English and Modern Languages
Master of Arts (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Literature, American; Literature, Classical
Cthulhu, hero, Lovecraft, monomyth, mythology, Mythos
Classical Literature and Philology | Classics | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America
VanDenBos, Wesley, "Subverting a Mythology: Examining Joseph Campbell's Monomyth in the Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft" (2013). Masters Theses. 277.
American horror author H. P. Lovecraft's tales of monsters and madness, collectively known as the Cthulhu Mythos, have exploded in popularity in the last few decades and attracted both critical and casual interest. Inspired by his childhood mythological readings, Lovecraft created these chilling stories as a more modern version of ancient myths, drawing upon yet subtly altering the sources that influenced him. The author of this thesis draws attention to the differences between classic myths and the Cthulhu Mythos, using the monomyth of Joseph Campbell as a framework through which to view both ancient mythologies and Lovecraft's tales. This thesis seeks to analyze three important elements of the monomyth as subverted in Lovecraft's works. First, the author criticizes the notion of the hero in the Cthulhu Mythos, contrasting the characters to the heroes of classic myths. Second, the mythical boon is called into question, and Lovecraft's boons of science and knowledge are shown to be incompatible with Campbell's description of supernatural blessings. Lastly, the author argues that the supernatural monsters in the Cthulhu Mythos are aliens, not gods, thus deviating from the monomythic cycle's tendency to portray such creatures as spiritual, moral beings. This thesis ultimately acknowledges the mythological presence in the Cthulhu Mythos, but argues that the differences are significant enough to cause Lovecraft's works to fall outside the monomyth's broad reach.