Edited By Agnieszka Lowczanin and Dorota Wisniewska
From Faustus to Azatoth: H. P. Lovecraft’s “Dreams in the Witch-House” (of Modernity)
Lovecraft’s entire oeuvre is structured along a typological axis, motifs recur from tale to tale with next to no difference except for the characters. The locale is predominantly New England, with the imaginary Arkham as a central venue for the supernatural occurrences. The protagonists’ professions are frequently students or professors of anthropology, mathematics, natural history, possibly detectives or random people from the upper-classes who dabble in the esoteric arts only to find out about the existence of secrets far beyond their human capacity for understanding. The supernatural beings that the characters encounter form a complete and unified pantheon of ghastly gods (Botting 159): Azathoth, Yog-Sottoth or Shub-Niggurath, of whose existence the doomed investigators learn from the cursed Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred or Unaussprechlichen Kulten by von Juntz. The moment Lovecraft’s dramatis personae become involved with the secret cults and aeon-old mysteries, their lives or at best their sanities are inevitably forfeit. In these respects “The Dreams in the Witch-House” (1932) is no different.
The short story has a rather occluded origin. When Lovecraft first finished the draft of what at an early stage was entitled “The Dreams of Walter Gilman,” he was so uncertain of its literary merit that he sought out some of his colleagues’ opinions about it. Although on the whole the response he elicited was encouraging, it was Arnold Derleth who seems to have taken issue with the story. Derleth must have lambasted Lovecraft’s work quite openly, since the...
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