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


Mar 27

Urban Development: From Reconstruction to Gentrification

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

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Mar 28

Catfishing: The Artist as Trickster in Factual Fictions

Taught by Ted Barrow
7:30 p.m. at Blender Workspace

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Mar 29

Self-Love or Narcissism?

Taught by Skye Cleary
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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Mar 30

OlioHouse Scenius Summit | The Chance Weekend

Taught by No Professor Weekend
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

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OlioMuse | Beethoven's Minor Mood

Taught by Gil Harel
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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Olio Breakfast Club | Death & Bagels on a Sunday Morning

Taught by Jeanne Proust
10:30 a.m. at North 3rd St. Market - Williamsburg

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Apr 9

Madame(s) X: Muses, Makers, & Shifting Identities

Taught by Ted Barrow
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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Apr 10

Olio Movie Night | Eraserhead

Taught by Geoff Klock
7:30 p.m. at Nitehawk Cinema Williamsburg

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Apr 13

OlioHouse | Music & The Feast for Senses

Taught by Whitney George
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

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Apr 23

The Death of Art, The Rise of Image

Taught by Vishwa Adluri
7 p.m. at Strand Bookstore

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Apr 27

OlioHouse | Found Poetry: Composting Words

Taught by Heather O'Neill
noon at OlioHouse | Wassaic, NY

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May 29

Composing Beauty: Mapplethorpe’s Quest for Perfection

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

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