LOVECRAFT: WEIRD AND HORROR

Deleuze valued Lovecraft for the estrangement (which he called “deterritorialisation”), not for the horror (which he probably found funny). I do not think the estrangement, or weirdness, to be found in Lovecraft is “separable” from the horror, just as style is not separable from content. However, I wish to emphasise that the one is not reducible to the other.

Deleuze and Guattari distinguish between the enunciation and the enounced. For example they condemn Oedipal readings of Kafka as allowing the Oedipal content to capture the enunciative act (which is not Oedipal but schizoanalytic). The miserabilism of the content is in tension with the humour and joy of the enunciation. “Style” is an ambiguous word as it can qualify the style of the content or the style of the enunciation.

Discussing Lovecraft Deleuze tells us that

” ENTITY = EVENT, it is terror, but also great joy. Becoming an entity, an infinitive, as Lovecraft spoke of it, the horrific and luminous story of Carter: animal-becoming, molecular-becoming, imperceptible­-becoming” (DIALOGUES, 66).

So the problem is not so much one of establishing a demarcation between the style and the content as a demarcation within the enunciation between horror and joy that leads to a one-sided depiction of Lovecraft’s work. Becoming an “entity” can be a process of horrific transformation and demolition but it can also be a luminous process of affirmation. Too many commentators  seem to focus on the horror as the “real” Lovecraft and forget the luminosity.

The horror in Deleuze is not superficial, it is horror all the way down, but it is not all, it is not the last word. Deleuze cites Melville’s PIERRE for the terrifying descent to the central chamber and the terrifying discovery that it is empty. But he adds:

“however terrible this line may be, it is a line of life that can no longer be gauged by relations between forces, one that carries man beyond terror…This is the central chamber, which one need no longer fear is empty since one fills it with the self” (FOUCAULT, 121-2, I have replaced the English translation of “le soi” as “oneself” with the more accurate “the self”).

I am dissatisfied by those writers who create a demarcation in Lovecraft between the pure horror works and the dream cycle. I think the same estrangement underlies both, and that over-emphasis of the horror forecloses that unitary vision.

Trying to move beyond the traditional opposition between style and content, Deleuze and Guattari get a lot of mileage out of the distinction they make between the enunciation and the “enoncé”, the enounced sentence or proposition. This distinction need not be one of opposition, but can also be the basis of a composition. For example the act of desribing the indescribable in Lovecraft’s works leads to a richness of vocabulary in the enunciation that does not only compensate for the poverty of referential content but heightens its horrific affective impact.

Lovecraft does not write in hysterical identification with the horror he describes nor as a paranoiac expert in horror (or academic cosmic pessimist), but he is trying to transvaluate the horror just as Kafka transvaluates the Oedipal elements.

I have been trying to explore on my blog a notion uniting both science fiction and fantasy as the literature of noetic (and not just cognitive) estrangement. So in more familiar terms I think that Lovecraft is more a matter of the noetic “weird” than of affective horror. 

See: https://xenoswarm.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/the-last-days-of-new-paris-3-weird-ontology/

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