Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Update - Stories for Lovecraft Session

A very quick update here as Mark confirms the additional texts for the Gothic Reading Group's upcoming third session on H.P. Lovecraft.

Our next session is on the 20th of November and looks at a selection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft.

We've been taking suggestions on the actual texts and, with a week to go, it's time to confirm the two or three that we'll focus on in the group. For the benefit of anyone who isn't yet on the Gothic Reading Group mailing list (please email to be added) I'm posting that list here.

We'll definitely be looking at the classic "The Call of Cthulhu" (1928) and everyone should at least read this. It's not strictly speaking the first text in the 'Cthulhu Mythos' it spawned, but it's probably the first in which a sense of that 'universe' becomes visible. As a story "Cthulhu" (along with a lot of other Lovecraft) owes something to slightly early supernatural or 'cosmic' horror fiction, published by writers such as Arthur Machen or Algernon Blackwood at the end of the nineteenth-century and beginning of the twentieth (if you've a taste for this material I'd personally recommend something like Machen's "The Great God Pan") but it might be interesting to ask what it is about Lovecraft - and "Cthulhu" in particular - that becomes so definitive within this brand of horror. This isn't just monster fiction, right? And what is 'cosmic horror' anyway?

With the help of Kathleen (who, for the duration of this session, is to be referred to as Captain Cthulhu) I've picked two other stories with which to supplement "Cthulhu." We'll be looking at "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" (1936) as another, slightly different, text within the 'Cthulhu mythos.' "Innsmouth" is published eight years after than "Cthulhu" and is longer, giving us a chance to see that universe developing or to ask if it does in fact develop and constitute a universe (Lovecraft himself was a bit cagey about this). 

Our  final choice is "The Rats in the Walls" (1924). This isn't part of the 'Cthulhu mythos' and perhaps offers a slightly more traditional take on a few Gothic tropes and a chance to think about Lovecraft's attitude to those.

Those should offer us three complimentary and contrasting ways into Lovecraft. It isn't essential that members read all three ("Innsmouth" is longer than the other two) but so long as we've all looked at "The Call of Cthulhu" we'll be on the same tattered page. Of course, if anyone wants to bring other Lovecraft stories into the discussion (or simply leverage some existing Lovecraft experience) that would be fantastic. I've had some great suggestions for other stories from some members of the group and these would all be good places to go for further Lovecraft. They include: "The Outsider" (1926), "At the Mountains of Madness" (1931) and "The Colour Out of Space" (1927). You can pick up editions of Lovecraft quite cheaply and many of his works are also available as free e-texts. For those with Kindles and similar e-readers, I'd personally recommend a complete edition published by Delphi Classics and available via the Kindle store. It costs a couple of pounds and includes more or less everything Lovecraft ever wrote, organised into chronological orders and categories, plus some material written about him. 

So, that's our Lovecraft pinned down, tentacles and all. Watch this space though as we'll soon be posting a great blog by GRG member Richard Gough Thomas, covering the background to Lovecraft and his mythos as well as offering some thoughts on a recent adaptations and modern editions. It's an excellent post and will be up as soon as I've formatted it for the website. In the meantime, if you haven't already, check out Kathleen's post on thinking about Lovecraft and his materials in relation to the Gothic!

Mark Bennett is a PhD student in the School of English working on eighteenth-century Gothic and travel-writing. He first encountered C(K)thulu via Metallica.

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