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H. P. Lovecraft

Trends in Scholarship


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Limits & Trends

  • What I am not considering:

    • 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”


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Bare Bones: Lovecraft’s Life1890 – 1937

  • Born in Providence, RI (The importance of place, and particularly New England, will be a defining aspect of Lovecraft’s work.)

  • Wrote widely and extensively: amateur journalism, poetry, letters, and the fiction for which he is best known.

  • During his lifetime, he was well knownand respected only in the arenas ofamateur journalism and “weird fiction,”such as that published in Weird Tales.


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After His Death1930s & 40s

  • 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.”


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Early Reception & Criticism40s & 50s

  • 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.”


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Fandom & the Fantastique1960s & 70s

  • Much early writings about Lovecraft camefrom fantasy fandom, were full of errors and,according to later scholars, misconceptionsabout HPL’s life and works.

  • Some of the major scholarly works include:

    • Lévy, Maurice. Lovecraft, Ou Du Fantastique. Paris:Christian Bourgois, 1972.

    • de Camp, L. Sprague. Lovecraft: A Biography. GardenCity: Doubleday & Co., 1975.

    • St. Armand, Barton Levi. H. P. Lovecraft: New EnglandDecadent. Albuquerque: Silver Scarab, 1979.

  • Lin Carter, Frank Belknap Long, DarrelSchweitzer,and Richard L. Tierney alsoproduced works on Lovecraft’s life andDerleth’s mythos.


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The Rise of Lovecraft Studies1980s

  • 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.


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  • S. T. Joshi – became the dominantLovecraft scholar; his contributionsduring this decade consisted mainlyof editing Lovecraft Studies and HPL’sfiction for the Arkham House editionsand compiling previous scholarship.

    • Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1980.

    • Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft and Lovecraft Criticism: An Annotated Bibliography. Kent: Kent State University Press, 1981. (Supplemented in 1984)

    • Joshi, S. T. H. P. Lovecraft. Starmont Reader's Guide. Ed. Roger C. Schlobin. Vol. 13. Mercer Island: Starmont House, 1982.


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  • Of the few articles during this time that did not appear in Lovecraft Studies, those with any larger significance rely on their relation to other literary figures.

    • 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).


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Revived & Deconstructed1990s

  • 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.


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  • Donald R. Burleson emerged as a prolific critic of HPL’s work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of Disturbing the Universe, his writings all appeared in Lovecraft Studies.

    • Burleson, Donald R. "A Note on Metaphor vs. Metonymy in ‘The Dunwich Horror'." Lovecraft Studies 38 (1998): 16-17.

    • Burleson, Donald R. "A Textual Oddity in the Quest of Iranon." Lovecraft Studies 34 (1996): 24-26.

    • Burleson, Donald R. "Lovecraft and Adjectivitis: A Deconstructionist View." Lovecraft Studies 31 (1994): 22-24.

    • Burleson, Donald R. "Lovecraft and Gender.“ LovecraftStudies 27 (1992): 21-25.

    • Burleson, Donald R. "Lovecraft and Interstitiality.”Lovecraft Studies 37 (1997): 25-34.

    • Burleson, Donald R. "Lovecraft: Textual Keys.“Lovecraft Studies 32 (1995): 27-30.

    • Burleson, Donald R. Lovecraft: Disturbing the Universe.Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1990.


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  • Lovecraft Studies work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of continued to be the primary—though little-exposed—source of most HPL scholarship.

    • Buchanan, Carl. "‘The Music of Erich Zann': A Psychological Interpretation (or Two)." Lovecraft Studies 27 (1992): 10-13.

    • Cannon, Peter, et al. "On at the Mountains of Madness: A Panel Discussion." Lovecraft Studies. 34 (1996): 2-10.

    • Dziemianowicz, Stefan. "On ‘The Call of Cthulhu'." Lovecraft Studies 33 (1995): 30-35.

    • Lippi, Giuseppi. "Lovecraft's Dreamworld Revisited." Lovecraft Studies 26 (1992): 23-25.

    • Mariconda, Steven J. "H. P. Lovecraft: Art, Artifact, and Reality." Lovecraft Studies 29 (1993): 2-12.

    • Mariconda, Steven J. "Tightening the Coil: The Revision of 'the Whisperer in Darkness'." Lovecraft Studies 32 (1995): 12-17.

    • Montelone, Paul. "‘The Rats in the Walls': A Study in Pessimism." Lovecraft Studies 32 (1995): 18-26.

    • Schweitzer, Darrell. "About 'the Whisperer in Darkness'." Lovecraft Studies 32 (1995): 8-11.

    • Setiya, Kieran. "Empiricism and the Limits of Knowledge in Lovecraft." Lovecraft Studies 25 (1991): 18-22.


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  • Despite the dominance of work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of Lovecraft Studies, HPL scholarship did begin to receive more exposure through texts and articles in other scholarly journals.

  • Major Works

    • Airaksinen, Timo. The Philosophy of H. P. Lovecraft: The Route to Horror. New Studies in Aesthetics. Vol. 29. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

    • Stanley, John H., ed. Books at Brown: 1991-1992(Lovecraft Issue). Vol. 38-39. Providence: The Friendsof the Library of Brown University, 1995.

    • Cannon, Peter. Lovecraft Remembered. Sauk City:Arkham House, 1998.

    • Price, Robert M. H. P. Lovecraft and the CthulhuMythos.San Bernardino: Borgo, 1990.

    • Bloom, Howard, ed. Modern Horror Writers. New York:Chelsea House Publishers, 1994.


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  • Articles of note outside of work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of Lovecraft Studies:

    • 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.


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Lovecraft’s Disinterment work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of 2000 to Present

  • 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.


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  • Major works since 2000: work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of

    • Connors, Scott, ed. A Century Less a Dream:Selected Criticism on H. P. Lovecraft. Holicong:Wildside Press, 2002.

    • Joshi, S. T. A Dreamer and a Visionary: H. P.Lovecraft in His Time. Liverpool: LiverpoolUniversity Press, 2001.

    • Joshi, S. T. and David E. Schultz, eds. Lord ofa Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters.Athens: Ohio University Press, 2000.

    • Joshi, S. T., and David E. Schultz. An H. P.Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2001.

    • Joshi, S. T., ed. Primal Sources: Essays on H. P. Lovecraft. New York: Hippocampus Press, 2003.

    • Mitchell, Charles P. The Complete H. P. Lovecraft Filmography. Westport: Greenwood, 2001.

    • Oakes, David A. Science and Destabilization in the Modern American Gothic: Lovecraft, Matheson, and King. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.


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  • Articles of Note work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of

    • Tucker, Kenneth. "The Case of Howard Phillips Lovecraft: A Serious Artist Manqué?" Journal of Evolutionary Psychology 21.3-4 (2000): 217-29.

    • Will, Bradley A. "H. P. Lovecraft and the Semiotic Kantian Sublime." Extrapolation: A Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy 43.1 (2002): 7-21.

    • Lowell, Mark. "Lovecraft's 'Cthulhu Mythos'." Explicator 63.1 (Fall 2004): 47-50.

    • 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).


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Still Troubled by Dreams work through gender, textual, and deconstructionist criticism. However, with the exception of

  • Extending the reach of Lovecraft studies,both through publication in other scholarlyjournals and by increasing the reputationand exposure of Lovecraft Studies.

  • Attention from Joyce Carol Oates, StevenKing and others, as well as Library ofAmerica and other editions of Lovecraft’swork, should increase exposure andpopularity … and thus hopefully his study.

  • Scholars would be well-served by takingpart of Joshi’s advice: a focus on Lovecraft’sinfluence and importance through the totalityof his work (rather than any single piece—fiction or otherwise).

  • I still disagree with Joshi’s anti-fan approach,however. The fan-base is the popular enginethat drives scholarly efforts and brings thoseefforts to a larger audience.