look. In denying humanism and revealing the ostensible unity of the humansubject to be a fallacy, I contend that what Lovecraft’s work affirms, albeit neg-atively, is a subjective crisis specific to the modern condition. It is a crisis,moreover, whose trajectory aligns itself with the abjection of self elaborated by Julia Kristeva in her psychoanalytic notion of subjectivity. In focusing exclu-sively on the impossibility of the sublime in Lovecraft’s fiction in the first partof my analysis and in pointing to the interpretative possibilities offered by anabject reading of his notion of cosmic horror in the second portion of thisessay, I hope to have provided a roadmap for future study of Lovecraftian aes-thetics.
Part 1: The Impossibility of a Sublime Readingof Lovecraft’s Fiction
The profound influence of two interconnected aspects of Lovecraft’s view onexistence can be discerned in his fiction: “cosmic indifferentism” and mecha-nistic materialism. Their combined impact on his fictional writings and poet-ics negates any possibility of the sublime in his Mythos. Lovecraft’s position asa self-proclaimed “cosmic indifferentist” unites a metaphysical, ethical, andaesthetic position defined, respectively, in terms of “an awareness of the vast-ness of the universe in both space and time”; “an awareness of the insignifi-cance of human beings within the realm of the universe”; and “a literaryexpression of this insignificance, to be effected by the minimizing of humancharacter and the display of the titanic gulfs of space and time” (Joshi,
182). The mechanistic materialist foundation of Lovecraft’s cosmicindifferentism is evident in both his rejection of teleology and the idea of adivinity it implies as well as in his pronouncements on free will as a product of our (idealist) delusions. Lovecraft considers “the idea of deity” as “a logicaland inevitable result of ignorance, since the savage can conceive of no actionsave by a volition and personality like his own” (
165). In a strik-ingly anti-humanist stance, he views religion as a fiction that masks human-ity’s baser instincts. In “In Defence of Dagon,” he affirms that “all religiousdemonstrativeness and ceremony is basically orgiastic” (
166), aproduct of our inadequate sublimation of primitive compulsions. He holdsinstead that “all volition is merely a neural molecular process—a blind mate-rial instinct or impulse,” and that “all organisms” possess “no conscious desire,no intelligent aspiration, no definite foreknowledge” (
160, 161).The only aspect of Lovecraft’s deterministic viewpoint that endows humanitywith the illusion of freedom is chance. If life is “a process of stumbling in thedark—of recoiling from greater to lesser discomforts and dangers, and of grop-ing for an increased amount of pleasures faintly tasted” (
160),then chance provides us with the only potential for any kind of deviation from