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Supernatural Horror in Literature
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message 1: by Dan (last edited Oct 06, 2017 03:34PM) (new)

Dan | 329 comments I wanted to place this post in the Challenges section, but when I attempted it I received the message, "this group has no challenges."

I have an idea for what I think is a fun challenge for those who want to participate. The challenge is to take H. P. Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature and read all of the works Lovecraft mentions in the book. Then we can post here as to whether we agree with Lovecraft's assessment of or comments upon the work in question, and why or why not?

I would like to make a few points about why this challenge is worthwhile even though the rough consensus from a February 2015 discussion was not to do challenges in this group:

1) E. F. Bleiler says of this book: "Here the most important American supernaturalist since Poe formulated the aesthetics of the story of supernatural horror, summarized the known range of such fiction in masterly fashion, offering a reading list and a point of view for an entire generation of authors and readers." By reading this book ourselves, grappling with the works Lovecraft refers to, and Lovecraft's comments on them, we can make of this challenge an academic course of study that will thoroughly ground us in the history of horror up to 1927.

2) Since Lovecraft wrote his essay (or book) in 1927, most, if not all, of the works discussed are in the public domain and thus available for free. Who is against free?

3) There is no time limit I am placing on this challenge. It's not a race. Approach it however you wish. Personally, my approach is going to be lackadaisical and meandering at best. It may take me a couple years to complete it. Others may want to speed through. One beauty of the challenge is you can set the time terms for yourself.

4) I don't know about you, but I have other things I want to read at higher priority, like finishing up the Samuels work from a couple months ago and starting on this month's intriguing-looking Tartarus Press book. But sometimes between modern books, it's refreshing to go back and hit a classic short story or two before starting the next modern challenge. Like chewing on a wafer between imbibing glasses at a wine-tasting, I think reading an old Lord Dunsany, Blackwood, or Poe tale can be cleansing to the horror palate.

Lovecraft's essay was originally written between 1924 and 1927, and published in 1927 in The Recluse, a folio-sized magazine. Lovecraft revised it in 1933-34, but the final text did not appear until the posthumous 1939 publication of The Outsider And Others and then in separate book publication in 1945. Bleiler goes on to describe Lovecraft's book as an "accomplished tour de force" in which "very few of Lovecraft's judgments have been overturned, even in mainstream criticism." Will we be overturning some?

There is a wikipedia page about the book:

Lovecraft's book is in the public domain:

These maps display Lovecraft's subject matter at a glance:

My introduction now concluded, let's start the challenge off with a list of the works Lovecraft mentions in Chapter 1, Introduction. This chapter is Lovecraft's definition of what comprises weird fiction, what should be omitted, and what must be included in the field. Six specific works are mentioned, but five of these are discussed in more detail later in Lovecraft's book. Therefore, at this point we have only one tale to read for Chapter 1.

1) W. W. Jacobs "The Monkey's Paw"

Let's read the story. Then we will need to read Lovecraft's Chapter 1, not only for its own sake, but to understand the context in which the story is brought up, and thus understand why Lovecraft mentions it. Then we can review it if we wish for GoodReads, but also answer the questions we will ask of all these works: Do you agree with Lovecraft's assessment (implied or otherwise) of or comments upon the work in question? Why or why not?

Here is a link to The Monkey's Paw:

Randolph (us227381) | 2 comments I’ll see if I can setup a proper challenge for this but presently I’m 1000 miles from home and only iPhone and tablet capable.

message 3: by Dan (last edited Oct 07, 2017 03:51AM) (new)

Dan | 329 comments Here is my review of "The Monkey's Paw" and how it relates to Lovecraft's chapter one:

I wonder if I'm missing anything important. Someone else's take, either of what Lovecraft is saying about the work, or whether the work conforms to what he says, may well be different than mine.

How close is Lovecraft's definition of "weird fiction" presented in chapter one to our group's definition of "literary horror"? Is it the same or are there important differences? Can everything published by Tartarus Press meet Lovecraft's definition of "weird fiction"?

message 4: by Marie-Therese (new)

Marie-Therese (mariethrse) | 550 comments This sounds like a most intriguing (and instructive!) challenge and I will participate, albeit slowly and in a "lackadaisical and meandering" fashion ;-)

message 5: by Neutrino (new)

Neutrino Increasing | 62 comments For audiobook fans, there is a collection on Audible that contains a goodish number of short stories mentioned in Supernatural Horror in Literature.

message 6: by Dan (last edited Oct 07, 2017 07:53PM) (new)

Dan | 329 comments For those (like me) who have now read the short story from Chapter One and are ready to see what Chapter Two has on offer, I present the list of the 17 works Lovecraft mentions therein. Keep in mind, many of these works are ancient, some even written BCE. Lovecraft believes the roots of horror (Chapter Two is titled "The Dawn of the Horror Tale") run deep into our past. What surprises me is that he can mention books, like the first on the list, that I've not only not read, but have never even heard of!

Note: I counted and it just became apparent to me that Lovecraft mentions some 400-500 works (a preliminary estimate) during the course of his book (and not always by title, but sometimes just by reference). For that reason, as we go through the list we may collectively decide not to read some of the works, particularly those which Lovecraft merely mentions in passing and that are not written in the genre of weird fiction. I hope you agree that we can settle for familiarity with these. I will leave these unbolded, thus making them optional for challenge purposes.

If someone would like to help me track down useful online sources for the really obscure works, I'd appreciate it.

2) The Book of Enoch
3) Claviculae of Solomon
4) Sabine Baring-Gould, Curious Myths of the Middle Ages
5) Petronius, Satyricon (sections 62-63)
6) Apuleius, The Golden Ass
7) letter of Pliny the Younger to Sura
8) Phlegon, On Wonderful Events, "Philinnion and Machates"
9) Proclus, "Philinnion and Machates"
10) Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Bride of Corinth”
11) Washington Irving, “German Student”
12) Beowulf
13) Sir Thomas Malory, Morte d’Arthur
14) Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus
15) William Shakespeare, Macbeth
16) William Shakespeare, Hamlet
17) Daniel Defoe, “The Apparition of Mrs. Veal”
18) Tobias Smollett, The Adventures of Ferdinand Count Fathom

message 7: by Dan (new)

Dan | 329 comments Neutrino wrote: "For audiobook fans, there is a collection on Audible that contains a goodish number of short stories mentioned..."

A well-voiced horror story can sometimes be even better than reading one. Thanks for making me aware of this.

Marie-Therese wrote: "This sounds like a most intriguing (and instructive!) challenge and I will participate, albeit slowly and in a "lackadaisical and meandering" fashion ;-)"

Fantastic! I'm looking forward to reading what you have to say.

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul | 75 comments Interesting that was unable to appreciate Hoffmann in this context.
"The Sandman" certainly isn't lacking in "the exalted moments of stark, breathless terror", and he wrote several other pieces that work as mainly horror stories, short nameless ghost story from The Serapion Brethren Volume I being one example. Even those stories of his that aren't remembered for being horror stories, have such qualities: like Ignaz Denner/The Forrest Warden.
Weird, as he can praise "Undine", or recognize nightmarish in the gloomy descriptions of Egypt from Gautier's "One of Cleopatra's Nights".

message 9: by Dan (last edited Oct 07, 2017 08:08AM) (new)

Dan | 329 comments Judging from Lovecraft's description of Undine I now see a source for one of my favorite films, Ondine. I look forward to eventually reaching Undine in the course of our reading.

message 10: by Dan (last edited Oct 07, 2017 07:53PM) (new)

Dan | 329 comments 2) The Book of Enoch.

There is a wikipedia page describing what it is about:

I like the following translation of the text because it is complete in pdf format and written for the most part in modern English:

This is a fairly interesting read at times. It picks up a bit starting with Chapter 6 where the angels looked at the daughters of men and lusted. I think it important to try to read this as weird fiction, as Lovecraft did, and to overlook the text's scriptural roots. Otherwise one might become offended.

Here is my review of the book. I am apparently the only GoodReader so far to tackle the book via this particular translation:

message 11: by Neutrino (new)

Neutrino Increasing | 62 comments Might be relevant to this topic (though, this is only for those with sufficiently deep pockets):
Matt Cardin's giant encyclopedia of horror literature

message 12: by Paul (new)

Paul | 75 comments Neutrino wrote: "Might be relevant to this topic (though, this is only for those with sufficiently deep pockets):
Matt Cardin's giant encyclopedia of horror literature"

Bloody hell. Textbook prices sure ain't improving.

message 13: by Dan (new)

Dan | 329 comments I wonder why Horror: A Literary History is not better known. It has been out for a year now.

Randolph (us227381) | 2 comments Because it’s only available as a hardcover in the US.

message 15: by Neutrino (new)

Neutrino Increasing | 62 comments If nothing else, at least it is far more affordable than the Cardin book.

message 16: by Dan (last edited Oct 21, 2017 11:45AM) (new)

Dan | 329 comments I read the second book of this challenge (list posted in message 6 above) and was not impressed. Here's my review:

Whatever you do, don't pay for this crap! If you're curious, purview it on-line here:

Claviculae of Solomon is an early "grimoire", the technical term for a spell book. Mathers wrote a reportedly fairly accurate translation (from Latin and Hebrew) of a Renaissance work. There is a flimsy fictional structure sewn into the narrative in that this book is supposedly the lore ancient Solomon passed on to his Hebrew-sounding son Roboam. In actuality, the book is a how-to book for performing magic, complete with tables and charts.

I read something similar to it once when I picked up a book on the "science" of chiropractic. This nerve connects to this vertebra, ends in this location, and affects this organ, etc. So, says the chiroquacker, as he clicks his little clicker and caresses such-and-such x-rayed nerve-ending in order to magically, I mean scientifically, cure, I mean adjust, the mark, I mean patient. I have no doubt this Renaissance grimoire suckered people in its time at about the same rate chiropractors' grimoires sucker the blissfully ignorant in ours.

The book, of course, has no value unless one is an author wanting to do research for fictional uses. I presume this was the use Lovecraft made of it when he says in his work, Supernatural Horror in Literature, that the book contained "traditions whose echoes extend obscurely even to the present time." Even then, for all that, it is a surprisingly dull read.

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