News from a departmental Facebook page that M.A. student Dylan Henderson “has successfully defended his thesis project” at University of Arkansas, this being enticingly entitled “Providence Lost: Natural and Urban Landscapes in H. P. Lovecraft’s Fiction” (17 page sample at Proquest)…

“Lovecraft’s early fiction … from 1917 to 1924 … pays little attention to the natural landscape, though Lovecraft does, in story after story, allude to fabulous, semi-mythical cities. … After he returned to Providence … Lovecraft ceased describing Dunsanian cityscapes. Instead, he began to write about nightmarish cities located beneath the sea or on alien planets. Lovecraft’s approach to the natural landscape also began to change, resulting in a series of passionate descriptions that would seem to disrupt the mood he was trying to establish. … his last work of original fiction, “The Haunter of the Dark”, returns to Providence, which it describes in loving terms. … I argue that these passages, far from being gratuitous descriptions, change how we think of Lovecraft as a person, how we interpret his fiction, and how we understand his philosophical beliefs.”

Introduction: Lovecraftian Description
Landscape Description: A Formalist Approach
Gothic and Dunsanian Influences: Lovecraft’s Early Fiction (1917-1924)
Thesis: Urban Dystopia (1925)
Antithesis: Lovecraftian Pastoral (1928-1930)
Synthesis: Urban Pastoral (1935)

This sounds stimulating, I’d be interested to see it in the next Lovecraft Annual.

The timeline looks a little too neatly divided though. Significant chunks of his New York City post-Sonia period was spent in pursuit of a vanishing culture out on the old Dutch marshlands, or in suburban explorations in search of rare survivals of semi-rural old-time places, or in seeking out still-pleasant outlying parks where he could write. His night-walks could also be understood as a sort of rejection of the topography of the daytime city. And on his return to Providence, far from “ceasing” he actually plunged into five or six months of intense Dunsanian adventures with the writing of Dream-quest (summer 1926-early 1927). So, while there is undoubtedly a transition period, it is perhaps not as neatly divided as it at first appears.