Rhys James Jenkins

Rhys James Jenkins

Department of English Literature
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Phd title: Eldritch Angles: The Racial and Political Implications of H.P. Lovecraft's Classical Reception (1897-1929)
SupervisorsDr Eleanor Dobson (lead); Dr Gideon Nisbet
PhD English Literature

Qualifications

  • MA Classics & Ancient History (University of Exeter)
  • BA Ancient History (University of Exeter)
  • CertTESOL (Trinity College London)

Biography

After completing both my BA and MA at the University of Exeter, and having spent time teaching in Japan, I returned to the UK in order to undertake my PhD research at the University of Birmingham, beginning June 2019.

During my previous studies, I gravitated towards areas of Classical reception, as well as those concerning Pre-Socratic philosophy, funerary practices in antiquity, and interpreting epic narratives. I primarily focused on the Graeco-Roman world and Ptolemaic Egypt, but I also take a keen personal interest in Brythonic Celtic Studies, as well as the image of the western dragon in lore, literature, and art. The reception of antiquity in modern culture likewise appeals to my interdisciplinary approach.

In conjunction with my MA, I received training in reception studies as part of the ‘Research Skills’ optimisation module series. Training in funerary osteoarchaeological techniques aided me in expanding my working knowledge of funerary practices, and I am particularly interested in the contextualising of grave goods. Archival training at the National Library of Wales assisted my academic development more broadly.

I am currently based at the Department of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where I am researching the role played by antiquity in shaping the horror literary genre during the long 19th and early 20th centuries, whilst looking at Gothic narratives in particular.

My thesis deals with the works of weird fiction author H.P. Lovecraft and his reception of the Classics. I maintain strong links with the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology at both the University of Birmingham and the University of Exeter.


Teaching

  • Visiting Lecturer on The Gothic (Level 6 UG Module) alongside Dr Jimmy Packham - talk on H.P. Lovecraft and Sigmund Freud as writers in the Gothic tradition - 14/01/2020.
  • Returning speaker on the Cultural Calendar Seminar Series Panel discussing the traditions of Brythonic and Goidelic Celts.
  • HEFi Horizon Award in Higher Education Teaching - September 2019.

Research

H.P. Lovecraft’s fascination with the Graeco-Roman world enabled him to construct an “artificial mythology” of existentialist narratives within the early small press culture, shaping the future canon of American Gothic horror as a key developmental figure (Selected Letters III.421). These Classical motifs served as a vehicle through which he delivered complex socio-political commentaries on race and early twentieth-century American politics. My project examines the role of the Classical within Lovecraft’s xenophobic expressions and alt-right ideology that prove strikingly relevant to modern politics.

Research questions

  • “How is the Classical utilised by Lovecraft in constructing an ethnocentric discourse?”
  • “To what extent was Lovecraft’s reception of Classical materials influenced by early 20th century American race relations?”
  • “By combining Classical motifs with Anthropocene settings as artificial mythology, in what ways did Lovecraft utilise such environments as methods of racial alienation?”

Part of my work involves chronologically deconstructing Lovecraft’s early ‘Greek Period’ prose and poetry, outlined as 1917 to 1927 by Schweitzer and Wetzel (1987; 2001), and illuminated by his archive of personal letters to family and contemporaries. I aim to bridge the gap between popular literature and academic discourse through examining Lovecraft’s fiction as a lens for the Classical, with the intention of widening access to Graeco-Roman studies. 

By late February 2020, I will have conducted an examination of Lovecraft’s lesser-known ‘Greek Period’ poetry, including his literary interactions with writer T.S. Eliot, wherein he utilises the Classical to deliver a commentary on post-War America. I am currently evaluating 930 public ‘Selected Letters’ to create a database of: 1) Classical references, 2) familiar works, and 3) ideological statements. Its completion will provide a more refined understanding of his relationship with antiquity, and establish ease of access to relevant primary materials.

Research interests

  • Classical Reception studies:
    • Relationship between Classical sources and Gothic horror during the long nineteenth century
    • Representations of Graeco-Roman death, the afterlife, and funerary practices
    • Reception of the western dragon in lore, literature, and art
    • Antiquity in modern culture
  • Lovecraftian studies:
    • Lovecraft’s reception of the Graeco-Roman world
    • Narratological perspectives in Lovecraftian horror
    • Lovecraft’s correspondence with contemporaries
    • Personal philosophy and ethics
    • Lovecraft’s poetry

Other activities

  • For the 25th Anniversary Issue of the 'Rosetta Journal', I am the sole Articles Editor, as well as one of the Specialist Subject Editors.
  • I am an active member of both the 'Gothica' and 'Page Breaks' departmental reading groups. I will be leading a Page Breaks session on 12/01/2020 with Dr Dorothy Butchard and Dr Toria Johnson featuring Lovecraft and Weird Fiction.
  • I am a returning speaker on the 'Cultural Calendar Seminar Series' panel. My next talk on 19/02/2020 will concern Celtic attitudes towards art by exploring aspects of the modern-day Welsh Eisteddfod as a case study.
  • My work is featured in the 'Images of Research 2019-20' catalogue.