Seminar: Literary Theory Applied to H.P. Lovecraft-Notably “the Beast in the Cave”

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Buena VistA university|
A Theoretical Analysis of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Beast in the Cave”| Senior Seminar|
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Cory J. Dahlstrom|
7/28/2012|

H.P. Lovecraft has been called “one of the best, worst authors of our century.” In the following paper, I will explore his earliest work, “The Beast in the Cave,” a story written when he was around fifteen years old. I will explore its meanings and context through the lenses of reader response, deconstructionism, new historicism, and psychoanalytic analysis. Through these lenses of literary theory I hope to derive further meaning and understanding of this favored story as well as dismiss some criticism that has been leveled against H.P. Lovecraft. Each theoretical view has been defined by personal opinion and expert testimony and broken into separate sections; each examining the story from the theory described. The final section I will bring the work together and explain its symbolism and meaning using a smattering of all theories discussed so the reader can walk away with new admiration for this often misunderstood author.|

Cory J. Dahlstrom
Betsy Goet
English 491
28 February 2013
Seminar: Literary theory applied to H.P. Lovecraft-notably “The Beast in the Cave” Although not as universally popular throughout the academia world of classical literature, the fictitious prose of Howard Philip Lovecraft, an early 20th Century American Author, is as influential to English as the works of contemporaries Mark Twain or Edgar Allen Poe. Lovecraft defined his own unique mythology that has been ever expanding under artists and authors inspired by the atheist views presented in the genre weird fiction in which Lovecraft is the crowned proprietor. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” Is the quintessential element in understanding the works of H.P. Lovecraft in his own the words (Lovecraft, H. P. Supernatural Horror in Literature). Even when wrote with such debatable simplicity, it is an excellent self-description of Lovecraft’s writing style and a backdrop to understanding his most re-occurring theme. Since the time of his death, over seventy-five years ago, H.P. Lovecraft has been criticized with iron teeth or not at all, yet his work continues to spread vast influence over a subculture and will continue to do so for years to come. I, being almost awestruck at the lack of resource material covering theoretical criticism of Lovecraft, will begin a long journey of my own studying the man, the literature, and the meaning of it all. I hope to provide my own readers a concise and definitive answer to why Lovecraft is deserving of his literary crown. If you have neither read nor heard of H.P. Lovecraft, then you are not alone. The man, whose fiction explores the occult and forbidden knowledge, has in his own rite blurred his immortality into obscurity. There are various factors that account for the lack of available resources covering the history or the writings of Lovecraft; these factors include the lack of surviving stories and essays, which in part had been published only in small, amateur magazines and journals. The aforementioned author made very little money in his lifetime in part due to his stringent sincerity to the strange, science fiction, horror mythos that he fashioned, despite prostituting his writing to fit the demand of the public. This devotion may have isolated him in his lifetime, but has helped stir fanatic admiration post humorously. My introduction to the literature of H.P. Lovecraft came in the form of brief comments about his work on a late-night television talk-show. The host and his guest were discussing how the fiction of Lovecraft helped influence the latest horror movie. With that little nod from Hollywood, I decided to read the first short story of Lovecraft’s I could find. “The Beast in the Cave,” quickly became my...
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