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

Presented with Lovecraft


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

An East Village bar inspired by the teetotalling horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. It’s plenty atmospheric: illuminated vats of bubbling water, ancient books, murals of tentacled women, coppery portholes to nowhere. 


Other upcoming Olios


Jun 23

Man's Separation from Nature and Where to Go from Here

Taught by Manuel Rodeiro
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jun 26

Music, Drugs & Altered States of Mind

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Strong Rope Brewery

Sign Up - $12

Jun 27

Jun 30

The Woman Question

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jul 6

Lassos of Truth: A Celebration of Three Wonder Women

Taught by Three Olio Professors
7:30 p.m. at Brooklyn Art Library

Sign Up - $12

Jul 7

Free As Gods: Picasso, Calder and Artists Take Center Stage

Taught by Charles Riley
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jul 8

*Olio House Party* ​In Search of Greatness in the 1950s: Greatness For All?

Taught by Lawrence Cappello
7:30 p.m. at Bed Stuy Brownstone

Sign Up - $12

Jul 9

**Olio Seminar** // Woman as Other, Woman as Lover

Taught by Jamie Warren
3 p.m. at Nowhere Studios

Sign Up - $100

Jul 11

The Art of Noise: Percussion Music and the Urban Jungle

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Nowadays

Sign Up - $12

Jul 14

A History of Analog in Revolt: Sparking Poetic Revolutions

Taught by Jessica Rogers
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

Jul 16

*Read-In* Meditations

Taught by Michael Prettyman
4 p.m. at Dean Machine

Sign Up - $10

Jul 18

Jul 28

Women, Design, and Empowerment: I Will What I Want

Taught by Michelle Millar Fisher
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20


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