Staying with Lovecraft’s Trouble: Affirmation as an Alternative Approach to Lovecraft’s Legacy of Racism
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This thesis maintains that scholarship at large, and Lovecraft studies specifically, have not been able to formulate an effective approach to Lovecraft’s legacy of racism. The most often seen approaches—dismissal of the entirety of Lovecraft’s thought and work, apologism of his racism, and the justification of his racism on aesthetic grounds—suffer from disastrous flaws, leading me to proclaim their bankruptcy. Yet Donna Haraway, who takes the dismissal approach, lends the tools for an alternative approach to Lovecraft’s racism: an affirmative one, based on her notion of “staying with the trouble.” I turn to post-Lovecraftian fiction—work in Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos,” his shared fictional universe—to formulate this affirmative approach, focusing on Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom (2008) and Ruthanna Emrys’ The Litany of Earth (2012), comparing them to the Lovecraftian originals which they subvert. In the process, I refute Graham Harman’s reading of Lovecraft, formulating an opposing approach based on a bricolage of Harawayan thought; affirmative notions such as concern, relationality, transformation, and being present; and poststructural monster theory. The result is an approach which stays with Lovecraft’s trouble, because it does not fail to formulate a politics—as opposed to Harman’s implicit reiteration of Western, white, racist biopolitics—and promises a way to go ahead with the legacy of a virulently racist man in our contemporary cultural moment: a time of unprecedented violence, oppression, and economic and ecological devastation, in which the question of who is human and who is not has become urgent yet again.