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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University April 18, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 30
JHU Course Catalog — The Uses of Evil: Historical Encounters with the Devil

Mark Waddell's course, offered in History of Science and Technology, examines humanity's changing conceptions of supernatural figures' presence in the world.

By Lisa De Nike

Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series in which reporters drop in on interesting classes throughout the university's eight academic divisions. Suggestions are welcome at

The course: The Uses of Evil: Historical Encounters With 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. Department of the History of Science and Technology in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

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.

Course work: 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: The Inferno, by Dante; 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; "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 by the scientific notions of how things actually work 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."
— Mark Waddell

Students say: "Being Jewish, I never had to deal with the concept of the devil as anything more than a figure like the bogeyman — Judaism has no real analogy 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."
— Daniel Lamphier, 21, senior biology major from Middlefield, Conn.


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