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Journal of Philosophy: A Cross-Disciplinary Inquiry

Volume 6, Issue 14, Winter 2011

Tracy Bealer
Pages 44-50

“The Innsmouth Look”
H. P. Lovecraft’s Ambivalent Modernism

“The Innsmouth Look: H. P. Lovecraft’s Ambivalent Modernism” explores how horror writing responds to the anxieties and possibilities presented by historical modernity. Lovecraft, in his short story “The Shadow Over Innsmouth,” translated contemporary concerns about immigration, industrialization and racial difference into a plot about a young traveler encountering a terrifying alien population in a small New England town. The essay examines the ways that this story both demonstrates how the dehumanization of the racialized “other” operated during the modern period, and exposes the inherent fallacy in such objectification. Though the aliens in the story are physically distinct, and the visual difference provokes disgust and withdrawal in the narrator, this “Innsmouth look” also reveals the way the objectified other is always looking back, a subject in his or her own right.