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The Prince of DarknessThe Prince of Darkness

Radical Evil and the Power of Good in History

Jeffrey Burton Russell


Book published by Cornell University Press


The Devil, Satan, Lucifer, Mephistopheles - throughout history the Prince of Darkness, the Western world's most powerful symbol of evil, has taken many names and shapes. Jeffrey Burton Russell here chronicles the remarkable story of the Devil from antiquity to the present. While recounting how past generations have personified evil, he deepens our understanding of the ways in which people have dealt with the enduring problem of radical evil.

After a compelling essay on the nature of evil, Russell uncovers the origins of the concept of the Devil in various early cultures and then traces its evolution in Western thought from the time of the ancient Hebrews through the first centuries of the Christian era. Next he turns to the medieval view of the Devil, focusing on images found in folklore, scholastic thought, art, literature, mysticism, and witchcraft. Finally, he follows the Devil into our own era, where he draws on examples from theology, philosophy, art, literature, and popular culture to describe the great changes in this traditional notion of evil brought about by the intellectual and cultural developments of modern times.

Is the Devil an outmoded superstition, as most educated people today believe? Or do the horrors of the twentieth century and the specter of nuclear war make all too clear the continuing need for some vital symbol of radical evil? A single-volume distillation of Russell's epic tetralogy on the nature and personifcation of evil from ancient times to the present, The Prince of Darkness invites readers to confront these and other critical questions as they explore the past faces of that figure who has been called the second most famous personage in Christianity

Jeffrey Burton Russell is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of many books on the history of religion.

REVIEWS:

“Fascinating.... A history of the Devil taken seriously, in theology, folklore, art, literature.”

Village Voice

“There is probably no one alive who knows more about the lore of the Devil than Jeffrey Burton Russell.... He supplies colourful accounts of the pictures medieval folklore formed of the Evil One, and discerning sketches of the insights of poets like Dante and Milton, and novelists from Dostoevsky to Flannery O'Conner.... A first-rate survey.... Close-packed as it inevitably is, it reads easily, and each of its chapters is full of accurate and skillfully arranged information.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Russell recreates the arcane images of good and evil we all once understood perfectly well as children. From the moment the cover is lifted on this beautifully produced book, the world darkens. Russell presents story after story, using them like a descending staircase, drawing us down into archetypal memories of unending battles with the Evil One.”

Bloomsbury Review





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