Lovecraftian Gothic

w h pugmire esq

Well-Known Member
Jan 11, 2009
I linger within ye shadows of Sesqua Valley, dream
I am rereading an excellent essay, "A Gothic Approach to Lovecraft's Sense of Outsideness," by Kirk Sigurdson (Lovecraft Studies 28), as part of an intense personal study of Lovecraft's "The Haunter of the Dark." I have long felt that "Haunter" is Lovecraft's Gothic masterpiece, but now I am uncertain that I actually understand the Literary meaning of Gothic and how it differs from other terms such as "the fantastic," "the uncanny," &c. Frustratingly, "The Haunter of the Dark" is not discuss'd in Sigurdson's essay. My linking it to Gothic literature is that it contains the haunted edifice, like unto the fantastic castles of an old Gothic novel, it has the victim who is in dire peril (and indeed is extinguished at the story's conclusion), and it has the cliche of the bolt of lightning. Am I wrong in thinking the story is an example of the Gothic in Lovecraft's writing? Are there other tales in which the Gothic is prevalent? :confused:

j d worthington

Well-Known Member
May 9, 2006
There are certainly Gothic elements there, as you mention. The Starry Wisdom church is a lovely adaptation of the Gothic castle of yore, for instance. And The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and "The Rats in the Walls" are certainly among Lovecraft's Gothic masterpieces. The Gothic influenced him in a number of ways, particularly that idea of the Burkean sublime.

So I don't think you're off too much there, if at all, Wilum. Gothic is a term which has been given a rather wide range of meanings, but if you'd like a fairly good look at its definition in regard to the literary movement and its legacy, try looking up Jack C. and Barbara Wolf's Ghosts, Castles, and Victims (an excellent anthology of Gothic tales and excerpts from Gothic novels) and reading the introduction there, as well as Patricia Skarda and Nora Crowe Jaffe's The Evil Image, for a bit broader look (e.g., this includes Stephen Crane's "The Monster", as well as Flanner O'Connor's "The River", and another sterling introduction). And, of course The Gothic Flame, by Sir Devendra P. Varma. For the Burkean aspect, "A Philosophical Inquiry" is, of course, the best source:

Burke, Edmund. 1909–14. On the Sublime and Beautiful. Vol. 24, Part 2. The Harvard Classics