"Satan and his angels have filled the entire world"—or so thought the third-century Christian apologist, Tertullian. But the Christian devil is a decidedly slippery character. To premodern readers of the Bible there were various seemingly incompatible "devils," from the loyal servant of God sent to test the faith of pious Job, to the Prince of the World standing at the pinnacle of a hierarchy of malevolence. While theologians from Augustine and Gregory to Aquinas, Luther and De Lancre struggled to determine the nature of the devil and the extent of his powers, the men and women of premodern Europe felt—and saw—the presence of the devil all around them. Theirs were societies and cultures in which the devil and his assorted crew of minions were ascribed real potency in the natural world. Treating the devil not as a reified theological entity but as a dynamic concept that was made and remade over the centuries according to cultural priorities and the exigencies of circumstance, the articles in this collection probe how the devil and demonism operated as explanatory categories that helped create and rationalise experience, thereby shaping the way people lived their lives and understood their place and role in the world. As these articles suggest, the devil should be ascribed—perhaps as much as God—a role in the making of premodern Europe.
“...[E]xcellent contributions that combine fascinating case-studies with intelligent, productive thinking...”
- Stuart Clark, Swansea University (in Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Reformé 36.1 (2013), pp. 189-191)
Richard Raiswell is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Prince Edward Island. His research focuses broadly on issues in the history of concepts in medieval and early modern Europe, with particular emphasis on demonology and on premodern geography and exploration.
Peter Dendle is an Associate Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, Mont Alto. He researches medieval literature, folklore, and religion, with a special focus on constructs of the monstrous and the demonic.
Essays and Studies 28
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