Research Stream


Juanita Feros Ruys
The University of Sydney

The Secret Life of Demons

This project explores the emotions that were attributed to demons in the Middle Ages and what implications emotional demons whether happy, sad, angry or remorseful had for contemporary understandings of human nature.

The Secret Life of Demons

The Secret Life of Demons explores the interior emotional world that was increasingly attributed to demons in the course of the High Middle Ages. Focusing on Latin monastic miracle tales and Scholastic philosophy, it questions what emotions demons were thought to possess, and the particular implications of each of these. Under what circumstances might demons experience joy? Could demons feel love? What were the theological implications for demons suffering sorrow? In broader terms, it takes into account the cultural and historical movements that prompted the need for demons to be invested with these feelings, which included issues of heresy and the rise of a new experiential epistemology. It also considers the implications of emotional demons for the subsequent development of the early modern witchcraze. In particular, this project explores how the attribution of emotions to demons allowed medieval thinkers to conceptualize the role of emotions in human life, and to ask the big question: are emotions unique to humanity?


‘“Tears such as angels weep”: The Evolution of Sadness in Demons’, in Understanding Emotions, ed. Andrew Lynch and Michael Champion (Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming 2014).

Love in the Time of Demons: Thirteenth-Century Approaches to the Capacity for Love in Fallen Angels’, Mirabilia, 15:2 (2012), 28-46;

Sensitive Spirits: Changing Depictions of Demonic Emotions in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries’, Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures, 1:2 (2012), 184-209.

Invited Lectures

Invited lecture: University of Cape Town, ‘Secret Life of Demons: Medieval Demons, Emotions, and What it Means to be Human’, December 2013

Invited lecture: New York University, ‘The Eternal Sadness of Demons’, September 2012

Invited lecture: University of Texas at Austin, ‘The Eternal Sadness of Demons’, September 2012

Sydney Festival, ‘Medieval Demons’, January 2012

Keynote Presentation: University of Auckland, ‘“Wraths and Hatreds and Envies”: Conceptualising Demonic Emotions in Medieval Europe’, April 2011