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MANAGING MONSTERS: SIX MYTHS OF OUR TIME
Vintage UK (1994)

Re-published as 'SIX MYTHS OF OUR TIME - THE 1994 REITH LECTURES'
Vintage; 1st Vintage Books ed edition (1995)
CCV Digital (2010)
Kindle Edition (2010)

In early 1994 Marina Warner delivered the prestigious Reith Lectures for the BBC. In a series of six lectures, she takes areas of contemporary concern and relates them to stories from mythology and fairy tale which continue to grip the modern imagination.

She analyses the fury about single mothers and the anxiety about masculinity in the light of ideals about male heroism and control; the current despair about children and the loss of childhood innocence; the changing attitude of myths about wild men and beasts and the undertow of racism which is expressed in myths about savages and cannibals. The last lecture, on home, brings the themes together to examine ideas about who we are and where we belong, with reference to the British nation and its way of telling its own history.

Using a range of examples from video games to Turner’s paintings, from popular films to Keats, Marina Warner interweaves her critique of fantasy, dream and prejudice.

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READ AN EXTRACT

The theory that children need to compensate for their own hapless dependence by imagining themselves huge and powerful and cruel has also normalised all manner of frightening playacting, equating children with monsters, childhood with a savage state. Stephen Jay Gould, the biologist, has pointed out that kids don’t have an innate kinship with dinosaurs, but that it has been fostered by intensive marketing; the relationship seems based in some idea of shared primitiveness - and future extinction. Lots of toys appeal to the idea of children’s savagery: from huge furry, clawed slippers for tiny tots to wear to bed to warn off any other beasts in the night, to dinosaur lunchboxes and watches.As a gift catalogue describes, ‘at the touch of a button, the fearsome tyrannosaurus rex emits a blood-curdling little roar.’
In the very midst of consecrating innocence, the modern mythology of childhood ascribes to children a specially rampant natural appetite for all kinds of transgressive pleasures, including above all the sado-masochistic thrills of fear. And these child heroes - and heroines - now enjoy a monopoly on all kinds of unruly passions which adults later have to learn to control in themselves.

 


 

 

 

 

© Marina Warner 2011 - Contact