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The Devil as Muse

Blake, Byron, and the Adversary

Fred Parker

Publication Year: 2011

Does the Devil lie at the heart of the creative process? In The Devil as Muse, Fred Parker offers an entirely fresh reflection on the age-old question, echoing William Blake’s famous statement: “the true poet is of the Devil’s party." Expertly examining three literary interpretations of the Devil and his influence upon the artist—Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost, the Mephistopheles of Goethe’s Faust, and the one who offers daimonic creativity in Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus—Parker unveils a radical tension between the ethical and the aesthetic. While the Devil is the artist’s necessary collaborator and liberating muse, from an ethical standpoint the price paid for such creativity is nothing less damnable than the Faustian pact—and the artist who is creative in that way is seen as accursed, alienated, morally disturbing. In their own different ways, Parker shows, Blake, Byron, and Mann all reflect and acknowledge that tension in their work, and model ways to resolve it through their writing. Linking these literary conceptions with scholarship on the genesis of the historical conception of the Devil and recent work on the role of “otherness” in creativity, Parker insightfully suggests how creative literature can feel its way back along the processes—both theological and psychological—that lie behind such constructions of the Adversary.

Published by: Baylor University Press

Series: The Making of the Christian Imagination


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Table of Contents

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p. viii

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pp. ix-x

The discussion of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita in chapter 5 owes much to the stimulus given by participants at the 2009 Trialogue Conference: Literature, Psychotherapy, Spirituality; I am grateful to all those present on that occasion. I would also like to thank Tony Howe, for getting me to read Byron with fresh eyes, and Stephen Prickett,...

Notes on References

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pp. xi-xii

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1 Prologue. Kierkegaard, Don Giovanni, and Doctor Faustus: The Artist as Faust

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pp. 1-19

To be “more of an artist” is, it seems, to turn away from ethical purpose. If Shelley curbed his “magnanimity,” that greatness of soul which for Aristotle gathers together all the virtues, he could better develop the quality that the artist needs: “self concentration,” which is “selfishness perhaps.” For an artist must serve Mammon. Keats is suggesting...

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2 The Devil and the Poet

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pp. 21-62

Blake’s comment on Paradise Lost has the sharpness and smartness of epigram. Its quick assertiveness may mislead us into supposing too easily that we have grasped the whole subtlety of Blake’s idea. Clearly, he is making a specific claim about Milton, framed in a way that suits his own purposes, which needs to be understood in the light of his own writing and his own complex and creative response to Milton’s...

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3 Blake and the Devil’s Party

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pp. 63-111

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is the most exuberant, swaggering, and exhilarating of all Blake’s works. It was written in or very shortly after 1790, in that apparent dawn of liberty of which Wordsworth wrote that it was bliss to be alive, when the revolution in France still promised to bring in a New Jerusalem on earth. The liberty which Blake proclaims and celebrates is not political only, although it certainly includes the political. It is liberation...

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4 Byron’s Familiar Spirit

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pp. 113-162

When in 1821 the British Poet Laureate Robert Southey attacked the “Satanic school” in contemporary poetry, it was clear to his readers who, above all others, occupied that bad eminence. The immediate provocation was the opening cantos of Don Juan, a poem that gave huge offense for its perceived immorality and nihilism: but for years Byron had built his immense success around a series...

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5 Telling the Devil’s Story, Doctor Faustus and The Master and Margarita

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pp. 163-188

In my opening chapter I drew certain ideas from Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus with which to frame the discussion that followed: ideas in particular about an opposition between aesthetic immediacy, such as may be associated in particular with music, and a reflective consciousness that inevitably carries with it a sense of alienation. This dichotomy, in Mann’s novel, is advanced


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pp. 189-204


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pp. 205-207

E-ISBN-13: 9781602584747
E-ISBN-10: 1602584745
Print-ISBN-13: 9781602582699
Print-ISBN-10: 1602582696

Page Count: 215
Illustrations: 1
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 1st
Series Title: The Making of the Christian Imagination
Series Editor Byline: Stephen Prickett, general editor See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 794698783
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Devil as Muse

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Byron, George Gordon Byron, Baron, 1788-1824 -- Characters -- Devil.
  • Creation (Literary, artistic, etc.) -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Mann, Thomas, 1875-1955. Doktor Faustus.
  • Devil in literature.
  • Artists in literature.
  • Opposition, Theory of, in literature.
  • Creative ability in literature.
  • Imagination -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.
  • Blake, William, 1757-1827 -- Characters -- Devil.
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