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Professor publishes book

| Sunday, September 7, 2014

Following years of work, Dr. Vera Profit, professor of German and Comparative Literature, released her book “The Devil Next Door” on Aug. 8. Profit, who said the book explores the problem of evil, described her writing as an attempt to “help people live better and more efficient lives.”

“The basic premise is how do you recognize an evil person?” she said. “Evil is hard to recognize. Evil is a progression, and we tend not to see the first, second, third steps, but the final.”

Profit said she was inspired by M. Scott Peck’s book “People of the Lie.”

“In 1984, I read ‘People of the Lie,’ which so changed the way I looked at life, that not only did I read the text, I read all the material that was listed in the footnotes because I wanted the complete context,” she said. “[Peck] can state complex ideas in a totally approachable manner.

“This book was so fascinating that I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. The book was about the hope for healing human evil. What he did was blend theology and science.”

Profit said Peck’s book inspired her to teach a course on the subject.

“I then created a course called Evil and the Lie in Modern European Prose right after reading this book,” she said. “It has always been extremely well received. You study goodness from the other side when you study evil. Because the course was so well received and many students told me it was a life-changing course, I decided to write the book after the course.”

The book looks at the problem of individual evil for the most part, Profit said.

“I took some of the questions that Peck raises, used his clinical experience, read copious amounts of ancillary material and formulated eight characteristics which define individual evil,” she said. “There are two types of evil – group and individual – which are both discreet and a blended phenomenon. I name the eight characteristics of evil and trace them though two novels, one written by a Swiss writer and one Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Picture of Dorian Grey.’ I also propose eight characteristics of group evil.”

Profit said her book is meant to help other people.

“I am trying to help other people not waste their life trying to reinvent the wheel,” she said. “We can learn a lot from other people’s examples. We can save ourselves and other people a lot of trouble.

“Writing a book is a scary position because you have no control over how it will be received. You can give it your best shot and let it go. You have to do it despite your misgivings. The person who learns the most is not the person who reads the book, but the person who writes it. It was worth it to me because I learned so much. If it makes you look at life just a little differently than before, then it was worth it.”

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