Devils in the 17th Century
Dr. Michael Bryson
|There are some people, however,
who […] assert that God is, in himself, the cause and author
of sin. […] If I should attempt to refute them, it would be
like inventing a long argument to prove that God is not the
Devil. John Milton, De Doctrina Christiana
Who or what is God? Is God self-evidently good, or is it possible
that God is evil? Seventeenth-century England (as well as the rest
of Europe) was awash with controversies over how God was to be imagined.
At one extreme were constructions of God as an authoritarian personal
deity who predestines some human beings to salvation and others to
eternal damnation. At the other extreme were “mystical” constructions
of deity that dispensed with the idea of a personal God, imagining
instead a “divine” light or presence waiting to be discovered within
each man and woman. This class will consider drama, poetry and prose—by
Marlowe, Vondel, Donne, Herbert, Herrick, Milton, and Vaughan—in the
theological and political contexts of these controversies.
Each student will do three assignments.
1) An in-class presentation
taking approximately 5-10 minutes, selected from the
options given below, or on a topic cleared with me in advance. Notes
for this presentation will be prepared as an outline, and turned in to
me after the presentation is made.
2) A 5-6 page essay on either Dr. Faustus
or Paradise Lost, focusing in particular on the issue of
predestination, due by 10 PM Friday of week 6.
3) An 8-10
page paper, topic open, due by
Saturday of week 10 (research done for
presentations may, of course, be included in this paper).
1: Introductions. 17th century theological/political
disputes: God, Salvation, the Church, Kings and Kingship.
A brief outline of Calvinism and Arminianism.
An example of
Calvinist and Arminian positions.
2: Renaissance Demonology/Magic and Witchcraft.
Calvin (selections from Institutes of the Christian Religion,
Book 3, Chapters 21-24; Reginald Scot (The Discoverie of Witchcraft,
Books 1 & 2), King James VI/I—Daemonologie 1597 Marlowe—Dr. Faustus (compare
the "A" and "B" texts online)
Student Report 1: The “historical” Faust. See "The
Historie of the damnable life, and the deserved death of Doctor Iohn
3: “Of man’s first disobedience,” and Angelic Rebellion: “Better
to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”—Why? Also, God as a King and/or
Tyrant, the Son as Intercessor and/or Rebel.
1-3, 18:20-33, Exodus 32:1-14 (find a Bible at home, in the library,
or read it online), Milton—Paradise Lost Books 1-3.
Student report 2: Milton, Tenure
of Kings and Magistrates (1649).
Find library edition or look online at
Student report 3:
John Calvin (section of Institutes of the Christian Religion on Civil Authority,
4: Male and Female in the Garden of Eden—Is Adam and Eve’s a Companionate
Marriage? Plus, War in Heaven—Rebellion Against a King.
Reading: Milton—Paradise Lost Books 4-6, see also
two different versions of Psalm 2
Student report 4: Milton, Book
1 of Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce
(2nd edition of 1644). Find library edition, or look online
Student report 5:
Diane K. McColley, “Milton and the Sexes,” in The Cambridge
Companion to Milton, Ed. Dennis Danielson, Cambridge UP, 1989, 147-166.
Student report 6: Stella Purce
The War in Heaven (1980), Chapter 3.
5: The Structure of the Universe—Milton’s Cosmology. Plus, The
Lost Books 7-9
Student report 7:
The Universe according to Ptolemy and Copernicus
(a brief overview of the different models of the Solar system and
their implications for the place/importance of human beings in the
6: The Aftermath of Sin, and History of the World, Part One—A Paradise
Within Thee, Happier Far.
Milton—Paradise Lost Books 10-12
Student report 8: Felix Culpa, or the Fortunate Fall. See the following:
O. Lovejoy, "Milton and the Paradox of the Fortunate Fall,” ELH
4 (1937), 161-179. (Fairly large PDF file)
Student report 9:
C. Ulreich, “A Paradise Within: The Fortunate Fall in Paradise
Lost,” JHI 32 (1971), 351-366. (Fairly large PDF
Student Report 10: The Inner Light, or God Within Each Believer.
Parker. "A testimony of the Light within" London: printed
for Giles Calvert at the Black spread-Eagle at the west end of Pauls,
1657. (Very large file).
God Re-imagined, or Paradise Regained, part 1
Milton—Paradise Regained Books 1-2
Student Report 11: The Inner Light, or God Within Each Believer, part 2.
God Re-imagined, or Paradise Regained, part 2
Reading: Milton—Paradise Regained Books 3-4
Student Report 12:
Loewenstein, "The Kingdom Within: Radical Religious Culture and the
Politics of Paradise Regained," in Literature and History
Autumn 1994 (volume 3, number 2)—download
this article as an Adobe PDF file. (Very large file)
9: Satan’s Fall—Through Envy of God or Envy of Humans?
4:1-16, Isaiah 14:12, Ezekiel 28:12-19
(find a Bible at home, in the library, or read it online), Vondel—Lucifer
Student report 13: Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan: The Early Christian
Tradition pp. 80-88 (section on Irenaeus, theologian of the 2nd
Student report 14: Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan: The Early Christian
Tradition pp. 88-101 (section on Tertullian, theologian of the 2nd century CE).
Student report 15: Jeffrey Burton Russell, Satan:
The Early Christian Tradition pp.123-148 (section on Origen, a
theologian of the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE).
Week 10: Where is God to be Found/How is God to be Imagined?
Reading: Selected poetry by Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Herrick—find these poems here as an Adobe PDF file.
Student report 16: Donne, Sermon XXIII (from the Folio of 1640)—download
this sermon as an Adobe PDF file.
Student report 17: Milton De Doctrina Christiana (Christian Doctrine),
Book 1, Chapter 2 (The current best edition is from The Complete
Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 6, Yale UP.)
books will be available either online or at the Campus Bookstore.)
Marlowe--Dr. Faustus, Paperback - 56 pages (October 1994), Dover Pubns; ISBN: 0486282082
Major Works, Paperback - 1088 pages (April 2003), Oxford
University Press; ISBN: 0140433635
Paperback (August 1991), Theatre Communications Group; ISBN:
Reginald Scot--The Discoverie of Witchcraft, Paperback reissue edition (July 1989),
Dover Pubns; ISBN: 0486260305
Calvin--The Institutes of Christian Religion [ABRIDGED], Baker Book House; ISBN: 0801025249