Rhys James Jenkins

Rhys James Jenkins

Department of English Literature
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Phd title: Lovecraft: Beyond the Cat – The Racial and Political Implications of HP Lovecraft’s Classical Reception (1897-1929)
SupervisorsDr Eleanor Dobson (lead) and Dr Rona Cran
PhD English Literature

Qualifications

  • MA Classics & Ancient History – University of Exeter, 2017.
  • BA Ancient History – University of Exeter, 2016.
  • CertTESOL – Trinity College London, 2014.

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.

In 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 the Alexandrian Empire, but I take a keen personal interest in Brythonic Celtic Studies, as well as the image of the western dragon in lore, literature, and art. More broadly, the reception of antiquity in modern culture appeals to my interdisciplinary approaches.

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’m particularly interested in the contextualisation of grave goods. Archival training at the National Library of Wales assisted my academic development more broadly. I recently completed a course funded by the European Social Fund and hosted by Aberystwyth University, titled ‘Introduction to Media Production’.

Thanks to the generosity of the James Pantyfedwen Foundation for the last two years, I’m currently based at the Department of English Literature at the University of Birmingham, where I’m researching the role of antiquity in moulding the socio-political views of weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft. 

I’m a Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Midlands Network of Popular Culture, while maintaining strong links with the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology at both the University of Birmingham and the University of Exeter.

Teaching

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

  • Co-Director and Co-Founder of the Midlands Network of Popular Culture (MNPC).
  • Conference Organiser and regular speaker at Progressive Connexions.
  • Sole Articles Editor for the 25th Anniversary Issue of the Rosetta Journal, as well as one of the Specialist Subject Editors.
  • Active member of both the Study States and Page Breaks departmental reading groups.
  • Work featured in the Images of Research 2019-20 catalogue.

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