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  • 2020PaccosiPhd

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Reading the Lovecraftian: Interpretive communities and textual failures

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Valentino Paccosi
Publication date2020
Number of pages319
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The adjective Lovecraftian, denoting a resemblance to the fictional works of H.
P. Lovecraft, has become increasingly visible in twenty-first century popular culture, yet remains ineffable. This thesis establishes the main elements of the Lovecraftian, designating it as a mode and showing how it is constructed through the process of reading and sharing texts.

While most studies have focused on Lovecraft’s fictions and his life, this thesis
determines the main elements of the Lovecraftian mode by exploring how the author’s texts have been received and elaborated upon by readers. In doing so, the study also questions the validity of canon formation, emphasising the freedom of readers and recognising their essential role in defining the Lovecraftian.

Using Stanley Fish’s concept of interpretive communities, the thesis examines
how a set of ‘Lovecraftian failures’ have provided readers the necessary tools to
produce new Lovecraftian texts in media such as film, TV and graphic novels. Drawing on the theories of Roland Barthes and Mikhail Bakhtin, key concepts are proposed: language failure, failed carnival, the absolute obscene and the festive hoax. Language failure uses Barthes’ concept of writerly to define the nature of Lovecraftian monsters; failed carnival shows the relationship between Bakhtin’s carnival laughter and the Lovecraftian, demonstrating how this element has become one of the main traits of the horror film genre. The concept of the absolute obscene defines the elements that lie outside of the boundaries of the failed carnival, and the festive hoax illustrates how Lovecraftian texts can produce metafictional readings that can also involve the fictional figure of the author, H. P. Lovecraft. Failure in the Lovecraftian can then be perceived
as productive and offers the possibility to open up new ways of reading horror and other popular cultural texts.