Marina Warner – Stories on the move: suffering, sanctuary, danger
About the event
The David Fickling Lecture – given by Marina Warner
Can myths, legends and stories provide alternative shelter? Can literature offer sanctuary in times of dislocation and loss? A place where a refugee, a migrant, or a wanderer might feel at home? In today’s geopolitical upheavals, when millions of people are on the move, how do narratives travel between cultures and languages?
Travelling texts, in the form of stories, histories, songs, poems, in various media, play a vital part in building communities and, as they travel they change shape. Can we unite in ‘a country of words’, a place of belonging without a nation? Can literature – especially imaginative works of myth, legend, fairy tale and fable – map geographies of home on to surroundings that are not home?
Myths, and the related corpus of folk and fairy tales, are stories held in common, protean and ancient – though there are new variations generated all the time (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is subtitled The New Prometheus). The philosopher Paul Ricoeur has commented, ‘Telling a story is deploying an imaginary space for thought experiments in which moral judgement operates in a hypothetical mode.’ Such though experiments can tell truths but they can also peddle lies, they can express the most yearning ideals of the utopian imagination and entrench the most obscurantist righteous bigotry. Human beings respond imaginatively to the perplexities of reality. Yet the lessons of history, and especially of 20th and 21st century history, are that myth is always being made and remade to serve the interests of a group. We live in the stories we pass on and the stories we invent and how they report on experience, one of the territories that needs to be re-0ccupied is narrative.
About Marina Warner
Marina Warner’s award-winning studies of mythology and fairy tales include Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976; re-issued 2013), Stranger Magic: Charmed States & the Arabian Nights (2012), From the Beast to the Blonde – on Fairy Tales and their Tellers (1994), Monuments & Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form (1985), and No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (1998). Her Clarendon Lectures Fantastic Metamorphoses; Other Worlds were published in 2001; her essays on literature and culture were collected in Signs & Wonders (2000), and Phantasmagoria, a study of spirits and technology, appeared in 2006. In 2013 she was awarded a Sheykh Zayed Prize and the Truman Capote Award. She was awarded a CBE for services to Literature in 2008. She is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an Honorary Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and the British Academy.
The David Fickling lecture is in partnership with Seven Stories and Newcastle University.Go back