Imagining the Unimaginable: Weird Fiction Across Different Media

BA Seminar, Spring semester 2018, English Department, University of Zurich ///

In his „Notes on Writing Weird Fiction“ H. P. Lovecraft describes his personal fascination for weird fiction in its ability to produce „some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law“. By overcoming those fundamental rules which govern our physical existence (with inevitably frightening and nauseating effects) the genre of weird fiction can be seen as an extreme example of one of literature’s main objectives, namely not the accurate representation of reality but the imagination of the impossible. As the growing interest of contemporary philosophy in the genre has shown, weird fiction can be seen as a form of speculative thought which sets itself the impossible task of arguing about what is (yet) unthinkable. In looking at stories by H. P. Lovecraft and his predecessor Edgar Allan Poe in conjunction with philosophical texts by Graham Harman, Roland Barthes and Gilles Deleuze we will analyze the many complex transgressions weird fiction enacts. Among them are also the transgression from text to the body of the reader (often by evoking feelings of disgust), but also the transgression from one medium to the other: How is weird fiction transposed into other medias such as film (Alain Resnais‘ PROVIDENCE) and comic (as by Alan Moore or Alberto Breccia) and with what effects? In accordance with the genre’s transmediality we will also use transmedial tools (such as the audiovisual essay) for our analysis.

In preparation of the seminar all students must have read the essays „Supernatural Horror in Literature“ and „Notes on Writing Weird Fiction“ by H. P. Lovecraft.