Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Comparative Literature

First Advisor

Jeanne Garane

Abstract

Weird fiction writer H. P. Lovecraft captured the zeitgeist of the modernist movement, despite his association with popular fiction. Lovecraft’s post-mortem climb from the margins of the American literary system to its center is indicative of his influence on “mass” and “elite” cultures alike in the second half of the twentieth century and onward. Lovecraft’s influence is not restricted to American culture, but it spread like an airborne virus to other cultures, and to France in particular. His imaginative weird fiction, a unique combination of horror and science fiction, has been translated into more than 25 languages from Bengali to Serbo-Croatian. The French were the first to translate Lovecraft and, according to S. T. Joshi, they hold provocative and insightful ideas and interpretations about him. Their interest in Lovecraft and their philosophical tradition have lead them to be the assumed champions of Lovecraft. Due to their unique differences, how does a comparison of Lovecraft’s image in French culture inform the modern American Lovecraft scholar and ehtusiast? This question is important because the modern American Lovecraft scholarship is primarily monolingual, and therefore cannot fully benefit from the excellent scholarship that is produced in the French language. The goal of this dissertation is to trace Lovecraft’s literary and cultural history in France, from its beginning to present-day. This lineage will be traced through an application of translation polysystems literary theory as described by Itamar Evan-Zohar and Gideon Toury. This system is effective in offering a conceptual model for the structures of literary systems on the micro (national) and the macro (world) level. Regarding the world literary system, the French have gained a particularly dominant position. Therefore, if the French have been leaders of Lovecraftian scholarship, how much of their interpretation of Lovecraft is visible in the American interpretation of Lovecraft? Ultimately, despite the literary influence of France on world cultural systems, polysystems literary theories explain the particular role that translation plays in the balance of literary domination.

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