The Devil in Literature and Film - CPLT6680

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2022 to 2023
Spring Term 6 15 (7.5) Joanne Pettitt checkmark-circle


From the time of the Bible, the figure of the devil has haunted the Western cultural landscape. Understood as the embodiment of evil, a figure of temptation, and a potential foil to God, the Devil works as a complex ethical symbol. Far from being limited to their biblical origins, Satanic characters are often used as symbolic currency, employed as a means of critiquing existing social structures and, often, challenging the status quo.

The fascination sparked by the notion of pure evil and unbridled malevolence has resulted in an abundance of literary and artistic accounts. Maximilian Rudwin goes so far as to claim that 'Lacking the devil, there would simply be no literature.' (1931) This module will explore the religious, moral and political meanings behind the appearance of the Devil across a range of literary texts and films; the aim is to trace the ways in which the figure has evolved over time and across cultures. Come and join us on a journey into hell!


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Total Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:
• Presentation (20 minutes) – 20%
• Essay (3,000 words) – 80%

Reassessment methods:
• 100% Coursework (3,000 words)

Indicative reading

Anon, Bible, 'The Book of Genesis' and 'The Book of Revelation'
Mikhail Bulgakov, (2007/1966) The Master and Margarita. London: Penguin.
Corelli, M. (2020/1895) The Sorrows of Satan. London: Feedbooks.
Dante, ‘Inferno,’ from The Divine Comedy (2003/1472). London: Penguin.
Gaiman, N. and Pratchett, T. (2006/1990) Good Omens. London: Transworld.
Goethe, J.W. (2007/1829) Faust. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth.
Lewis, C. S. (1942) The Screwtape Letters. London: Harperone.
Marlowe, C. (2005/1592) Dr Faustus. London: Norton Critical.
Milton, J. (2008/1667) Paradise Lost. Oxford: Oxford UP.

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Analyse critically a selection of representations of the Devil;
2 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the historical and wider philosophical questions that are at stake in such representations;
3 Reflect critically on the persistent metaphorical allure of the Devil in literary accounts;
4 Engage at an advanced critical level with the literary texts, discussed through close interpretations of these works;
5 Demonstrate systematic knowledge of key theoretical concepts relevant to the figure of the Devil;
6 Demonstrate a systematic and critical understanding of recent criticism relating to texts studied on the module.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate confident communication skills;
2 Demonstrate refined written communication skills, including the structuring of an original argument;
3 Demonstrate the ability to read closely and critically, and to apply a range of critical terms to literary texts;
4 Engage critically and systematically with recent criticism;
5 Demonstrate the ability to undertake the comparative analysis of literature and other media, and to appreciate both the complexities and limitations of this approach to literary study.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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