MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

The Devil Made Me Do It

MEMETERIA by Thomas May


I came across this very interesting London Review of Booksdiscussion of Brian Levack’s The Devil Within Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West by Terry Eagleton. According to the jacket copy by one of my erstwhile employers, Yale University Press, Levack’s examination of the epidemic of reported demonic possessions in Reformation Europe takes into account “the diverse interpretations of generations of theologians, biblical scholars, pastors, physicians, anthropologists, psychiatrists, and historians.”

The “common sense” model today of course ascribes what was believed to be or presented as possession to the symptoms of mental or physical illness. But Levack’s contextual approach argues that “demoniacs and exorcists—consciously or not—are following their various religious cultures, and their performances can only be understood in those contexts.”

Eagleton, a prominent literary critic who delivered the Terry Lectures in 2008, homes in on this cultural contextualization as a problematic method:

“In [Levack’s] view, falling prey to…

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