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On Lovecraft, Utopianism & Dreamlands

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Published on Jul 14, 2012

"The Key to the Gate of Dreams: Searching for Utopia in H P Lovecraft's Dreamlands"

By Christos Callow Jr

Presented at the 13th International Conference of the Utopian Studies Society. The conference took place in Tarragona, Spain, 4-7 of July, 2012.

Paper Abstract:

Worlds supposedly go through a circle of life, death and rebirth, while events of an apocalyptic scale occur between the transitions. But the big picture is that the cosmos itself is unaffected. My paper focuses on the ideas of Howard Phillips Lovecraft whose "cosmic horror" stories deal with the dystopian nature of the indifferent universe and the insignificance of man. In my research however I find that in all its pessimism and despair, the Lovecraftian universe also offers the relief of a utopian hope: the vision of a paradise, unearthly and yet realizable.

This paper looks at Lovecraft's Dream Cycle, a series of short stories dealing with the Dreamlands, an alternative dimension accessible through dreams. Lovecraft's characters seek them, thinking the dreams more real than life. Besides, the theory that the universe itself is a Dystopia leaves, I argue, no room for any other kind of Utopianism than an escape to the Dreamland. This dream-city is in fact a Buddhist-like Nirvana which, according to Collins and Hallisey, has also been depicted as a "city". Indeed, like another Buddha, the narrator of Ex Oblivione passes through the gate of dreams to "the white void of unpeopled and illimitable space", escaping from samsara, the circle of life. Beginning from Hertzler's conclusion, that "Utopia is a state of mind", and having examined theories of lucid dreaming and other-dimensional realities, I approach Lovecraft's celestial city as the utopian condition of "being".

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