Date of Award

1992

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in English

Department

English

Abstract

Although Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937) is generally regarded as one of the world's finest writers of horror and science fiction, his work has received little critical attention by mainstream critics. This study takes Lovecraft out of the shadows of literature by shedding light upon his work through a structural analysis of fifteen of his stories. This analysis shows that Lovecraft's fiction, while it may appear fantastic, expresses early twentieth century naturalism in a cosmic context.

Part One subjects four of Lovecraft's best known stories to a detailed structural analysis using the theories of Roland Barthes and Gerard Genette to isolate Lovecraft's major themes and narrative techniques. Part Two defines the horror genre as Lovecraft saw it and explores his unique combination of science fiction and the weird tale, which has created a new kind of folktale based upon scientific mythology. Finally, Part Three explores Lovecraft's vision of truth, and how he employs fantasy as a means of understanding reality.

The dissertation concludes with an evaluation of Lovecraft in relation to the canon of twentieth century American literature, and explains how his writing runs counter to the type of work privileged by modern critics. The structuralist approach demonstrates that much of what are mistakenly perceived to be flaws in Lovecraft's work are really essential components of his overall theme and meaning.

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