"That is not dead which can eternal lie": horror and terror in the fiction of H. P. Lovecraft
LE3 .A278 2006
Master of Arts
English & Theatre Studies
In 'Supernatural Horror in Literature', H. P. Lovecraft suggests that weird fiction evokes fear through "cosmic horror," a blending of horror and terror characterized by a profound dread of external forces and a collapse of the laws that humanity perceives to govern nature. His own works, however, are more ambiguous. By employing the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, psychologists operating contemporaneously with Lovecraft, it becomes apparent that Lovecraft evokes fear through the return of the repressed, both at the personal and cosmic levels. This return of the repressed typically relies on ethnocentric and anthropocentric concerns to evoke horror, but the author's growing engagement with the philosophy of cosmic indifferentism led him to (haltingly) reject such concerns, thus divesting the repressed of its power to horrify. In its place, Lovecraft's later fiction relies on the sublime fear of a cosmos too vast to be understood. The external forces emerge not as sources of horror, but as avenues to appreciating a non-anthropocentric, mechanistic universe. Although Lovecraft died at the peak of his creativity and his philosophies never attained an unambiguous unity, it seems that, in practice, Lovecraft's cosmic fiction does not conform to the ideal of cosmic horror espoused by his treatise, but rather tends toward the characteristics of sublime terror proposed by Ann Radcliffe a century earlier.
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