Talk: Marina Warner
For her talk, Bodies of Unknowing, writer and cultural historian, Marina Warner, discusses storytelling, and the power and agency of female protagonists within the complex histories of myths, tales and fables.
Fairy tale offers artists in visual media a store of imagery to draw on: grounded chiefly in the body, entering dark forests of unknowing, the language of such stories raises possibilities of extreme risk and harm as their heroines are tested, and we, the works’ audience, are wound into their ordeals. At the close of Ericka Beckmann and Marianna Simnett’s powerful and disturbing double show, Marina Warner looks at the language of fairy tales in relation to the struggles of women artists with prevailing conventions. Paula Rego and Kiki Smith are also invoked as she considers how the adoption of fantasy creates opportunities to be both inside a system and outside it, in the hope of cracking open conventional ethics and aesthetics, and social and political norms.
Marina Warner is a writer specialising in mythology and fairy-tales, with an emphasis on the part women play in them. Her award-winning books include, most recently, Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction (2018), as well as, From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (1994), Stranger Magic: Charmed States and The Arabian Nights (2011) and Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale (OUP, 2012). She also writes fiction; her third collection of short stories, Fly Away Home came out in 2014. Forthcoming publications include Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists (Thames and Hudson) and The Shadow Image, edited by Rut Blees Luxembourg.
She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London and a Professorial Research Fellow, SOAS. She is a contributing editor to The London Review of Books, a Fellow of the British Academy, a Quondam Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and President of the Royal Society of Literature. In 1994 she gave the BBC Reith Lectures. In 2015, she chaired the Man Booker International Prize, was made DBE, and was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities. In 2017 she was given a British Academy Medal and a World Fantasy Life Time Achievement Award. She is currently patron of the Ted Hughes Society, Bloodaxe Books, Society for Story Telling, Hosking Houses Trust and The Longford Trust.