H. P. Lovecraft. Trends in Scholarship. Limits & Trends. What I am not considering:
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Anything before 1990 – The 80s were dominated by Lovecraft Studies, a journal that received little exposure outside of the established circle of Lovecraft devotees. While I have consulted earlier works to establish a background for my readings, I will not be discussing them directly.
Anything from Lovecraft Studies (see the note above)
Biographical concerns – My review focuses primarily on Lovecraft’s fiction writing, influences on his writing, and the development of his approach to horror writing.
Derivatives and influences – There are countless derivative works and many authors who claim HPL as an influence
Major trends in scholarship on which I will focus:
The continued arguments over the definition of the “Cthulhu mythos” and HPL’s approach to horror
The shifts in critical approaches to HPL’s fiction
The importance of place and tradition in HPL’s fiction
The emergence of HPL & his criticism from the “inner-circle”
August Derleth & Donald Wandrei formedArkham House in 1939 to preserve andpublish his work.
Derleth was largely responsible for the initial construction (and many argue misconception) of the “Cthulhu Mythos”
W. Paul Cook—friend, supporter, and critic—was concerned about popular and critical treatment of HPL
Cook, W. Paul. In Memoriam: Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Recollections, Appreciations, Estimates. North Montpelier: The Driftwind Press, 1941.
Cook, W. Paul. “A Plea for Lovecraft.” The Ghost 3 (1945): 55-56.“Irreparable harm is being done to Lovecraft by indiscriminate and even unintelligent praise, by lack of unbiased and intelligent criticism, and by a warped sense of what is due him in the way of publication of his works.”
Early reactions to Lovecraft fell into three camps: fandom adoration, scholarly admiration, and critical rejection.
Lebier, Fritz. “A Literary Copernicus.” Something About Cats and Other Pieces. H. P. Lovecraft. Sauk City: Arkham House Publishers, 1949.”Howard Phillips Lovecraft was the Copernicus of the horror story. He shifted the focus of the supernatural dread from man and his little world and his gods, to the stars and the black and unplumbed gulfs of intergalactic space. To do this effectively, he created a new kind of horror story and new methods for telling it.”
Wilson, Edmund. “Tales of the Marvellous and Ridiculous.” The New Yorker 24 Nov. 1945.“The only real horror in most of these fictions is the horror of bad taste and bad art. Lovecraft was not a good writer. … The Lovecraft cult, I fear, is on even a more infantile level than the Baker Street Irregulars and the cult of Sherlock Holmes.”
Necronomicon Press was founded in 1979and began publishing Lovecraft Studies.
During the 80s, nearly all scholarlyarticles appeared in Lovecraft Studies.
Major trends and scholars included:
Robert Price (with David Schultz) – Revising the “Cthulhu Mythos” as originally cast by August Derleth
Steven Mariconda – analysis of Lovecraft’s style and imagery
Donald Burleson – structuralist / deconstructionist criticism; besides articles in Lovecraft Studies, Burleson also published:Burleson, Donald R. H. P. Lovecraft: A Critical Study. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1983.
Burleson, Donald R. “Lovecraft: The Hawthorne Influence.” Extrapolation 22.3 (1981): 262-64.
Cannon, Peter. "The Return of Sherlock Holmes and H. P. Lovecraft." Baker Street Journal 34 (1984): 217-20.
Price, Robert M. "Stephen King and the Lovecraft Mythos." Discovering Stephen King. Ed. Darrell Schweitzer. Vol. 8. Starmont Studies in Literary Criticism Mercer Island: Starmont, 1985. 109-22.
Cannon, Peter. H. P. Lovecraft. Twayne's United States Authors Series. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1989.
The dominance of Lovecraft Studies helped to encourage dialogue among Lovecraft scholars. However, the journal’s lack of exposure or review outside of the Lovecraft circle kept HPL’s study isolated from the larger scholarly arena (a problem faced by most literature of the fantastic).
This decade started with a helpful collection:Joshi, S. T. and David E. Schultz, ed. An Epicure in the Terrible:A Centennial Anthology of Essays in Honor of H. P. Lovecraft.Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1991.
S. T. Joshi moved from editor and bibliographerto biographer and critic.
Joshi, S. T. The Weird Tale: Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1990.
Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West. Mercer Island: Starmont House, 1990.
Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft: A Life. West Warwick: Necronomicon Press, 1996.
Joshi, S. T. A Subtler Magick: The Writings and Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft. San Bernadino: Borgo, 1996.
Joshi, S. T. "H. P. Lovecraft: The Fiction of Materialism." American Supernatural Fiction: From Edith Wharton to the Weird Tales Writers. Ed. Douglas Robillard and Benjamin F. Fisher. Vol. 6. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities. New York: Garland, 1996.
Bloom, Clive. "This Revolting Graveyard of the Universe: The Horror Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft." American Horror Fiction: From Brockden Brown to Stephen King. Ed. Brian Docherty. New York: St. Martin's, 1990. 59-72.
Campbell, James. "Cosmic Indifferentism in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft." American Supernatural Fiction: From Edith Wharton to the Weird Tales Writers. Ed. Douglas Robillard and Benjamin F. Fisher. Vol. 6. Garland Reference Library of the Humanities. New York: Garland, 1996. 167-228.
Oates, Joyce Carol. "The King of Weird." New York Review of Books 43.17 (Oct. 31 1996): 46, 48-53.[Her attention went a long way in advancing HPL’s reputation.]
Lovett-Graff, Bennett. "Shadows over Lovecraft: Reactionary Fantasy and Immigrant Eugenics." Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 38.2 (Fall 1997): 175-92.
Boelhower, William. "'I Am Providence': Working Sites of Identity." Formations of Cultural Identity in the English-Speaking World. Ed. Jochen Achilles and Carmen Birkle. Vol. 251. Anglistische Forschungen. Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1998. 241-54.
Bloom, Clive, ed. "Symposium on H. P. Lovecraft." Gothic Horror: A Reader's Guide from Poe to King and Beyond. Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. 78-95.
Necronomicon Press closed in 1999, and with it Lovecraft Studies suspended publication.
This forced HPL scholarship out of the limited market of Lovecraft Studies (at least until 2004 when Necronomicon re-opened and resumed LS publication).
Also, editions of Lovecraft’s fiction began to appear from larger and more reputable publishing houses, including the 2005 H. P. Lovecraft: Tales from Library of America as well as Penguin Classics and Modern Library editions.
Evans, Timothy H. "Tradition and Illusion: Antiquarianism, Tourism and Horror in H. P. Lovecraft." Rev. of Peer. Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 45.2 (2004): 176-95.
Berruti, Massimo. "H.P. Lovecraft and the Anatomyof Nothingness: The Cthulhu Mythos." Semiotica:Journal of the International Association for SemioticStudies/Revue de l'Association Internationale deSémiotique 150.1-4 (2004): 363-418.
In 2004, Necronomicon Press re-openedand issued Lovecraft Studies 44, a tradepaperback collection of essays, images,and fiction. Currently, the journal is on asemi-regular schedule (it was originally aquarterly publication).