The Weird Tale

Wildside Press LLC
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The leading critic of supernatural literature here examines the roots of the "weird tale" (as Lovecraft called it) through detailed examinations of five "founding fathers" of the genre: Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, and H.P. Lovecraft. The result is a thorough study of the art, craft, philosophy, and aesthetics of an enduring genre of fantastic literature.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Wildside Press LLC
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Published on
Jan 1, 2003
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Pages
308
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ISBN
9780809531226
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / Books & Reading
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Irish writer Lord Dunsany (1878-1957) has suffered a regrettable decline in critical esteem. Although one of the most popular and critically acclaimed writers of the early 20th century, he seems to have fallen out of fashion with both the Irish critical community and with enthusiasts of fantasy literature. But Dunsany was one of the critical figures in modern fantasy, a significant influence on Tolkien, Le Guin, and other writers. His own work, written over a 50-year span and covering nearly every literary mode (short story, novel, play, essay, poem), is itself rich with meaning. In this, the first academic study of Dunsany's work, Joshi establishes that Dunsany has a remarkable grasp of the symbolic function of fantasy, and that he used fantasy, horror, and the supernatural as metaphors for his most deeply held convictions on life and society. His entire work is unified by a single overriding theme--the need for human reunification with the natural world--even though this theme takes on many different forms (e.g., scorn of industrialization, demonstration of the moral superiority of animals over human beings, rumination on the extinction of the human race). The course of Dunsany's long career--proceeding from early short stories and plays about the edge of the world to full-length novels to tales of comic fantasy (such as the popular Jorkens stories) to sensitive works about Ireland--reveals a writer constantly searching for new ways to express his central philosophic and aesthetic conceptions. Joshi's volume may best be described as an exercise in literary excavation--an attempt to unearth an unjustly forgotten writer and to show that his work is in need of further study and analysis.
The author writes:

This book began as an expansion of my essay, "H. P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West," in The Weird Tale, but very quickly became something quite different, to the degree that the two works have little save the title in common. I have always been interested in Lovecraft the philosopher, and in my Starmont Reader’s Guide to Lovecraft (1982) I attempted a very compressed account of his philosophical views. To treat so complex a thinker as Lovecraft in a few pages was obviously untenable, even though I think those few pages at least convey the unity of his thought -- perhaps better than this fuller study does. One reviewer, however, was correct in noting that I did not sufficiently integrate Lovecraft’s thought and his fiction, and I have now attempted to remedy the failing.

I am still not convinced that I have really written one rather than two books here. Does Lovecraft’s fiction really depend upon his philosophy? I wrestle with this question further in my introduction, but here I can note that I had great difficulty deciding upon the proper structure for this book. I deal with four principal facets of Lovecraft's philosophy -- metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, and politics -- in Part I, and those same facets as applied to the fiction in Part II. It might have made more sense to juxtapose the corresponding chapters of each part, but I finally determined that this would be both methodologically and practically unsound; methodologically for reasons explained in the introduction, and practically because it would fail to demonstrate the interconnectedness of Lovecraft’s thought and because in Part II I frequently rely upon conceptions expressed throughout the whole of Part I.

In Part I, the author deals with four principal facets of Lovecraft's philosophy: metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, and politics. In Part II, he studies those same facets as applied to the fiction.

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