Malign by Design: Imaginatively Visualising Lovecraft and the Aesthetics of Monstrosity.

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Since the rise of rationalism (Bond, 1935) the imagination has often been considered too subjective, and at times regarded with scholarly skepticism (Burke, 2008). Yet, imagination seems to provide basic psychological functions for the human intellect and our understanding of large problems (Hillman, 1975), (Winnicott, 1971). More than the mere fancy criticised by Dr Johnson (Haven, 1943), the imagination serves both speculative and interpretive functions, displaying distinct use of cerebral imagery to solve complex environmental and interpersonal challenges. Yorke (2013) argues that humans experience the world dialectically, interpreting everything as cause and effect. Imagination plays a vital role in these universal narratives, shaping our cultural heritage, expression and experience (Zittoun & Glaveneau, 2018). Our oldest tales feature monsters, creatures who are often more interesting and memorable than the heroes who fight them. Halberstam (1995) theorises that monsters are meaning machines. Monsters serve an admonitionary role, and their transgressive nature defines them while displaying a distinct visuality. Like imagination, monsters enable us to analyse and approach difficult topics in innovative ways.
H. P. Lovecraft is one of the most influential horror writers of the twentieth century (King, 1985). Imagination, the visual and the monstrous find a unique balance in his works. Using Lovecraft’s copious correspondence, his drawings and his 1927 short story The Call of Cthulhu as a lens, the relationships between imagination, the visual and the monstrous are examined. These point toward an underlying mutual interdependence between the normative and the monstrous and suggest that Lovecraft’s imaginative use of the visual and monstrous allowed him to transgress the bounds of accepted epistemologies and experiences, and displacing the anthropocentric focus of conventional narratives.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInterdisciplinary essays on Monsters and the Monstrous: Imagining Monsters to Understand our Socio-Political and Psycho-Emotional Realities.
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited
ISBN (Print)9781801170284
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Oct 2022

Publication series

NameEmerald Interdisciplinary Connections
PublisherEmerald Publishing Limited


  • Lovecraft
  • Cthulhu
  • Monsters
  • Epistemology
  • Visuality
  • Imagination
  • Visual Ideation
  • Horror


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