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The Devil Notebooks

2008
Author:

Laurence A. Rickels

The Devil Notebooks

This sequel to The Vampire Lectures takes on the Devil

Milton’s Paradise Lost. Goethe’s Faust. Aaron Spelling’s Satan’s School for Girls? Laurence A. Rickels scours the canon and pop culture in this all-encompassing study on the Devil. Continuing the work he began in his influential book The Vampire Lectures, Rickels returns with his trademark wit and encyclopedic knowledge to go mano a mano with the Prince of Darkness himself.

Laurence A. Rickels’s punning, associative, and extravagant style serves not only to refresh material worked over by critics for a century but also pulls the reader along in a way we’d expect more from summer beach reading than from literary criticism. This shouldn’t be surprising, however, since with its narrative of desire, projection, and denial The Devil Notebooks is every bit a romance.

Daniel Punday, author of Narrative Bodies

Milton’s Paradise Lost. Goethe’s Faust. Aaron Spelling’s Satan’s School for Girls? Laurence A. Rickels scours the canon and pop culture in this all-encompassing study on the Devil. Continuing the work he began in his influential book The Vampire Lectures, Rickels returns with his trademark wit and encyclopedic knowledge to go mano a mano with the Prince of Darkness himself.

Revealing our astonishing obsession with Satan in his many forms, Rickels guides us on an entertaining and enlightening journey down the darkest corridors that film, music, folklore, theater, and literature have ever offered. “The Devil represents the father,” Rickels writes in the opening pages, setting the stage to challenge foundational interpretations of Freudian psychology. The Devil presents not the usual fantasy of immortality, he explains, but instead provides victims with a paternal origin. Until their preordained deadline is reached, the Devil’s pitch goes, people will enjoy the pleasure of uninterrupted “quality time” without the threat of random death. Rickels terms it “Dad certainty”: you know where you came from and you know where you are going. Despite the grim outlook, Rickels keeps the proceedings amusing, with extravagant wordplay and buoyant prose.

A stunning cultural and psychological analysis, The Devil Notebooks shows how the prince of occult has been used—throughout history and across cultures—to represent people’s primal fear of authority and humanity’s universal suffering. Sharing this cultural moment with the idea of evil being bandied about in our political discourse, the supposed satanic influence of pop music on our children, and a wildly popular book series on the end of the world, The Devil Notebooks is a sweeping and timely work that sheds light on the source of human fear and dread in the world.

The Devil Notebooks

Laurence A. Rickels is professor of German and comparative literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His books include The Vampire Lectures and The Case of California, both from Minnesota.

The Devil Notebooks

Laurence A. Rickels’s punning, associative, and extravagant style serves not only to refresh material worked over by critics for a century but also pulls the reader along in a way we’d expect more from summer beach reading than from literary criticism. This shouldn’t be surprising, however, since with its narrative of desire, projection, and denial The Devil Notebooks is every bit a romance.

Daniel Punday, author of Narrative Bodies

The Devil Notebooks establishes the astonishing extent to which contemporary pop culture has been deeply preoccupied with demons, succubi, possession, aliens, sexuality of all kinds, and the end of the world. The Devil, then, offers up a counter-history of humankind—a history from below as it were—that Rickels deploys with verve in a truly fascinating and important study of how and why the world as we know it has gone to Hell.

Michael Dorland, Carleton University

Rickels’s writing is elegant and witty. . . . The volume contains insightful, suggestive, and generative observations about the texts under consideration and the theoretical ideas used to analyze them.

Choice

Rickels’s readings are provocative. . . . Rickels engages with the contemporary folk culture of Satanism more fully than many more conventional academic folklorists and film scholars.

Western Folklore