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What's in a Name?: H.P. Lovecraft, Unnameable Horror, and Fear of the Unknown


Naming is power.  Most schoolchildren know the faerytale "Rumpelstiltskin," in which the queen is able to break Rumpelstiltskin's power over her when she discovers his true name.  In folklore, learning a demon's true name gives one power over them, but one should never speak a faery's true name lest they be offended.  When we can name something, we can define, trammel, and control it.  Conversely, when we cannot name something, it becomes not only unnameable but unknown.  

In his famous essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature," H. P. Lovecraft says, 'The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."  His short story "The Unnameable" encapsulates this idea. However, it is a theme Lovecraft explored in other works and which even appears in the unpronounceable names he assigned to the figures in his Cthulhu Mythos.  

In this Olio we will not only discuss how Lovecraft incorporated the unnameable in his own work, but also how his conception of horror as the unnameable influenced other writers such as Stephen King and how it persists in the horror genre to this day.  Additionally, I plan to touch on the different ways that various incarnations of the "unnameable" (such as women, sex, racial/cultural differences, Queerness, etc.) have been treated as sources of horror in Lovecraft's and other's works.

Join us at Lovecraft's in the East Village to celebrate the release of Narragansett's Unnameable Black Lager and all things horror! 


Recommended reading from Penguin Press:

The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge

A riveting novel about secrets and scandals, psychiatry and pulp fiction, inspired by the lives of H.P. Lovecraft and his circle.




Location: Lovecraft

50 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009

Bar with live music, food & cocktails in a funky space studded with occult references.


Other upcoming Olios


Feb 23

Questioning the Origins of Sexual Desire

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Feb 28

American Dream/American Delusion: The Case for a Universal Basic Income

Taught by Phelim Kine
7 p.m. at WeWork // 205 Hudson

Sign Up - $15

Mar 2

Shakespeare Happy Hour | Think Olio 3rd Anniversary

Taught by Geoff Klock
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Mar 3

What is Food Anyway? Exploring Power and Individuality in the Things We Eat

Taught by Michael Haltenberger
7:30 p.m. at Brooklyn Art Library

Sign Up - $15

Mar 7

Scenius Party | Populism & the Voice of the People

Taught by Olio Happy Hour
7 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $0

Mar 8

Think Olio Read-In | The 2nd Amendment

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Judson Memorial Church

Sign Up - $5

Mar 8

Mar 9

Perverts, Creepers, and Freaks: A History of Sexual Perversions

Taught by Jamie Warren
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Mar 12

The American Moment: Victory, Dominance and Decline

Taught by Ward Regan
7:30 p.m. at Strong Rope Brewery

Sign Up - $15

Mar 15

A Radical Prescription for Democracy

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $25

Mar 16

The History of Tech & The Future of Sex

Taught by Olio Happy Hour
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Mar 21

The Problem of Evil

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $15

Mar 23

OlioMuse | The Muse That Screams: Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8

Taught by Whitney George
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $25

Mar 30

Utopia Happy Hour | Thomas More and Afrofuturism

Taught by Olio Happy Hour
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20


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