This book takes as its terrain the changing perceptions of evil across centuries of English Literature. Starting with the models of conflict and malevolence in the Book of Genesis, its paths are the themes of ambition, desire, survival, belief and knowledge, from the Middle Ages to the present day. As if looking through both ends of a telescope, it moves forward in time, propelled by what has been left behind and by our knowledge of what will follow. Because the cinema is so vibrant an archive of shifting images of ourselves, selected films are viewed alongside the narrative fiction, drama and poetry of each chapter. Throughout the book, résumés and quotations bring as-yet-unread writings into the same line of vision as all the others.
Exploring Evil confronts the diversity of evils reflected in literary depictions of human behaviour and finds two constant elements: the abuse of free will and a denial of the humanity of others. The author argues that, however much its forms and objectives may change, the supremacy of evil in the life of the imagination remains unassailable.