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Suffering Souls

Marina Warner: Ghosts in the middle ages., 18 June 1998

Ghosts in the Middle Ages: The Living and the Dead in Medieval Society 
by Jean-Claude Schmitt, translated by Theresa Lavender Fagan.
Chicago, 290 pp., £26.50, May 1998, 0 226 73887 6
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... A young priest called Walchelin, returning home one clear night in Normandy around a thousand years ago, heard a great clash and din of an army approaching; he assumed it was the soldiers who followed a local warlord, and hid himself in fear behind some medlar trees. But what he saw, instead, was a ghostly troop: first the lay folk, on foot, weighed down by terrible burdens; then the clergy, bishops as well as monks, all black-cowled and weeping; another black-robed, fiery army of knights then rode by, on black chargers ...

Magic Zones

Marina Warner, 8 December 1994

Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilisation 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 413 pp., £25, October 1994, 9780571173907
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... When Pasolini, disgusted with the fatted values of post-war capitalism in Italy, was dreaming up an alternative in his late Trilogy, he found the imagery he needed in old collections of stories, and made The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron and The Arabian Nights. By turning from the uncanny, contemporary metaphysics of a film like Theorem, he was making common cause with the vulgar imagination and placing his hope in its vigour, in what he perceived to be its unabashed appetites and its laughter ...

The Labile Self

Marina Warner: Dressing Up, 5 January 2012

Dressing Up: Cultural Identity in Renaissance Europe 
by Ulinka Rublack.
Oxford, 354 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 19 929874 7
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... A 17th-century comic print known as The Cure of Folly shows a surgery-cum-alchemical cabinet in which a doctor is treating patients: one is being administered mind-altering drugs; another is being fired and recast in a furnace. This one, a ‘gallant’ in a most elegant get-up, with little pointy moustaches, a lace ruff with multiple layers, soft boots with spurs, and a silk tunic fashionably slashed in both bodice and sleeves, is undergoing the procedure rather in the manner of a modern full body scan ...

At the Hayward

Marina Warner: Tracey Emin, 25 August 2011

... Quilts used to be made from baskets of scraps; old clothes were cut up, the worn and stained bits discarded, the best parts kept for reuse. Every household where a woman lived had such a container – a midden of memories – and when the scraps had become a patchwork quilt, spotting this old dress or that old pair of curtains or that old cushion was part of the pleasure of the bed, a domestic pleasure ...

Imps and Ogres

Marina Warner, 6 June 2019

Big and Small: A Cultural History of Extraordinary Bodies 
by Lynne Vallone.
Yale, 339 pp., £20, November 2017, 978 0 300 22886 1
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... In​ 1956, Lorenza Mazzetti, then a student at the Slade, made a film called Together, with her fellow artists Michael Andrews and Eduardo Paolozzi playing the main parts. She shot it in the bombed-out East End, which gaggles of children had made their territory; her camera catches the wild scrambling, dash and hurtle of scores of boys and girls playing together in the puddles and the rubble ...

Performances for Sleepless Tyrants

Marina Warner: ‘Tales of the Marvellous’, 8 January 2015

Tales of the Marvellous and News of the Strange 
translated by Malcolm Lyons, introduced by Robert Irwin.
Penguin, 600 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 14 139503 6
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... When​ Marie-Antoinette couldn’t sleep, she would ring for a lady-in-waiting to come and read to her; a rota of lectrices was on call at Versailles at any time of day or night; before radio or talking books, this was one of the luxuries of the Ancien Régime. The queen could have lit her bedside candle and read to herself, but it wasn’t just a rich woman’s indolence that made that remedy less appealing ...

Diary

Marina Warner: Why I Quit, 10 September 2014

... The professor​ from the West Coast stepped out of the taxi and looked around, head tilted back and swivelling from one looming grey tower to another as she assessed the flint-studded concrete ramparts of the library. ‘Oh, wowww!’ she cried, ecstasy lifting her voice above the wind whipping off the marshes. ‘New brutalism! Rarely seen any so pure ...

At Tate Liverpool

Marina Warner: Surrealism in Egypt, 8 March 2018

... Art et Liberté​ was a movement that came into being in 1938 in Cairo. It was affiliated to Surrealism through contact with André Breton in Paris, and shared Surrealism’s spirit of rebellion and provocation, its desire for dream knowledge and penchant for manifestos. ‘Long live degenerate art’ was the title of its opening blast, printed in Arabic and French alongside a reproduction of Picasso’s Guernica and signed by writers and artists from a great variety of backgrounds but united in their political leanings and belief in culture without borders ...

Diary

Marina Warner: Medea, 3 December 2015

... powerful female interpreters: Maria Callas in Pasolini’s film (1969), Fiona Shaw in Deborah Warner’s production (2001), and among writers, Toni Morrison, who slants the myth through her novel Beloved (1987), as does Marina Carr more directly in her play By the Bog of Cats (1998), which is set in a traveller ...

Baby Power

Marina Warner, 6 July 1989

The Romantic Child: From Runge to Sendak 
by Robert Rosenblum.
Thames and Hudson, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1989, 0 500 55020 4
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Caldecott & Co: Notes on Books and Pictures 
by Maurice Sendak.
Reinhardt, 216 pp., £13.95, March 1989, 1 871061 06 7
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Dear Mili 
by Wilhelm Grimm, translated by Ralph Manheim and Maurice Sendak.
Viking Kestrel, £9.95, November 1988, 0 670 80168 2
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Grimms’ Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the ‘Tales’ 
by Ruth Bottigheimer.
Yale, 211 pp., £8.95, April 1989, 0 300 04389 9
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The one who set out to study fear 
by Peter Redgrove.
Bloomsbury, 183 pp., £13.95, April 1989, 0 7475 0187 4
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... In 1894, the same year that the Children’s Charter extended new legal protection to the young, the English painter Thomas Gotch portrayed his young daughter in majesty like a Madonna by Duccio, with a huge nimbus around her head, and called the image The Child Enthroned. Concurrently, the Swiss Ferdinand Hodler celebrated the birth of his son with an equally awed work, The Chosen One, in which the newborn and naked baby lies on the ground like a Christ Child in a Nativity painting, with a watch of winged spirits hovering a foot off the ground around him ...

Villa Lampedusa

Marina Warner, 5 January 1989

The Last Leopard: A Life of Giuseppe di Lampedusa 
by David Gilmour.
Quartet, 223 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 0 7043 2564 0
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... In The Leopard, the prince embraces Angelica at the moment of her engagement to his nephew Tancredi, ‘and he felt as if by those kisses he were taking possession of Sicily once more, of the lovely faithless land which now ... had surrendered to him again, as always to his family, its carnal delights and golden crops.’ Though the prince’s personal powers are never in question in the novel, his creator is mindful, at the moment of that embrace, of his hero as the representative of family and its ancient rights of possession ...

Watch your tongue

Marina Warner, 20 August 1992

Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love 
by Howard Bloch.
Chicago, 308 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 226 05973 1
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Women of the Renaissance 
by Margaret King.
Chicago, 328 pp., £13.50, December 1991, 0 226 43618 7
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The Lady as Saint: A Collection of French Hagiographical Romances of the 13th Century 
by Brigitte Cazelles.
Pennsylvania, 320 pp., £35, November 1991, 9780812230994
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Heavenly Supper: The Story of Maria Janis 
by Fulvio Tomizza, translated by Anne Jacobson Shutte.
Chicago, 184 pp., £19.95, December 1991, 0 226 80789 4
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Oppositional Voices: Women as Writers and Translators of Literature in the English Renaissance 
by Tina Krontiris.
Routledge, 192 pp., £25, April 1992, 0 415 06329 9
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... If SS Jerome or Ambrose or Augustine or any of the grim Fathers had been watching television in spring this year, they wouldn’t have had much trouble seeing Marlene Dietrich for what she was. Those lids, those lips, that pillowy mink, those sidelong glances, those shimmering legs and – above all – that voice, would have rendered her lightly accented modern English as plain as the Latin of the Mass to the patriarchs and their friends and forerunners in the penitential Thebaid ...

Into Thin Air

Marina Warner: Science at the Séances, 3 October 2002

The Invention of Telepathy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 334 pp., £35, June 2002, 0 19 924962 8
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... Eva C., one of the most sensational ‘materialising’ mediums of the early 20th century, was much photographed in the act of producing spirits in the form of ectoplasmic structures, or ‘pseudo-pods’. These long viscous skeins of white stuff, which sometimes passed as if miraculously through a gauzy gag tied over Eva C.’s face, were thought to be ‘ideoplasts’ – projections of the medium’s mind ...

The Virtue of Incest

Marina Warner, 7 October 1993

Elizabeth’s Glass 
by Marc Shell.
Nebraska, 365 pp., £30.95, July 1993, 0 8032 4216 6
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... The romance of Apollonius of Tyre opens with the classic fairy-tale couple: the king and his daughter. Antiochus is powerful, she is beautiful, and of marriageable age – there is no mother. The difference is that, in this variation, she will not leave home to marry a prince, for her father Antiochus ‘began to love her in a way unsuitable for a father ...

Noonday Devils

Marina Warner, 6 June 1996

Tituba Reluctant Witch of Salem: Devilish Indians and Puritan Fantasies 
by Elaine Breslaw.
New York, 237 pp., $24.95, February 1996, 0 8147 1227 4
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... The French historian Arlette Farge has described coming across a letter, written on linen in a fine strong hand, in which a prisoner, long incarcerated in the Bastille, writes to his wife, affectionately, imploringly; he adds a message, to the laundry woman who will find it among his washing, asking her to embroider a blue cross on one of his socks to tell him she has managed to pass it on ...

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