students also read selections from: Acts or Disputation Against Fortunatus the Manichean, by St. Augustine of Hippo; Treatise on the Angels and The Cause of Sin, as regards the Devil, from Summa theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas; The Cathars: Dualist Heretics in Languedoc in the High Middle Ages, by Malcolm Barber; The Book of John the Evangelist, Cathar Gospel; On the Accusations Against the Albigensians, by Raynaldus; The Trial of Jeanne d'Arc by W.P Barrett; The Malleus maleficarum; Demon Lovers: Witchcraft, Sex and the Crisis of Belief, by Walter Stephens; A Discourse on the Subtill Practices of Devilles by Witches and Sorcerers, by G. Gyfford; The Divel's Delusions, by B. Misodaimon; The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe, by Brian Levack; Signes and Wonders from Heaven; A true and faithful relation of what passed for many years between Dr. John Dee ... and some spirits; Symbiosis, or The Ultimate Converse of Pope and Devil attended by a Cardinal and Buffoon, by James Selgado; and more.
Films viewed in class: The Messenger; The Crucible and The Ninth Gate.
Overheard in class: "A lot of concerns were brought up
the scientific notions of how things actually worked in the
1660s. They wrestled with the question of whether the devil
existed or not. Some people believed that there were evil
happenings and that they were real. Others did not so much
argue that these things did not exist as that a scientific
revolution was going on and that there could be less belief
without proof. That meant, to some, that if witchcraft did
not exist, then there was no need for God."
Students say: "Being Jewish, I never had to deal with
concept of the Devil as anything more than a figure like
the bogeyman (Judaism has no real analog to Satan). So far
this semester, I have been nothing but enthralled by the
course, due to the captivating readings, engaging
discussions and an impassioned and intelligent teacher. Mr.
Waddell's enthusiasm is contagious and definitely drives
the students. Overall, I would say that this course is one
of the most interesting and thought-provoking humanities
courses I have ever taken."
Members of the media interested in writing about this class should contact Lisa De Nike at 443-287-9906. Color photographs of Mark Waddell also are available upon request.
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