New Adventures in the Unexplored and Unexpected: (Re)Introducing “Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft”

H.P. Lovecraft Literary Copernicus

By Bronwyn Rivera

Have you ever wondered what Cthulhu, Stranger Things, and the Elder Scrolls have in common? Or how to approach problematic authors who wrote beloved texts? Or perhaps, in an age of unrest and unpredictability, you want to know how characters cope with circumstances far beyond themselves. If so, please consider joining us for the Fall 2023 semester as Drs. Maggie Parke and Gabriel Schenk proudly offer a new take on a classic course: “Literary Copernicus: The Cosmic Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.”

In the spirit of Lovecraftian lore, this class boasts an intriguing history. Visiting Lecturer Dr. Amy H. Sturgis led the first run for Mythgard Institute in 2015. Then it joined Signum University’s MA program course list in 2019. This year, Drs. Parke and Schenk will team-teach five new, live lectures during Weeks 1, 2, and 12, reflecting the ongoing criticisms and responses to Lovecraft. Dr. Schenk says, “It’s pretty simple that [he] thought and said some terrible things during his lifetime. But several exciting things are happening in his area of scholarship now. Diverse, marginalized people, people who Lovecraft didn’t like, are taking what he gave us–cosmic horror–and turning it into their own creation. By blending our content with Dr. Sturgis’s, we want to discuss these topics while matching her great interaction and energy. We’re so thankful to have her blessing to do this.” 

The course’s required materials will be updated as well. Students will examine Lovecraft and his influence through short stories, TV, film, audio drama, and video and tabletop games. Dr. Parke also looks forward to exploring the relationship between authors, adaptation, and current culture through Color Out of Space (2019) and Lovecraft Country (2020). “We’re assigning Lovecraft’s essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” for Week 1, too,” she adds. “It’s an excellent way to introduce the course and Lovecraft. He’s way more in people’s consciences today, so even if you’ve never read him, you likely know of him from something else. And once you read the original sources, you’ll make so many connections between fantasy and science fiction. There’s also a chance you might find yourself speaking in a romantic, storytelling sort of way and sounding obnoxious to everyone around you. But that’s great! This whole class is an appreciation of something totally different and weird, yet so tangential to everything else we do at Signum.”

Despite these changes, manageable workloads remain a priority for Drs. Parke and Schenk. The new lectures will be recorded and archived for students to watch as their schedules allow, and although reading is a major part of this course, Dr. Schenk points out that Lovecraft’s texts are not long: “Each story is different and has to be thought of as its own separate thing, but he didn’t write much. We’ll also ask you to write two papers and give at least one oral presentation. This is not an inaccessible course, so don’t let the phrase “Literary Copernicus” intimidate you. Cosmic horror is for everyone. It’s the sense that there is a greater universe out there and we’re doomed, even if we try to build our defenses. This can render you helpless, or make you think about how to deal with enormous issues.” 

Cthulhu waits dreaming and the Fall 2023 term begins Monday, August 28th. Preceptor sessions will be scheduled according to the availability of the first students to register. In the meantime, we leave you with a brief teaser for the course from Dr. Schenk himself, sitting beside Lovecraft’s grave in the author’s hometown of Providence, Rhode Island.

To distract you from thinking about transdimensional tentacled dancers, we present this cat.  Lennon is a very chill, laid-back boy who lets the kids carry him around like a teddy bear.

A tan colored cat giving a sassy look - let's be honest, all cats give sassy looks - to someone outside the picture. They are resting comfortably on a grey blanket.