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.
Fred Parker is Fellow of Clare College and Senior Lecturer in English at Cambridge University. His previous books are Johnson and Shakespeare and Skepticism and Literature: An Essay on Pope, Hume, Sterne, and Johnson .
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