June 29, 2009
I taught this class on Faust a few years ago, and it was fun. We read Goethe’s Faust and Kit Marlowe’s Faust and then we came over to the United States, and we read, “The Devil and Daniel Webster” and listened to “The Devil Went down to Georgia,” and what was cool was this. In the European stories, the devil was scary and big and dark and powerful. But in the American story and the American song, the Americans were feisty and smart and they were able to outsmart the devil. What’s weird about this is that Americans are actually so paranoid about sexuality, nudity, Satanism, everything. A completely hung up country. But we have stories and songs that make it sound like we have chutzpah. I like our energy, I think it’s fun, there’s a youthful optimism about Americans, underneath all that grim guilt.
Here in the U.S., the money says, “In God we trust,” but in the song, the devil loses. He loses the soul and his fiddle of gold. Johnny gets it all. Such a deal. Such an American deal.