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Demonic Texts and Textual Demons

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This book combines the concerns of contemporary literary theory with information derived from history, philosophy and cultural psychology. It summarises the various functions that demonic adversaries and possession phenomena have held for the construction of meaning and identity in various cultures, and then points out some of the important roles that demonology plays in Western literary tradition. The demonic figures are an important way to articulate (often subconscious) conflicts and polyphony of the human condition. Proceeding from Dante’s immobile "Dis" to Milton’s dynamic Satan, and onwards to Goethe’s and Dostoevsky’s contemplation of amorality and modern individual, this study emphasises how "otherness" has gradually become acknowledged as an aspect of the self.

Demonic Texts and Textual Demons divides into two parts: the first offers readings of theories of the self and the text. The second part consists of analyses of contemporary fictional texts, ranging from horror to science fiction and magical realism. One of the main observations of the study is that both theoretical and fictional texts employ demonic elements in their rhetoric, and also that while doing so, they tend to bifurcate into two main alternatives. The "therapeutic" alternative sees the demonic disruptions in a self or a text as symptoms to be solved or unified with proper interpretation. In another, "aesthetic" tradition it is typical to question such integrative attempts and to value difference and conflicts over "illusionary" unities. The French theoretical tradition exemplified by Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida is an important example of this tendency. With special reference to the work of Mikhail Bakhtin and Julia Kristeva, the first part of the study concludes by tracing the properties of "demonic text," a particular form of blasphemous and polyphonic textuality.

The remaining part of the study emphasises the importance of interpreting both theoretical and fictional texts in their individual textual and historical contexts. Balancing the needs for conceptual consistency and clarity with the particularities of evidence, the study examines the role of demonic figures and other polyphonic and disruptive elements in such texts as Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, W.P. Blatty’s The Exorcist, the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, and in other fiction by Clive Barker, Philip K. Dick and William Gibson. The concluding analysis is focused on the self-demonising aspects of The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie.



The Beginnings - 1


1. The Ancestry of the Demonic - 22
2. The Demonic in the Self - 51
3. Unravelling the Demonic Text - 79


4. Demons of Horror: Intimations of an Inner Alien - 110
5. Mothering a Demon: Rosemary’s Baby - 122
6. The Inarticulate Body: Demonic Conflicts in The Exorcist - 139
7. Good at Being Evil: the Demons of The Vampire Chronicles - 164
8. The (Un)Traditionalist: Clive Barker’s Devil - 186
9. Technodemons of the Digital Self - 198
10. The Satanic Verses and the Demonic Text - 240
The Epilogue - 277
Bibliography - 285
Index - 322

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Frans Ilkka Mäyrä