23 December, ‘Diary: Marina Warner, Viva la Befana!’, Book Post (substack subscription)
Marina wrote about la Befana – the folkloric old woman who delivers gifts (or lumps of charcoal) for Book Post. Here is a snippet of the piece:
The legend that grew up around her relates that the kings or magi came passing by the old woman’s hovel on their way to see the baby who, they told her, was destined to be the ruler of the world. They invite her to go with them, but she doesn’t believe their story, says she has too much housework to do, and sends them on their way.
Marina writes a tribute to Carmen Callil, ‘Carmen Callil’s Causes’, LRB, Vol. 44, No.24, 15 December 2022
Read Marina’s piece on Carmen’s legacy online here.
15-16 December, European Alliance of Academies, Conference: The Freedom of Art in Times of War and Crisis, Akademie der Künste, Plenary Hall, Pariser Platz 4, 10117 Berlin (Germany). More here.
Since its foundation the European Alliance of Academies has been working for artistic freedom in Europe. In view of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, at the fourth joint conference, Alliance members will speak about the effects of the war on artistic freedom. How are the working conditions of artists changing? What can artists contribute to peace? What opportunities does the digital space offer? New strategies for European unification and cooperation will be discussed in lectures and debates.
POSTPONED TO 2023 Wednesday 7 December, 5pm, ‘In conversation with Dr Karolina Watroba’, All Souls College, High Street, OX1 4AL. Information here.
Marina will be speaking on Inventory of a Life Mislaid: An Unreliable Memoir in conversation with Dr Karolina Watroba (All Souls). This talk is open to members of the University only, and booking is not required.
Tuesday 6 December, book launch for Marina’s Afterall ‘One Work’ publication, Helen Chadwick: The Oval Court, Richard Saltoun Gallery, 41 Dover Street, London, W1S 4NS, 6-8pm. More information here. Watch/ listen back to the conversation here.
To mark the opening of On Sexuality: Helen Chadwick & Penny Slinger, celebrated novelist, historian, and critic Marina Warner introduces her latest book Helen Chadwick: The Oval Court (Afterall Books) in conversation with art critic Louisa Buck.
In 1986 the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London showed On Mutability, a new, two-part commission by the artist Helen Chadwick (1954–1996). The installation interwove some of Chadwick’s characteristic motifs – the female body (her own), the aesthetics of pleasure, the material variety and wonder of natural phenomena – and approached them in a spirit of provocative, radical and lavish flamboyance.
During the talk, Marina Warner will examine The Oval Court, one part of the ICA commission. Despite being recognised as a feminist monument of rare intensity, this work has rarely been shown or discussed since the author’s catalogue essay for the original exhibition. Exploring The Oval Courts‘s richly layered composition, Warner will show how Chadwick’s imagination has shaped many artists’ ideas and ethics, and how she helped to shift conventional aesthetics and transvalue despised, even abominated forms.
Louisa Buck is a British art critic and contemporary art correspondent for The Art Newspaper. She was a jurist for the 2005 Turner Prize. She is also the author of a number of books on contemporary art, artists and the art world.
Friday 2 December, The Sarah Hughes Trust Lecture, 6-9pm, Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole St, London W1G 0AE. Book your place here (either join in person or online).
Join Marina’s Sarah Hughes Lecture, discussing the role of mythology and writing as well as the influence of art on creative journalism as it relates to medicine and humanity. This session will also include the Sarah Hughes Trust Prize presentation. Also, enjoy a delicious optional dinner to socialise and network with fellow attendees and well-renowned speakers. Welcome and introduction by Dr Christopher Gardner-Thorpe, President of the History of Medicine Section, and chaired by Professor Roger Kirby, President of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Sarah Hughes, a journalist, died from breast cancer on 2021 at the age of 48. Her family and friends have raised funds for an annual lecture to be held under the auspices of the RSM History of Medicine Society. Sarah was a history graduate from St Andrews University and was fascinated by, studied and wrote about the human condition in all its manifestations, good or bad, real or imagined.
Saturday 26 November, ‘Sally Bayley, Marina Warner and Tomiwa Owolade ‘Memories’ Fault Lines’, Blackwell’s, Broad Street, Oxford, 2-3pm
Marina was in discussion about Inventory of a Life Mislaid (2021), alongside Sally Bayley and Tomiwa Owolade. Sally Bayley is a fiction and non-fiction writer who lives on a narrowboat on the River Thames in Oxford. Her latest book, No Boys Play Here (William Collins, 2021) is the second part of a literary coming of age story that tells of a teen girl in search of her lost father and uncle. Tomiwa Owolade is a writer, critic and contributing editor to UnHerd. He is a New Statesman contributing writer and the author of the forthcoming This is Not America. His writing for the New Statesman includes analysis and comment pieces on various political and cultural subjects. More here.
Friday 25 November, Seminar – New School of the Anthropocene
Thursday 24 November, ‘Viral Spiral: Multiple Shape-shifting from Ovid to Covid’, BCLA, 6pm, booking available in person (Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, New Cross, London SE14 6AD) and online. Information here.
A group of metamorphoses in myths and legends features gods and in between creatures, who are not quite divine and not quite mortal either, who can change their shape multiple times. For example, Mestra, the daughter of Erisychthon, is given this gift by the gods when her father sells her, and she is able to elude the clients he panders her to. Marina Warner will explore stories of multiple transformations in and out of different bodies, and reflect on their significance in relation to today’s concerns with fluid identities and interspecies contact and contagion.
Friday 11 November, 1-2pm, ‘Oxford Reads for Rushdie: with Richard Ovenden OBE, Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Lisa Appignanesi, Phillip Pullman, Professors Dame Marina Warner and Dame Hermione Lee’, Blackwell Hall, Weston Libriary, Broad Street, Oxford. Free to attend, more information here.
Oxford Reads for Rushdie was a public event held by the Bodleian Libraries in support of the novelist Salman Rushdie.
It featured prominent figures from the literary world, alongside students from the University of Oxford, reading from Rushdie’s works.
Held in solidarity with Salman Rushdie, who survived an assassination attempt in August 2022, and in partnership with English PEN, it follows an event at the New York Public Library organised with PEN America, held immediately after Rushdie was attacked, and an evening of solidarity organised by English PEN and others at the British Library in October.
The one-hour event was hosted by Richard Ovenden OBE, Bodley’s Librarian at Oxford University. Readers will include literary giants such as Zadie Smith, Ian McEwan, Lisa Appignanesi, and Phillip Pullman, and co-hosts Professors Dame Marina Warner and Dame Hermione Lee, as well as Oxford University students.
Oxford Reads for Rushdie is the brain-child of Richard Ovenden, Professor Dame Hermione Lee, Emeritus Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, and Professor Dame Marina Warner, Distinguished Fellow of All Souls College at Oxford University and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College London. In hosting the event, the trio wanted to publicly mark both the Bodleian’s and the University’s longstanding commitment to protecting academic freedom of expression.
Thursday 10 November, 4-5pm, ‘Oxford University English Society: In conversation with Marina Warner’, Hollywell Music Room, Oxford, United Kingdom. Free. More information available here
Listen to Episode 511 of podcast The Virtual Memories Show to hear Marina in conversation with Gil Roth. They discuss Esmond and Ilia, Marina’s work and upcoming (POSTPONED) talk on Ovid (24 November, 6pm, in person and online!), amongst many other things.
Tuesday 8 November, 3pm-5pm (online), How to co-exist in a time of rage, or Thinking with Giocherendan – With Dine Diallo, Sarah Schulman, Julia Bell, Clelia Bartoli and Tomiwa Owolade (Chaired by Marina)* Read more here. A recording of the event is available here. The discussion begins at around 9 mins 30 secs.
In 2016, Sarah Schulman published Conflict Is Not Abuse: Overstating Harm, Community Responsibility and the Duty of Repair; in this original and polemical study, she argues for attention to the differences of degree in various speech acts and actions, for a willingness to consider the difficulties of a situation rather than rush to judgement (or to insults or shunning). Her arguments reflect the collective and deliberative spirit of giocherendan. This word, giocherendan, in the West African language of Fula, means cooperation and negotiation in the spirit of coexistence. Like the term Ubuntu in the South African context, giocherendan confronts the damage of hate speech, atomisation, destructive emphasis on individualism and competitiveness by developing processes of discussion, collective action, and cooperation, It expresses a relational spirit that is missing in our northern polities – or so argue several arrivants from Guinea, Mali, the Gambia and other West African nations. The word is connected etymologically to jokk-, the stem for words for attachment and communication, while the ending could mean maternal relations. Could this principle help towards addressing the vicious extremes of social media and redirecting users’ energies?
Sarah Schulman is a New York-based writer, gay activist and professor. Clelia Bartoli, a civil rights campaigner and lecturer at the University of Palermo, is the co-founder with Dine Diallo, of Giocherenda, a collective project and workshop based in Palermo (the Italian rendering plays on the word for play, giocare). Julia Bell, in Radical Attention (2019) revealingly explores her own experiences on and with social media and mounts a cogent critique of the political as well as psychological consequences. Tomiwa Owolade is a London-based essayist and journalist, and has distinguished himself by his independence of mind and his judicious assessment of some incendiary issues.
*This event was postponed from its original date in March, during university strikes.
Epilogue for Sjón’s re-publishedArgóarflísin (The Whispering Muse) (Reykjavík: JPV útgáfa, 2022), translated into Icelandic by Halla Kjartansdóttir.
‘Abecedary for Kevin Jackson’, Constellation of Genius – 1922: Modernism Year One, A special volume in memory of Kevin Jackson
Marina is contributing to a volume celebrating Kevin Jackson, alongside 30 contributions from friends and colleagues including Martin Rowson and Iain Sinclair. In the meantime, Marina’s abecedary has been printed as a booklet.
13 October 2022, Myth and Music: Music for violin and piano evoking Greek and Latin myths (Part of the Little Missenden Festival 2022) 8pm, ( St John the Baptist Church, Highmore Cottages, Amersham, HP7 0RA) Find out more here
There’s something really magical about myths. Since Greek and Roman times these strange and haunting tales have expressed human hopes and fears, loves and losses. Many composers have mined this rich material to inspire their music. This concert presents an intriguing range of myth-based music by six composers. Performed by Sara Trickey and Ivana Gavrić with interwoven narration by Marina Warner, composers include Tartini, Schubert, Szymanowski, Stravinsky and David Matthews plus a new Festival commission by Cheryl Frances-Hoad.
10 October, ‘Marina Warner and Anna Della Subin in conversation about their latest books: Esmond & Ilia and Accidental Gods’, 6pm, Rizzoli Bookstore (1133 Broadway New York, NY 10010). Booking and more information here
6 October, ‘Strangers in a Strange Land: Displacement, Sanctuary, and the Traveling Tale’, The Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, 6.30pm-8pm, The Lantern, Lenfest Center for the Arts, 615 West 129th Street, New York, NY 10027
Edward W. Said wrote that he habitually felt “out of place” and in his memoir movingly explores the strategies and theoretical ideas the experience inspired. Marina Warner returned to Said’s ideas about estrangement, the traveling tale and contrapuntal reading, through a reading of the Flight into Egypt. The legend spread through stories, cult, and pilgrimage and Memories of Mary/Mariam in Egypt live on in some form in both the Christian and Islamic traditions. In a time of ever greater displacements and tumult, this narrative offers a test case of storytelling’s role in living through exile and dislocation, and surviving somewhere that is not home.
The Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture is given once a year in honor of the public intellectual and literary critic, Edward W. Said, who taught in the English & Comparative Literature Department at Columbia from 1963 until 2003. Professor Said was perhaps best known for his books Orientalism, published in 1978, and Culture and Imperialism, published in 1993, both of which made major contributions to the field of cultural and postcolonial studies. The Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, annually organized by the Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities, pays tribute to Professor Said by bringing to Columbia speakers who embody his beliefs and the legacy of his work.
The event is co-presented by Columbia University School of the Arts and The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities.
More information here.
1 October, ‘Review: Marina Warner on “Accidental Gods”‘, Book Post (substack subscription)
Marina reviewed Anna Della Subin’s book Accidental Gods for the Book Post. Here is an excerpt from the review:
The vivid stories she unfolds deftly braid theology, philosophy, anthropology, and colonial theory; they also reflect her engagement with mythology and works of imagination, and even connect to her interest in sleep and dreams, as divinity was visited on her subjects all unconsciously: you could say they were dreamed into divine status like the magician in Borges’s story “The Circular Ruins,” who fashions a man by dreaming him into existence and then discovers at the end that he himself is being dreamed.
21 September, Lecture on Jeanne d’Arc: Une Icône du feminisme?, Historial Jeanne d’Arc, Rouen.
7-9 September, Keynote speaker, ‘Ted Hughes & the Time of Myth’, ‘Conversation with the World’: 9th International Ted Hughes Conference, University of Huddersfield.
Programme available here
19 August, Piece for Wall Street Journal, ‘Five Best: Daughters’ Tales’
Marina recommends five authors’ tales of daughterhood for the WSJ!
15 July- 12 August, Essay ‘The Mimic Net’, from Psyche, Or, the butterfly – An expanded field guide (2018), quoted alongside the online screening of Alison Turnbull’s Marpesia (2018)
Sunday 31 July, 8-9.30pm, Fairy Tales & From The Beast to The Blonde, The Last Tuesday Society, Zoom lecture, Tickets £5-10, or by donation. More here.
Marina Warner discussed her book ‘From The Beast to The Blonde – on Fairy Tales and their Tellers’, a landmark study of the history and meaning of fairy tales. Marina looks at storytelling in art and legend – from the prophesying enchantress who lures men to a false paradise, to jolly Mother Goose with her masqueraders in the real world. Why are storytellers so often women, and how does that affect the status of fairy tales? Are they a source of wisdom or a misleading temptation to indulge romancing?
Warner interprets the history of old wives’ tales from sibyls and the Queen of Sheba to Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Angela Carter. And with fresh new insights she shows us the real-life themes in the famous stories, which, she suggests, are skillful vehicles by which adults have liked to convey advice, warning, and hope – to each other as well as to children.
Marina’s illustrated piece on Helen Chadwick is now available to buy from Afterall. The ‘One Work’ publication focuses on Chadwick’s 1986 installation, The Oval Court: ‘The installation interwove some of Chadwick’s characteristic motifs – the female body (her own), the aesthetics of pleasure, the material variety and wonder of natural phenomena – and approached them in a spirit of provocative, radical and lavish flamboyance. In this illustrated volume, Marina Warner examines The Oval Court , one part of the diptych On Mutability. This complex work was erotic, playful, and fierce; it showed imaginative ambition on an exceptional scale and a unique, piquant sensibility, both raunchy and delicate.’
13-17 July (Wednesday-Sunday), Once and Future Fantasies Conference, University of Glasgow, full programme available here.
Once and Future Fantasies is the first conference co-sponsored by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA) to take place outside North America. The conference was hosted by the Centre for Fantasy and the Fantastic at the University of Glasgow. The keynote speakers were the amazing Nalo Hopkinson and Professor Dame Marina Warner. Read more on their website, here! Aside from these two keynotes, the conference offered workshops, roundtable discussions, and panels covering all aspects of the fantastic. Marina’s talk, ‘Fantasy and Danger: The Quest for Sanctuary’ is available (with a transcript) to watch back here.
28 June-12 July, First Editions, Second Thoughts: An Auction in Support of English PEN, The Lost Father 1st edition, full list of lots available here – they fundraised an excellent total of £515,844!
Christie’s presented First Editions, Second Thoughts: An Auction in Support of English PEN. This landmark philanthropic sale, which took place online from 28 June – 12 July, comprising of over 80 modern first editions by the greatest writers and artists of our time, each of which have been uniquely annotated or illustrated by their authors. Alongside a first edition of Marina’s The Lost Father, highlights included heavily annotated first editions by Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Julian Barnes, Monica Ali and Ian McEwan, extra-illustrated books by Quentin Blake, Mark Haddon and Max Porter, a poignant commentary by John le Carré, and extraordinary artworks by Ai Weiwei, Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. Marina’s extensive annotations to the text and to the endpaper maps are supplemented by six pasted photocopies of family photographs; a few annotations are initially in pencil, overwritten in ink. The annotations trace the origins of people, places and literary influences in the book, record meetings with Czeslaw Milosz and Leonara Carrington, and reflect on the composition and structure of the novel (‘I think a Table of Contents might have been a good idea … I think these switches of time zones & styles are hard on the reader!’) as well as its overarching intention ‘to show the inconsistencies & multiplicities of an individual consciousness and of the past as it lives on in the memories of those involved through family or other links’. See more here!
Friday 8 July, The Arabesque in Art & Design History, The Arts Club of Chicago, 12.15-1.15pm (CDT) / 6.15-7.15pm (BST) – more here
The arabesque in aesthetics describes the branching interlace chiefly found in Islamic art, and has acquired slightly pejorative connotations, as purely decorative on the one hand, and orientalizing and condescending on the other. The word was later borrowed into the world of dance to evoke a certain graceful and extreme extension of the limbs. In the series of programs surrounding artist Kamrooz Aram’s exhibition currently in The Arts Club’s galleries, we heard from British scholar Marina Warner, an author of fiction and cultural history. Marina exlpored the history of the term’s changing meaning and consider its potential as a site of consciousness well suited to the digital age. Could the arabesque offer an alternative structuring principle of time and space in our troubled times?
Sunday 3 July, 12 – 4pm, A Living Almanac, two-part workshop (part 2), Essex Book Festival 2022, Firstsite (Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1JH) – more here
Almanacs have provided knowledge and foreknowledge of important dates, beliefs, stories, portents and charms for centuries – calendars that offer an alternative form of time keeping. Using words, images and music we built a collective almanac, drawing on imagination and memory. This Living Almanac is liberating and enabling – a source of the joy that comes from assembling and creating together: effervescent collectivity. It also encourages individuals to view each day differently, breaking monotony, bringing new rituals or practices to life. Artists and writers involved in A Living Almanac include Marina Warner, Philip Terry, Adrian May and Sophie Herxheimer. Read more about the workshops below, with the notes for the first workshop on June 4.
Thursday 30 June, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin – 6pm, more here!
In partnership with Granta Books, IMMA presented an evening in celebration of the book Accidental Gods: On Men Unwittingly Turned Divine by Anna Della Subin. Named a best book of the year in the Irish Times, the TLS, and Esquire, Accidental Gods is an extraordinary meditation on race, empire, and power, told through stories of men who found themselves inadvertently turned into deities. Subin was joined by Marina Warner and introduced by Mark O’ Connell, author of To Be a Machine and Notes from An Apocalypse.
Tuesday 28 June, NYRB: Marina Warner presents “Esmond & Ilia” with Frances Wilson, hosted by Community Bookstore, 5pm ET / 10pm BST, online.
Marina Warner presented Esmond and Ilia: an Unreliable Memoir, in conversation with biographer and critic Frances Wilson. This virtual event, presented as part of Community Bookstore’s ongoing series with New York Review Books, took place on Zoom and has been uploaded onto their YouTube channel, where you can watch back here!
Friday 24 June, RAFT: Seeking Refuge – On Sanctuary, Song and The City (Marina Warner in conversation + Nawroz Oramari in concert, accompanied by Mikey Kirkpatrick and a performance of Deptfordia by John Bently), 7-11pm, Horse Hospital, Tickets: £7/£15 – more here
Where do we seek shelter when our concept of home, land and belonging fall apart? In these times of turmoil and upheaval, Marina Warner joins Chiara Ambrosio on her Raft, to set off on a journey through storytelling, song, and the powerful, transformative, and redemptive power of the imagination as a tool with which to build solid refuges and plant defiant gardens. This discussion was followed by a live performance by Kurdish singer Nawroz Oramari (joined by Mikey Kirkpatrick). As a teenager in Iraq in the 1970s, Oramari was told he’d be executed if he was caught singing in his native tongue, eventually having to cross many borders in his quest to sing freely. He is a member of the Citizens of the World Choir. At the end of the evening, John Bently gave a performance of Deptfordia.
This event is part of the Raft Festival programme (see the main festival page on their website for full listings).
Monday 20 June, Writing, Fairy Tale and Rococo: Marina Warner Reflects, Wallace Collection (Hertford House, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN), 6.30-7.30pm, in-person and online – more here!
In conjunction with the Wallace Collection’s exhibition Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts, Marina Warner reflected on fairy tale, rococo and her own writing practice.
This talk was also broadcast live from the museum. Online ticketholders also received a link to view a recording of the talk, available for one week only.
Thursday 16 June, Heroic Speech: The voices of women from Joan of Arc to Shahrazad, University of Lille, Seminar « Femme, femme, femme » : images, clichés, genres », 1pm BST / 2pm CET, in-person and online.
Tuesday 7 June, Leonora Carrington and the Metamorphoses of the Body and Humanity, 10am-noon, Teatro Piccolo Arsenale, Venice – the programme can be found here.
Marina joined a panel introducing Leonora Carrington’s life and work, which is filled with hybrid creatures that cross species and states of being, examining points of contact between the artist’s universe and the theme of metamorphosis that runs through the 59th International Art Exhibition in Venice, The Milk of Dreams.
Welcome and introductory remarks by Cecilia Alemani, Curator, The Milk of Dreams. Conversation between Joanna Moorhead, journalist and author; and Marina Warner, award-winning writer of fiction, criticism and history; moderated by Angela Vettese, art critic and Professor at the Università Iuav di Venezia, with an audience Q&A.
Saturday 4 June, 12-4pm, A Living Almanac, two-part workshop (part 1), Essex Book Festival 2022, Firstsite (Lewis Gardens, High Street, Colchester, CO1 1JH) – more information here
Almanacs have provided knowledge and foreknowledge of important dates, beliefs, stories, portents and charms for centuries – calendars that offer an alternative form of time keeping. This was the first of two workshop sessions on June 4, using words, images and music to build and grow a collective almanac, drawing on imagination and memory. This Living Almanac would be liberating and enabling – a source of the joy that comes from assembling and creating together: effervescent collectivity. It also encourages individuals to view each day differently, breaking monotony, bringing new rituals or practices to life. Artists and writers involved in A Living Almanac include Marina Warner, Philip Terry, Adrian May and Sophie Herxheimer (joining for the second session, on Sunday, 3 July).
Almanacs were the most popular form of printed publication for centuries, so much so that they were read to bits and not many survive. But the tradition goes on – eg Old Moore’s Almanac is still in circulation every year. Almanacs come packed with knowledge and foreknowledge – of important dates, of beliefs and stories, portents and charms. They are like calendars, but they offer an alternative form of time-keeping, local and personal.
During the past two years, while we were all – or most of us – suspended in the anxiety of the pandemic, cut off from friends and strangers alike, almost everyone experienced time behaving strangely. An almanac is a calendar but with a difference: it looks forward to the coming time and fills it with hopes and dreams. A living almanac, which we are proposing, will gather us all kinds of lore that is important for us now and in the near future. Days can be marked by such lore as local weather, tides, migrations of birds and other creatures, dates propitious for planting, important days such as birthdays. Fantastical and prophetic material is also typical of an almanac – horoscopes, wonders, miracles, superstitions, the folkloric and the surreal. A fresh, original almanac – a Living Almanac – can make time’s wayward passing our own story, our own calendar.
This living almanac will belong to us who are making it, as we look forward and express what we hope for and want to remember and would like to happen. And also what we want to forestall or deflect. We live in the imaginary mapped out by long generations in the past (our days of the week still carry the names of Thor and Freya), so let’s make our own imaginary now, for the future!
As political powers to incarcerate and silence citizens increase in many parts of the world, writers are speaking out. The Egyptian journalist and activist Alaa Abd el-Fattah in his collected writings, You Have Not Yet Been Defeated (2021, Fitzcarraldo) writes from prison about his struggles; in Australia, the latest issue of Southerly Quarterly, ‘Writing Through Fences – Archipelago of Letters’, showcases a remarkable, rich range of new writing. This round table included readings and discussion of these powerful testimonies, poems, essays and interventions.
Wednesday 25 May, Image and Object Symposium: Purity, Rainolds Room, Corpus Christi, 5-6.30pm
Purity is an illusion. No matter how hard we try, our thoughts, feelings and actions involve complex, unquantifiable mixtures. In the physical world too, very little can readily be described as “pure”. The pollution of the planet extends to the pollution of bodies. New-born babies feed on breastmilk containing substances intended to stop furnishings from catching on fire; there are pieces of plastic in our food and in our digestive tracts. Even in chemistry labs, 100% purity is extremely hard to achieve.
Yet we continue to cling to purity. Although the notions of racial purity that once dominated the discourse on human difference are now only defended by fringe few, ideological and cultural purity remain valuable ideas. Appropriation, with its connotations of hybridity and plurality, has become a dirty word. All the while, detox treatments and spiritual healing modalities promise purity as a pathway to happiness.
Hosted by the History of Art department, this year’s annual Image & Object Symposium brought together four speakers from across the University of Oxford with different disciplinary backgrounds: Meleisa Ono-George (Queen’s College), Maryanne Saunders (Lincoln College), Eleanor Tingle (St. Peter’s College) and Marina Warner (All Soul’s College). Each spoke about a particular image or object that raises the multivalent question of purity, followed by a Q&A.
The New York Review of Books have published Esmond and Ilia: An Unreliable Memoir, the American edition of Marina’s memoir Inventory of a Life Mislaid. The paperback came out on May 24, 2022.
Sunday 22 May, 1922: Constellation of Genius, 5-6pm, £18 (£12 concessions)
Jermyn Street Theatre, 16B Jermyn St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 6ST- booking here
Annus mirabilis seems a feeble description for that year of Stein, Woolf, Joyce, Eliot, Chaplin, Keaton, Hemingway, Lawrence, Stravinsky, Proust, Dorothy Parker, Scott Fitzgerald, Nabokov, Hammett, Einstein, the first radio broadcast, the first documentary film, the opening of King Tut’s tomb and so much more, all contending for notice on the bright stage of 1922. Kevin Jackson’s best-selling book explores a momentous year in world culture.
Actor and academic Jack Klaff introduced and chaired a sparky discussion involving a panel and remarks from the audience celebrating the remarkable year, and a remarkable man, the author Kevin Jackson. Panelists included journalist, broadcaster, author, and cultural historian Dr Matthew Sweet, journalist and broadcaster Tom Sutcliffe, historian Professor Dame Marina Warner and author Professor Claire Preston.
Friday 20 May, Closed virtual workshop discussing Robyn Creswell’s ‘The Ruins: Arabic Poetry in an Age of Extremes‘, 5.30pm, with Alexander Key (Stanford) and Shawkat Toorawa (Yale)
Thursday 19 May, ‘Talking Animals, Thinking in Fables: Kalīlah wa Dimnah or, Aesop in Arabic‘.
Book launch for James E. Montgomery’s co-translated Kalīlah and Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice. An in-person panel discussion for Birkbeck Arts Week 2022 with James E. Montgomery, Marina Warner and Wafa’ Tarnowska; 6-7.20pm, Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD, to book, click here.
This event is a book launch and discussion of the politics of the animal fable, chaired by Marina. James E. Montgomery, professor of Arabic at Cambridge, is a leading translator of Arabic classics, and he has now co-translated the Arabic collection of animal fables, Kalilah wa Dimnah: Fables of Virtue and Vice. He will discuss these stories with Marina and be joined by Wafa’ Tarnowska, a Lebanese writer, storyteller and translator who has published a collection Arabian Fables (2014); her most recent book is Nour’s Secret Library. They will explore the political potential of such canny uses of storytelling in an age of exacerbated rhetoric. Alongside readings, they will consider the politics of the fable through a double lens of its history in the past (the stories’ dissemination and kinship) and its potential as a model for tackling questions of our time.
18 May – 16 October 2022, Cornelia Parker, Tate Britain, London – the exhibition catalogue includes an essay by Marina Warner on Transubstantiation.
Cornelia Parker is one of Britain’s best loved and most acclaimed contemporary artists. Always driven by curiosity, she reconfigures domestic objects to question our relationship with the world. Using transformation, playfulness and storytelling, she engages with important issues of our time, be it violence, ecology or human rights. The exhibition brings together such iconic suspended works as Thirty Pieces of Silver 1988–9 and Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View 1991; the immersive War Room 2015 and Magna Carta 2015, her monumental collective embroidery, as well as her films and a wealth of her innovative drawings, prints and photographs. Some works spill out beyond the confines of the exhibition and infiltrate the permanent collection, in dialogue with the historical works they reference.
Wednesday 18 May – Marina joins Philip Terry for the book launch of The Lascaux Notebooks, by Jean-Luc Champerret (Carcanet), 7pm, online, find out more here.
The first ever collection in English of Ice Age Poetry, drawn from the cave drawings and inscriptions at Lascaux, unpacking their meaning and resonance in the 21st Century. The event featured readings and discussion, and audience members had the opportunity to ask their own questions. Register to attend here. The book is available to order on Carcanet and the Poetry Book Society website. Phil contributed a related diary piece, ‘Scratched on a Stone’, to the LRB in January 2022, available to read here.
Thursday 5 May, Salusbury World Annual Conversation, 7-8.30pm, St Luke’s Church, Fernhead Road, London, W9 3EH – information available here.
Salusbury World works with refugee and migrant families, helping children, young people and parents to realise their rights and potential. They are the only school-based refugee charity in the UK so we are uniquely placed to work with whole families. Their work is effective because their services are joined up to provide integrated educational, social and practical support. Marina will be giving their second Annual Conversation, with the inaugural event having taken place last May, with Christy Lefteri. That conversation is available to watch here.
Wednesday 27 April, Agitated Air: Poems After Ibn Arabi book launch/event (Tenement Press), The Warburg Institute, online, 6pm-7pm, More information available here.
An online reading and conversation with poets & translators Yasmine Seale, Robin Moger, and Professor Marina Warner. Organised by Beatrice Bottomley (Warburg Institute PhD) and supported by the University of London John Coffin Memorial Trust.
Born in Murcia in 1165, Ibn Arabi was a prolific philosopher and poet. He travelled extensively before settling in Damascus, where he died in 1240. Tarjumãn Al-ashwãq, or ‘The Interpreter of Desires’, is a cycle of sixty-one Arabic poems. They speak of loss and bewilderment, a spiritual and sensual yearning for the divine, and a hunger for communion in which near and far collapse.
Agitated Air: Poems after Ibn Arabi (forthcoming in February 2022 from Tenement Press) is a correspondence in poems between Istanbul and Cape Town, following the wake of The Interpreter of Desires. Collaborating at a distance, Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger work in close counterpoint, making separate translations of each poem, exchanging them, then writing new poems in response to what they receive. The process continues until they are exhausted, and then a new chain begins.
Marina Warner writes of the collection ‘Antiphonal, intimate and virtuoso, these variations respond to the sense that the interpretation of desires can be endless. […] This is translation as intrepid and inspired re-visioning, a form of poetry of its own, as forged by Edward FitzGerald, Ezra Pound and Anne Carson.’
In this online reading, Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger will give voice to these poems, bringing to life the imagery and sounds that punctuated their exchange. The reading will be followed by a discussion between the poet-translators and Marina Warner.
April 2022, The Great Women Artists: Marina Warner on Kiki Smith and Helen Chadwick, podcast, listen here
Marina joined Katy Hessel to talk about artists Kiki Smith and Helen Chadwick, both of whom are included in her collection of essays, Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists. Marina her process/ approach to art writing, of ekphrasis and trying to engage by “looking really closely at works of art, to see and feel how the artist is interpreting the world”.
Thursday 31 March, 6.30pm, Joan of Arc, icon of feminism? at Historial Jeanne d’Arc, Rouen (online)
Marina gave a talk on Joan of Arc for the museum dedicated to the historical figure, in Rouen, France. Marina spoke about Joan of Arc in the context of feminism, asking whether the spirit of Joan of Arc, heroine of suffragists and suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th century, reappears in today’s young girls, leaders of global movements, such as Malala Yusufzai and Greta Thurnberg. Marina took a look at the cult of Joan, promoted by the art of Sylvia Pankhurst in England and the sculpture of Joan Vaughn Hyatt Huntingdon in the United States, and will explore the cultural and psychological links between the feminist movement of the last century with the calls has the freedom of women and the protection of the environment made so passionately by the Johannine avatars of our days.
Explore the Historial Jeanne d’Arc here.
Monday 7 March, 12:30-1:20pm IST / 7-7:50am GMT, Marina Warner in conversation with Jenny Uglow, Jaipur Literature Festival
Marina discussed her book Inventory Of A Life Mislaid: An Unreliable Memoir with biographer, historian and publisher Jenny Uglow. The festival programme (5-14 March) this year was brimming with brilliant events, including Colm Tóibín in conversation with Tishani Doshi and Elif Shafak in conversation with Nandini Nair. Have a browse of their physical/online festival via this link. A recording will be available on their YouTube page, here.
4 February, ‘Blood and ricotta: An anthology of oddly modern fairy tales’, Review of The Pomegranates and other Modern Italian Fairy Tales, TLS
Marina contributed a piece to the 4 February 2022 Issue of TLS, reviewing the recently published The Pomegranates and other Modern Italian Fairy Tales, edited and translated by Cristina Mazzoni (Princeton University Press: 2021). Read here
Thursday 10 February, 11:00 GMT, Arvon at Home Masterclass: Listening to Things – Workshop, with Sophie Herxheimer
£35 / £17.50 concession
In this two hour masterclass Sophie Herxheimer and Marina Warner reflected on the vagaries of memory, the role of imagination and yes, invention, in meeting the past and re-animating it. They explored different keys to the doors of experience and tune into the surprising power of objects. With participants, they watch as seeming trifles: Desdemona’s handkerchief, Aladdin’s lamp, Widow Wadham’s eyeglass in Tristram Shandy – act as pivots, moving story and characters into unforeseen worlds, pressing changes in the fates of all who touch them. And they discovered how the things around us too, whether ordinary or rare, seem to hold their own dialogue with us, despite their ostensible silence. They write to find out what keys objects hold, to writing, to imagination, to the past and the future.
Find out more about Arvon, the UK’s home of creative writing, here.