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The Devil as Muse
Blake, Byron, and the Adversary
By Fred Parker
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.
1 Kierkegaard, Don Giovanni, and Doctor Faustus: The Artist as Faust
2 The Devil and the Poet
3 Blake and the Devil’s Party
4 Byron’s Familiar Spirit
5 Telling the Devil’s Story: Doctor Faustus and The Master and Margarita
“Beautifully written, effortlessly involving and engaging, The Devil as Muse is, like many of the books that it deals with, a great triumph of the ethical imagination. Parker brilliantly combines great literary sensitivity with good, clear, honest feeling—a work of Socratic imagination and humanity."
—Gregory Dart, Senior Lecturer, University College of London
“Fred Parker has established himself as one of our shrewdest and most sensitive commentators on eighteenth-century literature. In The Devil as Muse he looks backwards (to Milton) and forwards (to Goethe, Blake, Byron, Thomas Mann, and Mikhail Bulgakov) in a searching, wide-ranging investigation—as compulsively readable as it is subtly nuanced—of the complex and equivocal relations between diabolism and literary inspiration. It is a fascinating inquiry into some of the most profound and mysterious sources of literary creativity.”
—David Hopkins, Professor of English Literature, Bristol University
“Fred Parker breathes new life into a very old question: Where is the Devil in the creative process? His study is a model of unobtrusive scholarship and literary sympathy.”
—Felicity Rosslyn, author of Alexander Pope: A Literary Life
Fred Parker is Fellow of Clare College and Senior Lecturer in English at Cambridge University. His previous books are Johnson’s Shakespeare and Skepticism and Literature: An Essay on Pope, Hume, Sterne, and Johnson.
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Other books by:
Books in Series:
The Making of the Christian Imagination
Betjeman - Writing the Public Life
Chesterton - The Nightmare Goodness of God
The Devil as Muse - Blake, Byron, and the Adversary
Dostoevsky - Language, Faith, and Fiction
George MacDonald - Divine Carelessness and Fairytale Levity
The Novel as Church - Preaching to Readers in Contemporary Fiction
Redemption in Poetry and Philosophy - Wordsworth, Kant, and the Making of the Post-Christian Imagination