Date of Award
Master of Arts in English
College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences
American Literature, Literature, Modern Literature
In the early part of the twentieth century, the Modernist literary movement was moving into what was arguably its peak, and authors we would now unquestioningly consider part of the Western literary canon were creating some of their greatest works. Coinciding with the more mainstream Modernist movement, there emerged a unique sub- genre of fiction on the pages of magazines with titles like Weird Tales and Astounding Stories. While modernist writers; including Marcel Proust, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, and T.S. Elliot – among others – were achieving acclaim for their works; in the small corner of unique weird fiction there was one eccentric, bookish writer who rose above his own peers: Howard Phillips Lovecraft. I would argue that within the works of Lovecraft there are glimpses of modernism. Lovecraft was aware of and wrote with an understanding of the concerns of the more mainstream literature of the Modernists, and he situated his narratives and stories within a modernist framework that reflected this. Most importantly, it is the way in which Lovecraft used science and religion, and blended myth with material culture, that Lovecraft most reflects modernist leanings. It’s important to make the distinction that he is not part and parcel a Modernist, but he was influenced by, interacted with, and showed modernist tendencies. There is a subtlety to the argument being made here in that Lovecraft was not Joyce, he was not Elliot, he was most definitely not Hemingway, and his fiction was by no means what we would consider traditionally modernist. In 2005 he received inclusion in the Library of America series and, although this isn’t an indicator or guarantee of inclusion in a large canon, the argument that he in no way had a discourse, awareness, or did not contribute to what would be more properly termed `Modernist’ warrants consideration when properly situating Lovecraft within early-twentieth century literature. In the ways in which he subverted and changed what previously constituted horror fiction, Lovecraft holds a liminal place in the Modernist perspective.
Crowley, Dale Allen, "Eldritch Horrors: the Modernist Liminality of H.P. Lovecraft's Weird Fiction" (2017). ETD Archive. 981.