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Facing the fiend. An interdisciplinary reading of Satan as a literary character

Baillie, Eva Marta (2012) Facing the fiend. An interdisciplinary reading of Satan as a literary character. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

This thesis argues that Satan is essentially a literary figure and that he is best understood in the context of narrative. This study furthermore establishes what the literary figure of Satan can contribute to the understanding of evil and how his portrayal has changed as we move into the 21st century. I suggest that the interdisciplinary reading of theology and literature offers the best approach to the character of Satan. The focus of the study lies on novels from the last 100 years, focusing on the implications of the historic, philosophical and theological changes in the late modern landscape on the figure of Satan. Underlying this study are three primary aspects: Firstly, the literary character of Satan raises the question of the nature of evil. Satan has long been cast as evil personified and this work tries to explore the relationship between the abstract concept of evil and the character of Satan: in an attempt to asses whether evil has a face. The literary figure of Satan can be seen as one approach to the abstract concept of evil that is a reality in human life but that cannot be understood in its being, only through expression. Secondly, the diabolical appears as part of any story; the powers of creation and destruction are connected. The figure of Satan is ambivalent and despite all its destructive elements, the character appears as the driving force behind the story. I want to show how Satan can be understood to be the facilitator of the story. Finally, any narrative is based on relation, and Satan is essentially a relational character. We can speak of a ‘mutual dependency’: Satan needs the human mind – we embody him, we give him his form, but equally are we in need of a scapegoat for all that is dark and undiscovered in us. The character of Satan is therefore personal and relational, best approached in the context of the story, with its inherent relationship between form and content.With this work, I am trying to establish a dialogue between theology and literature through the character of Satan, who transgresses boundaries and facilitates discussion, and therefore is by definition a truly interdisciplinary character. In my introduction I will examine the origins of the satanic figure in the theology of Christianity, starting with the Serpent in Genesis 3:1 and its development into a powerful character in myth and story. I also place the focus of this work on the inderdisciplinary reading of Satan, set against the conceptual approach of systematic theology. Part one of this work will shed some light on the dwelling place of the character, discussing the role of Satan as a symbol (of evil) and the difficulties connected to the definitions of Satan. Beginning with the Scriptures and then further elaborating the function of Satan in the story, I will focus on the relation between Satan and the text. Part two discusses six aspects of satanic characters in recent or contemporary novels, focusing on the function that the satanic image can contribute to the discussion of evil in the post-modern world. The novels chosen for this discussion are from 20th and 21st century European or North American writers and their reading is put into context with the Christian concept of Satan in the West. With The Wandering Jew by Stefan Heym, I look at Satan as the restless wanderer, discussing the concept of spiritual homelessness and alienation. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad approaches Satan as the shadow, taking into consideration the modern contributions of psychoanalysis to the understanding of Satan. The discussion of Siegfried by Harry Mulisch centres upon the physical being or nature of Satan, from nothingness, to parasite, or historic figure. With Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy I will discuss the role of Satan in an apocalyptic context, focusing on the reversal of roles in an antinomian world. The discussion of The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson and The Great Bagarozy by Helmut Krauser examines the attributes of a ‘domestic’ devil, with the focus of boredom and identity crisis. The Master and Margarita by Michail Bulgakov concludes with a discussion of the terms reality and fiction in the context of Satan. In the conclusion, I will bring together the thoughts of the previous chapters to suggest an image of Satan that finds its essence in the story, addressing the possibility of redemption for the satanic figure and at the same time, locating him in the realm of the excess. I will identify Satan as the Other and ascribe to him a necessary function in the context of the story.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available.
Keywords: Satan, Literature and Theology, interdisciplinary, personification of evil, nature of evil, relational aspect of evil, literature as Satan's dwelling space
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Prof. David and Hass, Dr. Andrew
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Mrs Eva Baillie
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3231
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 06 Apr 2012
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 14:05
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/3231

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