Gnostic Lit: On M. John Harrison's 'The Course of the Heart'

Episode 81 · September 2nd, 2020 · 1 hr 17 mins

About this Episode

The British writer M. John Harrison is responsible for some of the most significant incursions of the Weird into the literary imagination of the last several decades. His 1992 novel The Course of the Heart is a masterful exercise in erasing whatever boundary you care to mention, from the one between reality and mind to the one between love and horror. Recounting the lives of three friends as they play out the fateful aftermath of a magical operation that went horribly wrong, Harrison's novel gives Phil and JF the chance to talk contemporary literature, metaphysics, Gnosticism, zones (see episodes 13 & 14), myth, transcendence, history, and arachnology. Together, they weave a fragile web of ideas centered on that imperceptible something that forever trembles at the edge of our perception, beckoning us to step into its world, and out of ours.


M. John Harrison, The Course of the Heart
M. John Harrison, "The Great God Pan"
Arthur Machen, The Great God Pan
Philip K. Dick, Ubik
Philip K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch
Weird Studies, Episode 14 on Stalker
Jonathan Carrol, American novelist
Robert Aickman, British writer
Magic Realism, literary genre
Phil Ford, “An Essay on Fortuna, parts 1 and 2,” Weird Studies Patreon
John Crowley, Ægypt
Jorge Borges," The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim"
Strange Horizons, Interview with M. John Harrison
M. John Harrison on worldbuilding
Thomas Ligotti, American horror writer
Weird Studies subreddit
Albert Camus, French philosopher
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
Spiders’ nervous systems
Valentinus, gnostic theologian
Simon Magus, religious figure
Wiccan goddess and god
Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles
Weird Studies, Episode 37 with Stuart Davis