The Birth of Cosmic Horror from the S(ub)lime of Lucretius
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Supernatural Horror in Literature’s cosmic horror is examined via historical aesthetics, and situated as a modernist mutation of sublimity. Lovecraft’s cosmic horror contrasts sharply with earlier Victorian uses of the phrase, in part because it derives from the atomic poetics of the Roman poet Lucretius, a derivation that reveals much about the literary hierarchy Lovecraft develops with Supernatural Horror in Literature, his relationship with modernist writers including T.S. Eliot, his reaction against Romantic and Victorian modes of supernatural fiction, his conception of a non-supernatural cosmic literature grounded in speculative skepticism, and his influence on contemporary speculative philosophy and weird fiction. The chapter concludes by considering how cosmic horror is adapted by two of the most important contemporary writers of weird fiction, Caitlín R. Kiernan and Thomas Ligotti.