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.




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Other upcoming Olios


Jan 24

Living Room Salon | Tough Poetry in Dark Times

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Living Room

Sign Up - $15

Jan 31

The Dangerous Pleasure of Art

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

Feb 1

Feb 2

OlioHouse | Our Stories, Our Bodies: Rape Culture in American History

Taught by Jamie Warren
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 6

Olio Seminar | Space, Time, & Work: Understanding Labor

Taught by Lauren Hudson
7:30 p.m. at Berg'n

Sign Up - $75

Feb 9

OlioHouse | The Love Symposium

Taught by Skye Cleary
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

Sign Up - $150

Feb 15

A Good Friend is Hard to Find: Philosophy and Friendship

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

Sign Up - $20

Feb 21

Living Room Salon | Music and Environmentalism

Taught by Kristy Barbacane
7 p.m. at Living Room

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Feb 22

The Circular Road: Art and the Religious Imagination

Taught by Michael Prettyman
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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Feb 25

What Would Buffy Do? Radical Feminism and the Slayer

Taught by Jamie Warren
7:30 p.m. at Neuehouse Madison Sq.

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Feb 28

Into the Mystic: Music & the Moving Image

Taught by Whitney George
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

Sign Up - $20

May 17

Rethinking Refugee Trauma and Mental Health

Taught by Kim Nguyen
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

Sign Up - $20

May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

Taught by Jeanne Proust
7 p.m. at BAM Fisher

Sign Up - $20


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