Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft

Disclaimer: The information on this page is provided as an overview. The course outline, readings, and assignments may be subject to change in the final syllabus as determined by the lecturer and/or preceptors.

What inspired Lovecraft’s imagination? How has Lovecraft’s work impacted popular culture today?

In tales such as “The Call of Cthulhu” and At the Mountains of Madness, H.P. Lovecraft – the disciple of Poe and the champion of the Weird – pioneered a new kind of fiction. Fueled by an astronomer’s insights and an antiquarian’s aesthetic, Lovecraft turned his readers’ focus “from man and his little world and his gods, to the stars and the black and unplumbed gulfs of intergalactic space,” leading author and critic Fritz Leiber, Jr. to dub him “A Literary Copernicus.” More than seventy-five years after Lovecraft’s death, his path-breaking work is more popular and influential than ever. Join award-winning scholar Dr. Amy H. Sturgis as she explores Lovecraft’s stories and the meaning behind them, the shared universe of his mythos, and the lasting impact of his cosmic vision on the contemporary landscapes of literature and popular culture.

Course Schedule

Week 1 – Traditions and Foundations

  • “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe
  • “The Yellow Sign” by Robert W. Chambers

Week 2 – Modern Masters of the Weird

  • “The White People” by Arthur Machen
  • “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

Week 3 – “The Essence of Horror” / Beginnings

  • “Dagon”
  • “The Statement of Randolph Carter”
  • “Beyond the Wall of Sleep”
  • “The Picture in the House”

Week 4 – “More Hideous Than Realities” / Theory and Defense

  • “Herbert West: Reanimator”
  • “The Hound”
  • “The Shunned House”

Week 5 – “Black Seas of Infinity” / The Seeds of the Mythos

  • “The Unnameable”
  • “The Call of Cthulhu”
  • “The Silver Key”

Week 6 – “A Terrible Movement Alive in the World” / Science and Antiquarianism

  • The Case of Charles Dexter Ward

Week 7 – “Beyond All Nature As We Know It” / The Cosmic Turn

  • “The Rats in the Walls”
  • “The Colour Out of Space”

Week 8 – “Undimensioned and To Us Unseen” / Analyses and Adaptations

  • “The Dunwich Horror”
  • “The Whisperer in Darkness”

Week 9 – “This Untrodden and Unfathomed Austral World” / Scientific Realism

  • At the Mountains of Madness

Week 10 – “The Idea of Wormy Decay” / The Lovecraft Circle

  • “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”
  • “The Dreams in the Witch House”

Week 11 – “Less Rational and Commonplace Theories” / Disciples and Descendants

  • “The Shadow Out of Time”
  • “The Haunter of the Dark”

Week 12 – The Lovecraft Legacy

  • “The Barrens” by F. Paul Wilson
  • “Houses Under the Sea” by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “The Crevasse” by Dale Bailey and Nathan Ballingrud

Recommended Text

Note: Alternate editions of H.P. Lovecraft’s collected works may be accepted in consultation with the preceptor (e.g. Penguin editions edited by S.T. Joshi).

Additional titles will be made available online.

Course History

This course has been offered in the following semesters.

Spring 2019Dr. Gabriel Schenk & Dr. Maggie Parke
Summer 2015Jessica O’Brien

Course artwork adapted from an original illustration by Elia Fernández. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

H.P. Lovecraft Literary Copernicus

This course explores the work of H.P. Lovecraft and his impact on literature and popular culture. Students will study the foundations of Lovecraft’s writing, the meaning behind his works, along with his cosmic vision and legacy.

START: January 14, 2019

DURATION: 12 Weeks

ID: LITB 5306