Principalities and Powers: Demons and Devils in Western Historical Traditions

Alan Humm

Readings: This course will examine the role of the demonic in the myth and folklore of Western traditions.

We will focus on the persistence of certain mythical types as well as the diverging models embraced by the three major traditions. Time will be spent looking at demons and dark divinities in the ancient world, the emergence of the Devil in Roman period Christianity and Judaism, the role of Iblis and jinns in Islam, Jewish supernatural folklore and mystical speculation, the demonology of the medieval witch craze, and modern representations of possession and evil.

Some time will be spent addressing the social, psychological, and theological underpinnings of personified evil, including communities' responses to the socially 'other' and difference. There will also be discussion some of the methods used by societies to control these threats (amulets, exorcism, etc.).

Evaluation will come from numerous short response papers and a final exam.