An Integral Analysis of the Life and Works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft (1890-1937)
Horror fiction acts as a reflection of social crises and can therefore be utilized within sociological research to understand sociocultural change. As contemporary horror fiction writer Stephen King (1981/2010) suggests “we make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones” (13). Hence, the purpose of this thesis is to employ the theoretical and methodological insights of renowned sociologist Pitirim Aleksandrovič Sorokin (1889-1968) to conceptualize the biography and works of horror fiction icon Howard Philips Lovecraft (1890-1937), as a sociocultural phenomenon. Moreover, it aims to elucidate the enduring relevance of Sorokin’s analytical sociological contribution. These two writers are bona fide creative geniuses, who had a meaningful and significant influence on a plurality of scientific, artistic, and humanistic fields. While they are essentially diametrically opposed personas, when taken together, their perspectives become a harmonious dynamic dyad, or a unity and “the reconciliation of opposites” (Sorokin 1963: 374). As such, this thesis will concern itself with the central research question: How might Lovecraft's life and creative output, conceptualized as a continuation of his weltanschauung, be used to demonstrate, in his ideological, material, and behavioural culture, the sociocultural shifts as identified by Sorokin? Therefore, in order to accomplish this research objective, I will be drawing on several biographies on Lovecraft and his fiction, employing Sorokin's "Integral Method and Methodology" as an analytical heuristic. Thus, I will argue that Lovecraft is successful in his pursuit of genuine creative expression and, indeed, achieves an integral perspective. The study consists of 6 chapters. In chapter 1, a brief introduction will provide a summary of the substantive elements of Lovecraft and Sorokin perspectives. Chapter 2 will provide an overview of Sorokin’s perspective, regarding sociology as a generalizing discipline, which will be applied to phenomenon of horror, demonstrating the continued relevance of Sorokin's understanding. In chapter 3, Sorokin’s sociological theoretical perspective will be described and then united with Lovecraft’s fictional theoretical topologies, producing a theoretical synthesis. Chapter 4 will conceptualize the basic tenants of Sorokin’s “Integral Method and Methodology” and explain how it will be applied to Lovecraft, as a means of conducting an integral analysis of his life and works. In chapter 5, the analysis itself, will chart Lovecraft's life trajectory, as he forms the basis of his ideological, material, and behavioural culture, with his works being discharged into the human universe. Finally, chapter 6 will help bring my discussion to a close, summarizing the results of the analysis, and pointing to a few fruitful potential paths for future research. In sum, this work will shine light on the profound relationships between historical crisis, modern crisis, and their relation to sociocultural change.
Historical Sociology, Horror Literature, Social Crisis, Social Theory and Methodology, Theoretical and Methodological Integration, Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Cosmicism, Cthulhu Mythos, Pitirim A. Sorokin, Integralism, Biography, Sociocultural Change
Master of Arts (M.A.)