Tatters of the King: On Robert Chambers' 'The King in Yellow'

Episode 165 · March 20th, 2024 · 1 hr 26 mins

About this Episode

"Let the red dawn surmise / What we shall do, / When the blue starlight dies / And all is through." This short poem, an epigraph to "The Yellow Sign," arguably the most memorable tale in Robert W. Chambers' 1895 collection The King in Yellow, encapsulates in four brief lines the affect that drives cosmic horror: the fearful sense of imminent annihilation. In the four stories JF and Phil discuss in this episode, this affect, which would inspire a thousand works of fiction in the twentieth century, emerges fully formed, dripping with the xanthous milk of Decadence. What’s more, it is here given a symbol, a face, and a home in the Yellow Sign, the Pallid Mask of the Yellow King, and the lost land of Carcosa. Come one, come all.

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Robert W. Chambers, The King in Yellow
Weird Studies, Episode 100 on John Carpenter films
Algernon Blackwood, “The Man Who Found Out”
Susannah Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”
Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, Thought Forms
Weird Studies, Episode 140 on “Spirited Away”
Vladimir Nabokov, Think, Write, Speak
Charles Taylor, A Secular Age
David Bentley Hart, “Angelic Monster”
M. R. James, Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to you my Lad”
William Carlos Williams, The Red Wheelbarrow