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The Devil Notebooks

The Devil Notebooks

Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Devil Notebooks
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6634-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)

      (pp. 3-18)

      The Devil is an institutional figure, the kind you negotiate with and bind yourself to by contract that will be observed down to the fine print. In honor of this book’s origin down the corridors of an institution of higher yearning, let us take our Prince back to school. A good introduction to the Devil of an exception is the 1973 TV movieSatan’s School for Girls(produced by Aaron Spelling). The onset is a slasher chase scene. The camera’s unidentified POV relentlessly pursues a breathless young woman. When another person enters the picture, the POV drops its stare, and...

      (pp. 19-33)

      Dogs donʹt take to evil types. But the spooky lady looking for a bitch that has proved herself a breeder is as interested in dogs as is the local supplier for lab experimentation. The whining dog has to ʺstayʺ inside the pentagram. ʺOne thousand years weʹve waited since you were chained to the gates of the bowels of the earth. We have followed the law. Send your seed! Send your beast!ʺ Thus beginsDevil Dog. One day the perfect couple is home from work, and Skipper lies dead in the road, hit and run. The children canʹt be comforted. Today...

      (pp. 34-44)

      In a letter dated June 18, 1911, Freud comments to Oskar Pfister on the interpretation the latter gave of a young man’s vision or hallucination of the Devil. As recycled in his 1927 studyReligious Studies and Psychoanalysis (Religionswissenschaft und Psychoanalyse), Pfister recounts (12–13) how his patient, as teenager, had been drawn while on his way home to gaze upon a mighty oak. Suddenly a large dark figure stepped toward him from behind the tree. The figure “rubbed his hands against me, as though wanting to wash them. At the same time I heard a clap of thunder.” He...

      (pp. 45-59)

      In 1933 Karl Kraus composedThird Walpurgis Night, the third strike of a match with Goethe’s two Walpurgis nights inFaustI and II, and he was out of satire. His practice, which peaked around the First World War, was to slip the bloody reference that the journalistic phrase openly hid and bracketed out back into circulation between or behind the lines of satire, which, as lines given in art or fiction, were automatically granted a more open and less defended span of attention. Once swallowed and its provenance revealed, this one bit of coverage stuck there, a catch in...

      (pp. 60-69)

      With the onset of his second system (in works encrusted with quotations from Goethe’sFaustpropping up discussions of the superego, for example), Freud cycles between ultimately demonic repetition as expression of the inertia in organic life and the combo energies of libido. But then repetition reemerges as the egoic and unicellular prospect of replication: immortality on the spot we’re in with reproduction or death. The cycle of Freud’s speculations inBeyond the Pleasure Principlepasses through the metabolism of our worldly relations with or in the Devil as set out in 1965 by Vilém Flusser, mortal sin by mortal...

      (pp. 70-85)

      Envy and Greed, Flusser writes, are two deadly sins that are in it together—like son and father—as the Devil’s backup plan. In place of a phenomenal world that we see as unreal, really scary, we opt for the reality of the socius—and all the hierarchies that articulate and bind together a social reality. Language figures here, all powerfully, but as lexicon of historical inheritance and as grammar of hierarchies. Greed is conservative: it protects and preserves a world of sentences. Greed conserves the progressive work of Envy and thus fortifies the social hierarchies in the wake-up thrall...

      (pp. 86-98)

      Freud shared the closed quarters of his physician-assisted ending with Balzac’sThe Wild Ass’s Skin. Right from the start of the novel we are introduced to demons, infernal pacts, and the voice of death in the metaphorical and manic mix attending the protagonist’s visit to the gambling den. Gambling, especially as addiction, gives the young man a pre-Oedipal date mark. The setting of the son going down for the count of losses owes it all to the anal confines in which his father kept him on tracks until one day he flushed him out into a world of financial intrigue...

      (pp. 99-111)

      InCivilization and Its DiscontentsandThe Future of an IllusionFreud diagnoses whole epochs of religious belief in “other worlds” as “neurotic” (SE21: 144, 43). In contrast, the Devil’s powers, in person or by proxy, are linked and limited to “this world.” The Devil can extend or defer these limits for a certain amount of time, but the time will come when the deadline must be observed. InAngel Heart, just when it looks like the client has escaped the contract for several years, we discover that, in one year and out the other, the severed years of...

      (pp. 112-130)

      The death drive or the demonic is hard for Freud to follow. It’s certainly for all concerned hard to perceive in all its purity. It’s like, says Freud, the silence in the background of the melody of the drives (SE21: 119;SE14: 62). A demonic aspect in music was familiar to Freud early on at that influential remove of a follower’s research. Max Graf, a music journalist and an academic historian of music, was one of two nonpractitioner members of the original Wednesday meeting group. Around the turn of the century Graf already published on music subjects, in...

      (pp. 131-153)

      In the twentieth century the Golem legend in its Prague setting made it big: in 1915 in Germany it hit the big screen same time—double feature—that it went public, published in a blockbuster novel by Prague author Gustav Meyrink. This book, which included among its plot points how-to instructions for simulation of the symptoms of epilepsy, also made the best sell-out list according to medical officers faced with soldiers who preferred to malinger on rather than rush into the world war effort. The scholarship or intellectual history of the idea of the Golem—as set up between the...

      (pp. 154-162)

      The Devil is custodian of that which he does not possess, human soul or psyche. The Devil works in the medium of psyche or soul, and works to rob souls and keep them down under: but he has no soul. He also does not reproduce. He creates out of shit, remember, and he works the psychic medium of Lust through its autoerotic origin and excess. InDemon Seedwe witness the demonic force of technologization. This is a long-standing association: in his 1877Foundations of a Philosophy of Technology, to give one example in lieu of many more, Ernst Kapp...

      (pp. 163-175)

      Stigmatais many movies: welcome to Hollywood and its development and production Hells. One movie is about a newly discovered gospel straight from Christʹs mouth. Here he preaches that God is in us and around us. Radical immanence doesnʹt settle well with the Church, which just wonʹt be ignored. One Holy Father sides with the document against the hierarchical malignancy. This Father dies.

      A young woman, who considers herself an atheist, but will soon bleed from Christʹs wounds, receives the call of long distance from her traveling mother, who forwards to her daughter a souvenir relic, the Fatherʹs rosary, which...

      (pp. 176-193)

      In his “Reminiscences,” Max Graf turns to religion to characterize the ups and downs of the early years inside Freud’s inner circle of application and submissions:

      I have compared the gatherings in Freud’s home with the founding of a religion. However, after the first dreamy period and the unquestioning faith of the first group of apostles, the time came when the church was founded. Freud began to organize his church with great energy. He was serious and strict in the demands he made of his pupils; he permitted no deviations from his orthodox teaching. (471–72)

      The distance of Graf’s...

      (pp. 194-200)

      According to the epigraph toLost Souls: ʺA man born of incest will become Satan . . .ʺ An exorcism is called for. The doctor, whoʹs not in the occult groove, offers to go in with the priest. ʺYou wouldnʹt last five minutes.ʺ They enter the room of exorcism. ʺHello, Henry. You know why weʹre here.ʺ ʺIʹve been really looking forward to it.ʺ He starts masturbating. We see that the exorcism is being taped. The Winona Ryder figure tapes the windows shut tight. Winona flashes back to her own exorcism.

      The talk show features Kelson (quel son!), who is the...

      (pp. 201-210)

      The Dunwich Horroropens with Americana gothic figures in black attending a birth. That was the prehistory. Now weʹre at college. Prof entrusts coed (Sandra Dee) with the task of returning theNecronimiconto the archive. But a young man (Dean Stockwell) intercepts her passage. He wants to see the book before she returns it to the library. Thatʹs impossible. But the coed, Nancy, has been hypnotized and doesnʹt see any problem with letting him consult the work. As he peruses the pages, kaleidoscope effects fill the screen. Professor demands the book back from, it turns out, a member of...

      (pp. 211-230)

      In Ken RussellʹsThe Devilsthe Devil in Grandier (or in Loudun) is the desire for p-unitive relations with a righteous God. The elongation and the short of it is that the movie itself, however, opens with the king, by divine right, starring in a pageant in which he plays Venus being born. In the middle of the possession epidemic, he visits Loudun. Surrounded by an orgy of possession alternating with exorcism, the king is put off only by all the womb views in his face. Reproduction, as he tells his favorite, amounts to eggs dropped in dung. He offers...

  5. MINE

      (pp. 233-249)

      Milton’s Lucifer falls with his cohorts from Heaven’s unrepresentable space to the Hell that is always on Earth: the rebel angels are cast so deeply into the material of representation that they end up inventing the primal technology of mining. Soon they will devise infernal engines that almost win a battle while staying on the losing side of the war against Heaven. The bottomless fall of Lucifer must be represented as unrepresentable. An allegorical timeline allows Hell to be like earth before there is earth. And the angels also already bear arms. But every sword comes from the stone, the...

      (pp. 250-257)

      InDef by Temptation, Succubus gets her actor mark to sign up by way of giving her his autograph. The brothers were in ministry school together. The older brother became an actor, instead. The younger brother is the priest. He interrupts the contract sports Succubus was planning to play on the actor.

      Bar scene, bar none: Succubus puts the moves on her new john. ʺThis is too good to be true.ʺ ʺYouʹre right.ʺ He freaks out over the cut marks. What will his wife say? ʺIʹve given you something thereʹs no cure for. Itʹll grow until it consumes you.ʺ


      (pp. 258-275)

      InSometimes They Come Back . . . for Moretwo MPs are dropped into Ice Station Erebus: officially it is a research facility, ʺunofficially itʹs an illegal mining operation courtesy of the Pentagon.ʺ The day before, one of the engineers ʺwent postal.ʺ They must find survivors, arrest the mad man, and secure the facility. When they stumble across their first corpse outside in the deep freeze—itʹs the commanding officer—we also see in place of the dead man a womanʹs naked body from a different time zone (the light and the colors are completely different from the icy...

      (pp. 276-290)

      Sheʹs in the bar (again) after the especially bad day. A shadowy figure buys her drinks and listens to her gripe for days. ʺIf youʹll just sign here and here.ʺ He shows where on the cocktail napkin. ʺWhatʹs that for?ʺ ʺAll your problems could be a thing of the past.ʺ There is a slight fee involved. ʺIn the end I always collect.ʺ ʺI feel a lot better.ʺ Thatʹs whatThe Contractis all about.

      The sales boy (who was on the hit list) gets butchered. Intercut with death-wish wife in sexual reunion with the husband she already death-wished away. She...


      (pp. 293-309)

      Night Visitoropens in red-light district at night. Drive-through client. She gets in back seat: ʺWait a minute. Who are you?ʺ Scream.

      Cute teen is late to school again. ʺMy motherʹs hair dryer exploded. It almost killed her. She has to wear a wig now.ʺ The teacher is straight uptight with a twist. The latecomer, Billy, has a boy pal and a gal pal. When it looks like the pal part might change to friend, as in girlfriend, the other pal warns him: ʺYou donʹt date your pal, butt sniff. It would be like dating me.ʺ

      Back home a new...

      (pp. 310-330)

      Horror Hotelopens with the Christian mob asking for the witch, Elizabeth Selwyn. Weʹre in Whitewood, Massachusetts, and the witch stares down the ʺye olde gift shoppeʺ Colonial crowd. But one cry of ʺWitch!ʺ suffices to break the spell. ʺBurn the witch!ʺ Her man denies and betrays her. ʺHast thou consorted with her?ʺ ʺNo!ʺ But to himself he says: ʺHelp her, Lucifer!ʺ In the present a professorʹs star student wants to fieldtrip to some backwater in Massachusetts. Sheʹs going to stay at Ravenʹs Inn in Whitewood. ʺWitchcraft is not nonsense!ʺ ʺThe basis of fairytales is reality.ʺ ʺThe basis of reality...

      (pp. 331-342)

      The Legacyaddresses, according to its ad campaign or ectoplasm, the ʺbirthright of living death.ʺ

      A couple of interior designers in LA get offered a job in the UK. She gets a check in the mail made out to ʺMargaret Walsh.ʺ ʺDoes that mean I can spend it?ʺ To her partner she says: ʺI donʹt understand. But I want to go to England.ʺ Something is drawing her away, so come what may, sheʹs off to places sheʹs never been. A motorcycle accident leads the couple to accept the invitation to stay in a manor owned, it turns out, by her...

      (pp. 343-352)

      InThe Devil and His Grandmother, Lou Andreas-Salomé introduces us into the cycle of the deceased’s digestion under the Devil’s guidance. The Devil proposes marriage to a newly dead girl crawling out of her grave’s decomposition to find herself alive again, alive to the prospects of Hell (4–7). In Hell her gravesite is rear-side seating up against the ass of the Devil’s grandmother. In contrast, God admits souls only after they have been “de-assed” (7). At bottom, the dead in Hell are free to be themselves, to create or re-create themselves interminably. “Satanized you enjoy yourselves for the first...

      (pp. 353-359)

      Goethe’sFaustestablishes rhyming as Christian frame (in which the Devil also sets a spell). Faust invites Helen of Troy to join him in coupling via instruction in rhyming. Their progeny, Euphorion, inhabits the artificial abyss that rhyming contains and bridges. But then he seeks to expand the metabolism of rhyming to support flight. Even after he crashes and his mother follows him down into Hades, we never leave the artificial turf spanned and spawned by rhyme. Helena leaves behind her veil, which marks the spot of her allegorical return as cheerleader of the eternal or internal feminine of mourning....

      (pp. 360-368)

      Popcorpse, I mean,Popcornoffers a bag of teenage fun that sends the teacher home in a box first. Sarah wants to turn her scary dreams into movie material. In her apocalyptic girlhood dreams sheʹs in the crypt with the Evil One, who wants to sacrifice her with his jagged sword.

      At school the kids are putting together a horror festival as fund-raiser for their film program. ʺWelcome to the House of Ushers,ʺ namely, the specifically Southern Cal horror of service personnel whoʹre just too young to know better than to ask if youʹre still working on it. While setting...

    (pp. 369-376)
    (pp. 377-380)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-381)