The use and abuse of Lucifer in contemporary literary culture

Holdsworth, Lucinda Ann (2023) The use and abuse of Lucifer in contemporary literary culture. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The figure of the devil has historically been weaponised against disenfranchised individuals and communities in order to justify their exploitation and oppression; this thesis examines the ways in which contemporary writers have interrogated the devil’s role in facilitating this abuse through their own depictions of the figure. Abuse is defined broadly here—abuse of power on an interpersonal level, such as child abuse, and on an institutional level are given equal weight. Indeed, this thesis argues that contemporary writers have refigured Lucifer to illuminate the relationship between familial abuse and abuse on the basis of race, gender and culture. This thesis is particularly interested in the affordances of the fallen angel narrative in this process; as such, it focuses exclusively on versions of the figure named Lucifer, excluding more contested satanic personas such as Beelzebub or Mephistopheles. Ultimately this thesis concludes that Lucifer’s affordances as a symbol of rebellion are outweighed by his potential to oppress the disenfranchised; as such, contemporary writers risk reenforcing the harmful rhetoric they intend to critique through their own use of the figure.

This thesis consists of six chapters. In Chapter One, I argue that Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman (1989-1996) comic series pushes back against the heightened fear of the religious Other and accusations of satanic ritual child abuse that gained traction during the Satanic Panic; in his depiction of Lucifer as an abused child of God, Gaiman reveals the biblical roots of abusive familial dynamics and highlights the hypocrisy of the accusations made by the Christian right during this period. Chapter Two explores the proliferation of Gaiman’s Lucifer across media through spin offs, adaptations, transmedia expansions and intertextual references. This chapter suggests that Gaiman’s depiction of Lucifer as an abused son has been taken up by contemporary writers with such frequency that his influence has become unlocatable; as such, Lucifer has become inextricably linked to the familial in contemporary literature, allowing him to be used as a vehicle for more complex discussions of patriarchal abuse than the figure could previously afford. Chapter Three focuses on the CW network’s Supernatural (2005-2020) TV series, arguing that it critiques the use of satanic language to incite violence in the wake of 9/11. In connecting Lucifer’s depiction as an abused son to the rhetoric used by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq, Supernatural suggests that the mechanisms behind both kinds of satanic othering are the same. Chapter Four examines Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018-2020), arguing that it interrogates the use of the devil in the historical oppression of women, both through accusations of witchcraft and through the exploitation of victims in the Satanic Panic. This chapter further argues that the series pushes back against neoliberal feminist reclamation of the devil and witchcraft, suggesting that the individual empowerment this movement offers does little to deconstruct abusive patriarchal systems. Chapter Five examines Aliette de Bodard’s Dominion of the Fallen (2015-2019) series of novels; it argues that de Bodard’s depiction of Lucifer and ironic use of imperial Gothic genre tropes highlights European use of satanic othering to justify colonial expansion and the exploitation of colonial subjects. Finally, Chapter Six explores a common visual trend in contemporary depictions of Lucifer—the use of David Bowie’s aesthetics, particularly that of his Thin White Duke persona. This chapter considers the way that this persona resonates differently with female positionality in Kieron Gillen and McKelvie’s The Wicked + The Divine (2016-2019) comic series.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues this thesis is not available for viewing.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Sangster, Professor Matthew, Nicholson, Dr. Sarah and Fimi, Professor Dimitra
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83921
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Nov 2023 13:13
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2023 13:13
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83921

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