Marina Warner

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Date: Oct. 25, 2013
Document Type: Biography
Length: 5,371 words

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About this Person
Born: 1946
Nationality: British
Occupation: Writer
Updated:Oct. 25, 2013

Born November 9, 1946, in London, England; daughter of Esmond (a bookseller) and Emilia (a teacher) Warner; married William Shawcross (a journalist), January 31, 1972 (divorced); married John Dewe Mathews (a painter), 1981 (divorced); children: (first marriage) Conrad. Education: Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, B.A. (modern languages), 1963, M.A., 1967. Addresses: Agent: Rogers, Coleridge and White, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1NJ, England. E-mail:; info@


Writer, scholar, historian, and critic. Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Getty Scholar, 1987-88; Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Tinbergen Professor, 1991; University of Ulster, visiting professor, 1994; Queen Mary and Westfield College, University of London, London, visiting professor, 1994; University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, visiting professor, 1997; Trinity College, Cambridge, visiting fellow commoner, 1998; Humanities Research Centre, Warwick, visiting fellow, 1999; Yale University, Tanner Lecturer, 1999; Stanford University, visiting professor, 2000; All Souls College, Oxford, 2001; Italian Academy, Columbia University, visiting fellow, 2003; Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Essex, England, professor, 2004--; Department of Animation at the Royal College of Art in London, visiting professor, 2008-11; Department of Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London, visiting professor, 2008-11.


Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, 1984; Fawcett Prize, 1986, for Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form; PEN Award, 1988; Commonwealth Prize--Eurasia, 1988, and Booker Prize shortlist nomination, both for The Lost Father; Harvey Darton Prize, 1995, and Mythopoeic Society Prize, 1996, both for From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers; Katherine Briggs Folklore Award, 1999, for No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock; Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (France), 2000; Booker Prize longlist nomination and Impac longlist nomination, both for The Leto Bundle, 2001; Aby Warburg Prize, 2004; elected fellow, British Academy, 2005; Commendatore dell'Ordine della Stella di Solidareita, Italy, 2005; awarded CBE, 2008; National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, 2012, and Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism, Iowa Writers' Workshop, 2013, both for Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights; Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Arab Culture in Non-Arabic Languages, 2013. Honorary doctorate degrees conferred by University of Exeter, 1995, Sheffield Hallam University, 1995, University of York, 1997, University of North London, 1997, University of St Andrew's, 1998, Tavistock Institute (University of East London), 1999, Oxford University, 2002, Royal College of Art, 2004, University of Kent, 2005, University of Leicester, 2006, and King's College London, 2009.




  • In a Dark Wood, Knopf (New York, NY), 1977.
  • The Skating Party, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1983.
  • The Lost Father, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.
  • Indigo; or, Mapping the Waters, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.
  • The Leto Bundle, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2001.


  • The Mermaids in the Basement, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1993.
  • Murderers I Have Known, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2002.

Translator, with Kathrine Talbot, of short story collection The House of Fear: Notes from Down Below by Leonora Carrington, 1988.


  • The Dragon Empress: Life and Times of Tz'u-hsi, 1835-1908, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1972.
  • Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary, Knopf (New York, NY), 1976.
  • Queen Victoria's Sketchbook, Crown (New York, NY), 1980.
  • Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism, Knopf (New York, NY), 1981, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1999.
  • Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1985, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1985.
  • Into the Dangerous World, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1989.
  • Managing Monsters (lectures), Vintage (London, England), 1994, published in the United States as Six Myths of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More, Vintage (New York, NY), 1995.
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1995.
  • (Author of introduction) The Trial of Joan of Arc, Arthur James (Evesham, England), 1996.
  • No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 1998, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 1999, paperback edition published as Monsters of Our Own Making: The Peculiar Pleasures of Fear, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2007.
  • Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.
  • (Compiler and author of introduction) World of Myths, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 2003.
  • Signs & Wonders: Essays on Literature & Culture, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2003.
  • Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-First Century, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2006.
  • (With Steven Heller) Sometimes I Think, Sometimes I Am, Tate (London, England), 2007.
  • Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2012.
  • The Symbol Gives Rise to Thought: Writings on Art by Marian Warner, Violette Editions (London, England), 2013.
  • (Editor, with Philip Kennedy) Scheherazade's Children: Global Encounters with The Arabian Nights, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2013.


  • The Crack in the Teacup (history), Deutsch (London, England), 1979.
  • The Impossible Day, Methuen (London, England), 1981.
  • The Impossible Night, Methuen (London, England), 1981.
  • The Impossible Rocket, Methuen (London, England), 1982.
  • The Impossible Bath, Methuen (London, England), 1982.
  • The Wobbly Tooth, Deutsch (London, England), 1984.
  • (Editor) Wonder Tales, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1994.
  • (Editor and author of introduction) Wonder Tales, illustrations by Sophie Herxheimer, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (New York, NY), 1996.


  • Joan of Arc, Channel 4 (London, England), 1984.
  • Cinderella, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) 2 (London, England), 1986.
  • Imaginary Woman, Channel 4 (London, England), 1986.
  • Tell Me More, Channel 4 (London, England), 1991.


  • Money, Collins (London, England), 1971.
  • Margaret Laing, editor, Woman on Woman, Sidgwick & Jackson (London, England), 1972.
  • (With others) Duncan J. Petrie, editor, Cinema and the Realms of Enchantment: Lectures, Seminars, and Essays, British Film Institute (London, England), 1993.
  • (Author of new introduction) The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (New York Review of Books Classics), New York Review of Books (New York, NY), 2001.
  • (With others) Tony Oursler: The Influence Machine, Artangel (London, England), 2002.
  • Anselm Kiefer, Anselm Kiefer: Next Year in Jerusalem, Gagosian Gallery (New York, NY), 2011.


  • The Queen of Sheba's Legs (opera libretti), produced in London, England, 1992.
  • In the House of Crossed Desires (opera libretti), produced in London, England, 1996.

Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Independent, London Review of Books, New York Times, New Statesman, Sunday Times (London, England), Times Literary Supplement, and to BBC television and radio. Contributor of articles to scholarly journals. Contributor to exhibition catalogues, including Enfleshings, by Helen Chadwick, Aperture (New York, NY), 1989; David Nash: Voyages and Vessels, by Graham W.J. Beal, Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha, NE), 1994; and Richard Wentworth, Thames and Hudson (New York, NY), 1994.

Warner's short stories have appeared in publications such as New Writing 7, Erewhon, New York Times Magazine, and A Book of Modern Miracles.



A social historian and scholar of female mythology, British author Marina Warner writes literary and art criticism as well as novels and stories for young children. From her creative redepiction of such classical characters as Miranda from William Shakespeare's The Tempest to her in-depth examination of the fairy tale tradition in From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, she provides her readers with fresh perspectives on commonly held perceptions. Warner's writing is "playful, skillful and sometimes surprising; turning the familiar upside down," wrote Diana Postlethwaite in Women's Review of Books.

Born in London, England, in 1946, Warner's early years were spent in Cairo, Egypt, with her Italian mother, Emilia, and her English father, Esmond. She has one younger sister, Laura, who is an art critic. During her childhood, Warner climbed on the pyramids and vacationed in Alexandria, absorbing the ancient landscape and culture of Egypt. Her father operated a wholesale warehouse for bookseller W.H. Smith, and the family enjoyed a rich literary and social life until 1952, when her father's warehouse was burned during the first nationalist riots, according to Nicholas Wroe in Guardian. Devastated by the loss of the business, the family briefly returned to London before settling in Brussels, Belgium. There, Warner attended school at the convent of St. Mary's in Ascot. Sister Christina Kenworthy Browne, one of Warner's teachers, was quoted by Wroe as calling Warner "very clever in a very gifted class." Warner, she said, "was the sort of child whose work you wanted to look at first, you knew it would be interesting. She also had a deep sense of the spiritual. She was interested in symbolism and so on even then. Her troubled Catholicism wasn't evident at school but I think it was boiling underneath." Although Warner began to develop what would become a long-term struggle with her Catholic faith, she adjusted to school at the convent, Wroe further noted, excelling in academics and loving some subjects.

At seventeen, Warner attended Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. In college, Warner worked as hard as she played, Wroe said. She became the editor of Isis, the university literary magazine, and participated in TV quiz shows where she competed for cash prizes. "After university, she was offered a job on the Daily Telegraph, where she won an award for young journalist of the year before moving on, aged twenty-three, to be the features editor on Vogue." While at Vogue, she interviewed prominent cultural figures such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and M.C. Escher. During this time, Warner wrote her first novel, which was rejected with the suggestion that she try nonfiction. Her first book, The Dragon Empress: Life and Times of Tz'u-hsi, 1835-1908, was the result.

Warner left Vogue in 1971 to travel to America with her new husband, journalist William Shawcross. He started writing speeches for Senator Edward Kennedy, but eventually became involved in covering the Watergate scandal, as Wroe noted. While Shawcross pursued Watergate, Warner spent time in the Library of Congress conducting research for Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary. Warner and Shawcross then traveled to Vietnam, where the pair witnessed the results of the napalm raid on Trang Bang and saw the napalm-burned Vietnamese girl immortalized in the famous photograph. She continued her research on Mary while in Vietnam, finding that "the religion I had absorbed and discarded was very different to what I found in the history, in that the cult of Mary had changed so much over the years and served so many purposes," Wroe quoted her as saying.

Warner's son Conrad was born in 1977. Her marriage to Shawcross dissolved a few years later, and in 1981, she married painter John Dewe Mathews. Her marriage to Mathews ended in divorce in 1998. Over the years, her "impeccable north London liberal activism" has suffered, Wroe wrote, and she has endured tragedies such as the death of her father. Despite personal and political changes, Warner's work continued to thrive and grow, although she has resisted becoming allied with any particular university or institution, preferring to remain independent. "At one time I did want to be attached to an institution," Wroe quoted Warner as saying. "But I've changed my view dramatically, as I think I have now broken through and people don't despise me any more." Publisher Carmen Callil places Warner "among the leading trinity of British female writers," along with Angela Carter and Antonia Byatt, according to Wroe.

Spanning the decades and political and social eras from the early part of the twentieth century through the 1980s, Warner's 1988 novel The Lost Father is told by narrator Anna Colluthar. Piecing together the quilt of her family history within a circular framework, Anna begins her story with her grandfather, wounded in a duel in 1912, who ultimately immigrates to the United States, only to return to Italy during Mussolini's rise to power. Warner invokes mythology, history, and politics within her narrative, a fiction that Lorna Sage characterized in Times Literary Supplement as having "a slow, dreamy quality that is at once pleasurable and slightly sinister--as in those dreams where you're mysteriously tethered to one spot, condemned to wander in circles." Awarded the Commonwealth Prize, the novel has been praised for its invocation of fascist Italy and for its telling depiction of women's lives. "We become aware of how family patterns are repeated ...," noted Michiko Kakutani in New York Times, "and in doing so, we are also made to appreciate the role that kinship plays in both our fate and our redemption. Dense with the intimate details of family life, The Lost Father is a rich and magisterial novel, a novel that insinuates itself persuasively into the reader's mind."

Set in London and on an imaginary island in the Caribbean, Indigo; or, Mapping the Waters retells Shakespeare's The Tempest. "Warner's project is to explode that play and reassemble it in a novel's looser form," wrote Louis B. Jones in New York Times Book Review. The novel contains two time frames, the seventeenth century and the twentieth, and through her many characters, Jones continued, "the author explores the Shakespearean metaphor of the conquered race as 'monster' or 'miscreant'." Warner's modern-day Miranda--the idealistic British descendent of a dark-skinned foundling child raised by a seventeenth-century witch named Sycorax--is an artist living in twentieth-century London who is plagued by the racism occasioned by her mixed race. Later in the novel, she returns to the Caribbean but is disappointed to find that the land of her heritage has been contaminated by luxury hotels, casinos, and other elements of European culture. While noting that the work is perhaps flawed by "too much thought," Gustavo Perez Firmat praised Indigo in Washington Post Book World as a work that "stands out for showing that the truly important encounters in a novel occur not between worlds but between individuals. ... It's not the personal that is political, but the other way around."

Like her fiction, Warner's nonfiction addresses a number of feminist issues, particularly as they relate to religion and history. In Alone of All Her Sex, Warner claims that the Virgin Mary has survived history as "the tool of Catholic policy makers," wrote Joan M. Ferrante in a review for Nation. "This point and one other, that a horror of sex lies at the base of most of the beliefs and teachings about the Virgin, are the basic concepts which emerge from, and perhaps shaped, Warner's study," Ferrante continued. "They may offend some, but they should not. This is not a rabble-rousing tract but a controlled presentation of facts painstakingly culled, tracing the pragmatic as well as the psychological origins of many aspects of the cult of Mary."

Critical reaction to Alone of All Her Sex was mixed. Francine du Plessix Gray, writing in Washington Post Book World, objected to the book's lack of emphasis on the Virgin's pre-Christian equivalents. In her contention that Mary's perfection has been used by the Church to subjugate women for almost two millennia, Warner "shows an eye for conspiracy," wrote Garry Wills in New York Times Book Review. Wills also criticized Warner for her "studious admiration of the rich store of artifacts devoted to the Virgin. ... She has a kind of Hebraic fervor in reverse on the subject of graven images--she would save all the statues, and only smash the Ideal. She loves all the cult objects, while oddly objecting to the theology that kept the cult from becoming adoration." On the other hand, according to Ferrante, Alone of All Her Sex "offers to all but the most learned Mariologist a wealth of information about the cult of the Virgin, drawing not only from religious and secular history, but also from classical and Eastern myth, scriptural exegesis, popular legend and official dogma. Yet the work is never dry or tedious because the material is so fascinating." Karen Durbin, reviewing Alone of All Her Sex for Village Voice, commented that "the book is rich in detail, and Warner's analysis of a faith so riddled with irrationality and contradictions is impressive--even, at times, brilliant."

Perhaps the most idealized female since the Virgin Mary is Joan of Arc, the fifteenth-century French girl whose apparently divine inspirations helped change the course of European history. In Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism, Warner "underlines the paradox that, although females were normally regarded as inferior and more inclined to sin, it was usual in painting and sculpture to represent the Virtues as female," wrote Keith Thomas in New York Review of Books. "In the strongest and most original thesis of this compelling book," Julia Epstein maintained in Nation, Warner "proposes that the 'wife, mother, mistress, muse' catalogue limits the vocabulary for acceptable female activity; Joan, as a phenomenon, adds to its lexicon." Epstein termed Warner's view of the French heroine "a persuasive iconological interpretation of Joan's meaning in history and of her spiritual and representational authority."

Warner's Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form examines female imagery in art and public life and assesses such figures as Boadicea, the Statue of Liberty, and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The book "is an allegory within an allegory," stated Washington Post Book World critic Lucy Lippard. "Overtly about representations, it is covertly about flesh and blood--the transformations from reality to art to reality. Following Warner's labyrinthine path through the history of societal ambivalence about women, we can almost see a rosy glow spreading across the scholarly text as the subject warms and comes to life." Some critics found Warner's approach overly scholarly and her chosen subject matter too vast to shape coherently. Maureen Mullarky indicated in her Nation review that "the flood of documentation obscures Warner's lack of original ideas. The book owes more to its sources than is indicated." Susan Brownmiller in New York Times Book Review, however, gave Monuments and Maidens measured praise. "Despite a penchant for the obscure, Marina Warner is too levelheaded to spin a grandiose thesis out of her bits and pieces of allegorical fare," noted Brownmiller. "She cannot be faulted for the error of excess, except for demonstrating unwarranted persistence when it should have been evident that her material was letting her down. ... Along the way there are some first-rate disquisitions on individual paintings and sculpture." The "importance of Monuments and Maidens," added Lippard, "is the way it encourages us to read symbolically the art and media images with which we are surrounded. ... Its message resonates in daily experience, serving as a reminder that skin-deep means more than cosmetics."

Warner moves from the world of traditional art to the world of contemporary myth in Six Myths of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More (published in England as Managing Monsters ). Based on a series of talks Warner gave as Reith Lecturer in 1993, the book focuses on "the contemporary uses and dimensions of fiction, myth, the imagination," stated Ursula K. Le Guin in New York Times Book Review. Warner's book "takes her from Keats to King Kong to cannibalism, from welfare mothers to male bonding to child pornography to patriotism. It is delightful reading all the way." Examining the work on a more serious level, Margaret Anne Doody explained Warner's underlying message in the London Review of Books: "What ... is everywhere apparent is that the [mainstream] press, a great promulgator of debased images and tinny myths, is at present an unstoppable fountain of prejudice and paranoia working to keep the working people, women and aliens all in their appropriate subjugation. ... But one of the riddles of our situation is how to create the ability to understand 'myth' when most media wish the mythology to remain invisible." Warner's project, Doody continued, "opens questions, offers analysis and thought, invites further discussion. Managing Monsters has freedom--and a noble freedom--as its objective."

Warner's From the Beast to the Blonde examines the birth of the fairy tale genre in seventeenth-century Paris and includes a wealth of broadly based information, interpretation, and history. Warner's analysis focuses on six major fairy tales: "Bluebeard," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid," "Cinderella," "Donkeyskin," and "Sleeping Beauty." Alfred Corn, writing in Nation, remarked that Warner "has scrutinized the mythology and iconography surrounding the feminine ideal in Western culture, firmly and patiently showing how narratives concerning women have enabled or sabotaged their quest for self-determination." Warner provides a scholarly, even-handed analysis of the fairy tale, seeking "to understand why fairy-tale literature says what it does, without concluding that it unfailingly embodies eternal truths about women," Corn remarked. "Warner's point is not to embrace fairy-tale literature indiscriminately because of its largely female authorship," Corn said, "nor to dismiss it across the board as oppressive pap."

While reviewer Tom Shippey of Times Literary Supplement described From the Beast to the Blonde as "a string of provocative, unexpected, but largely unexplained images in juxtaposition," Margaret Atwood expressed higher praise for the work in Los Angeles Times Book Review: "It's crammed full of goodies--stick your thumb into it anywhere, and out comes a plum--and profusely illustrated. It is also simply essential reading for anyone concerned, not only with fairy tales, myths and legend, but also with how stories of all kinds get told." Celia Morris, writing in Houston Chronicle, found the book "enthralling and very nearly unreadable," hindered by over-analysis and overwriting. However, Morris commented that "if read with fortitude, patience, and the longer edition of the OED [Oxford English Dictionary], From the Beast to the Blonde will yield a wealth of insights and new ways of coming to terms with the power and meaning of storytelling."

In her 1998 study, No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock, Warner provides an in-depth examination of the role of scary stories, monsters, and other manifestations of fear in ancient and contemporary society. Winner of the 1999 Katherine Briggs Folklore Award, No Go the Bogeyman is "a long, hard look at what is really going on when we are trying to scare ourselves with ogres, monsters, bogeymen, cyclops, giants, and so on," observed Nicholas Lezard in the London Guardian. Warner's study brings together a wide assortment of material, from grim lullabies to cautionary tales, disturbing paintings to monster movies. She analyzes material derived from folklore, religion, mythology, art history, popular culture, literature, and other areas, constructing a book that "shows her seemingly all-embracing geographical and historical sweep of understanding of the world and appreciation of the forces that shape it," Wroe observed. A reviewer in Time remarked: "Warner's methods in Bogeyman are culturally omnivorous, ranging over Goya, the Alien movies, the origins of the word boo and the many meanings of bananas. Best dipped into rather than read in one go, the book very much matches contemporary experience."

Although reviewers such as Lezard remarked that the book's argument "seems to be nothing more groundbreaking or astonishing than that we create terrors in order to conquer them," Warner's work seeks a deeper understanding of the function of fear and how it shapes society all the way down to the level of the individual. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Warner "pinpoints three ways that horror serves to allay and confront human fears of abuse, abandonment, and death: scaring (fear as a positive visceral experience), lulling ('Lullabies weave a protective web of words and sounds against raiders who come with the night.'), and making mock (dark comedy as a defense against fear)."

Still, Wroe said, "the book is made wonderful by its breadth of reference, the sagacity of Warner's comments, and the justness of the connections she makes." Julia Burch, writing in Library Journal, observed that No Go the Bogeyman is "full of interesting detail ... a stimulating and entertaining read, offering insights on almost every page." Similarly, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, in a Booklist review, called the book a "compelling study that takes us across stories and legends, painting and illustration, linguistics and wordplay, in search of just what is hiding under the bed."

The Leto Bundle, Warner's 2001 novel, is "a compelling and erudite meditation on exiles, refugees, loss and the search for a home," wrote Jonathan Patrick in Scotland on Sunday. The novel follows the character Leto through various incarnations through time, from Greek mythology to an almost dystopian present. Leto, the mortal girl raped by Zeus and cursed by Zeus's jealous wife, Hera, is forever doomed to never find a home, though her union with the god produced twins, Phoebe and Phoebus.

In the novel's present time, the remains of a young woman named Leto have come into the possession of the Museum of Albion. This Leto Bundle, however, is found to contain not human remains, but ancient fragments of manuscripts and artifacts. Museum director Dr. Hortense Fernly undertakes an intense study of the materials, but schoolteacher Kim McQuy becomes increasingly obsessed with Leto and the themes she embodies to him, the victims of war, oppression, and poverty she represents. Through McQuy's Web site, Leto ascends through celebrity status to become the linchpin of a national movement, "the goddess of dispossession, of diaspora, of people trying to forge a new definition of 'belonging'," wrote Rachel Cusk in the London Daily Telegraph. Crowds of homeless gather in the museum to be close to the relics of Leto. Eventually, with the help of aging folk singer Gramercy Poule, Fernly and McQuy manage to follow the clues to Leto's identity to their conclusion, and "succeed in uncovering a series of documents which tell the story of Leto and her twins over the centuries," Cusk said.

"This is a novel of the present as much as the past," Patrick wrote, "offering a dark, satirical vision of 1990s Albion as a dystopian, yet all too recognisable world of displaced peoples, urban decay, national identity in crisis and a people longing for a figurehead." Following Leto through centuries, "all time in the novel, in the end, feels simultaneous," wrote Tom Adair in Scotsman. "This is a tricky feat to pull off with complete plausibility, and Warner almost achieves it against the odds." Frank Egerton, writing in Financial Times, remarked that "Marina Warner's Leto is presented not as a goddess or saint but as a diminutive human being, who has been stripped of everything but the most fundamental instincts."

In a Spectator review, Sara Maitland wrote: "The Leto Bundle is a novel that makes you wonder exactly what a novel is, what it's for. Warner knows so much about almost everything, it seems, especially about stories and myths and how they work and how modern people can and cannot use them, but also about very practical things too--archaeology, rock music, the Internet." And, Maitland observed, "Warner also writes beautifully, sentence by sentence unrolled with scarcely a tangle, and develops her plot with exquisite care and in this case has a great story. So why does reading The Leto Bundle not feel like reading a novel 'ought' to feel?" Maitland concluded that Warner had failed to connect personally with any of the characters; instead, the author feels like an omniscient presence rather than a means of getting inside the characters. Adair opined that the book is too long, but also noted that "some of the writing is sweetly poetic, almost rhapsodic."

Julie Wheelwright, in a Scotland on Sunday review of The Leto Bundle, observed: "Warner's writing is always prodigiously researched and brimming with her passion for making historical or cultural connections and then teasing the meaning from them."

Warner's 2002 work, Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self, gathers a series of lectures the author gave at Oxford University that explore the concept of transformative metamorphosis in literature, art, nature, and folklore. She takes as a starting point Ovid's poem Metamorphoses and goes from there to look at the work of painter Hieronymus Bosch; the writings of Dante; the myths and legends of the Taino people, indigenous inhabitants of the Caribbean; the butterfly's life cycle; the story of Leda and the Swan; Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; zombie lore; and the fiction of Lewis Carroll and Vladimir Nabokov, among other topics. David Thomson noted in the New York Times Book Review: "One of Warner's abiding questions is how far such changeability is above or beyond the kind of moral qualms often associated with metamorphosis--the kind of dangerous meddling with human nature and scientific order that haunted Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson." Thomson regretted that Warner's book "will probably be shelved as 'academic' when actually it is in love with complicated, but deeply suggestive and often beautiful ideas that have flowered violently in the last one hundred years." Writing in Marvels & Tales, Danielle M. Roemer likewise called Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds a "potent volume," and one that is "highly recommended not only for its insights into the processes of metamorphosis but also for its interweaving of literary, artistic, postcolonial, biological, and anthropological perspectives (among others) in depicting ideas about persons and personhood." Further praise came from London Observer contributor David Jays, who felt that in this "typically agile meditation, [Warner] rewardingly charts shifting images of the imagination itself." Similarly, Bryn Mawr Classical Review Online writer David H.J. Larmour found that in the book, "Warner is consistently learned and brimming with information."

Warner collects twenty-five years of her journalism in Signs & Wonders: Essays on Literature & Culture. The pieces gathered here range from essays and reviews to obituaries, commentary, and reportage "covering a staggering range of topics," according to Anna Fazackerley writing in the Times Higher Education Online, "from Shakespeare to anorexia, and from Margaret Thatcher to 'the long-legged Scissor-man' in the comic children's book Struwwelpeter." Fazackerley added that "in almost all of the essays, Warner aims to look at things from fresh angles," and though the book "may not provide all the answers, ... it gets the reader thinking." Higher praise came from Observer reviewer Stephanie Cross, who called Signs & Wonders a "fascinating collection ... [that] exudes a subtle charm." For Cross, the book is "required reading."

Warner's Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-First Century, from 2006, examines the relationship and differences between the concepts of soul, spirit, psyche, and body. Writing in Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Sanna Lehtonen observed that "Warner's thesis is that scientific and technological developments of modernity have not abolished the mystery of the soul; instead, new technologies and media have offered new ways to conceptualize and represent spirits and imaginary visions." As in Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds, Warner examines these phenomena in a range of media, from literature to the arts and cyberspace. "There is much learning and wide reading here," noted a Contemporary Review contributor. Similarly, Lehtonen found this a "thought-provoking reading because it deals in an original way with questions of how to represent the unseen, imagined, and visionary."

Warner's 2012 work, Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, won both the Truman Capote Award from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. Writing on the Iowa Now Web site, Christopher Clair called Stranger Magic a "dazzling history of magical thinking, exploring the power of The Arabian Nights and its impact in the West, and retelling some of its wondrous tales." Here Warner looks at aspects of that tale of Baghdad which Scheherazade spun for the sultan. Flying carpets and magic lanterns are discussed as they inform and influence later generations from Voltaire to Goethe; from the fairy tales of Hans Christian Anderson to the stories of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino; and from the music of Mozart to the animated movies of Walt Disney. Choice writer S. Gomaa thought that the author's analysis of these tales "aims at redefining the relationship between East and West, reason and imagination, science and magic." Library Journal contributor David S. Azzolina praised Warner's "ability to make connections between the Nights and the way the stories have resonated over time and space." Likewise, Harold Bloom, writing in the New York Times Book review, thought Stanger Magic "harbors many richnesses," while Booklist contributor termed it a "learned, lively, and well-written book." Higher praise came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who noted: "This remarkable study is an arabesque, and an intricate Persian rug of themes, eras, tales, and authors."




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  • Magill, Frank N., editor, Cyclopedia of World Authors, 3rd edition, Salem Press (Pasadena, CA), 1997.
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  • Parker, Peter, editor, A Reader's Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.
  • Stringer, Jenny, editor, Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Literature in English, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.


  • Booklist, February 1, 1999, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock, p. 954; February 1, 2012, Jeffrey Meyers, review of Stranger Magic: Charmed States and the Arabian Nights, p. 10.
  • Chicago Tribune, April 23, 1989, p. 6; October 26, 1992, sec. 5, p. 3.
  • Choice, September, 1999, E.R. Baer, review of No Go the Bogeyman, p. 126; August, 2012, S. Gomaa, review of Stranger Magic, p. 2274.
  • Contemporary Review, autumn, 2007, review of Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media into the Twenty-First Century, p. 400.
  • Daily Telegraph (London, England), May 19, 2001, Rachel Cusk, review of The Leto Bundle, p. 6.
  • Financial Times, May 19, 2001, Frank Edgerton, Hatching Modern Myths, review of The Leto Bundle, p. 4.
  • Guardian (London, England), January 22, 2000, Nicholas Wroe, profile of Marina Warner, p. 6; February 19, 2000, Nicholas Lezard, review of No Go the Bogeyman, p. 11.
  • Houston Chronicle, January 7, 1996, Celia Morris, "Fairy Tales for a Feminist Age; Scholar Makes a Strong Case for Reinterpreting Stories," review of From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers, p. 31.
  • Independent Sunday (London, England), May 20, 2001, excerpt from The Leto Bundle, p. 45.
  • Journal of American Folklore, fall, 1999, JoAnn Conrad, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, pp. 559-561.
  • Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, spring, 2008, Michael Levy, review of Monsters of Our Own Making: The Peculiar Pleasures of Fear, p. 251; winter, 2010, Sanna Lehtonen, review of Phantasmagoria, p. 137.
  • Journal of the Short Story in English, summer, 1994, Mary Condé, "Finding a Voice for Martha: Marina Warner's Mary Takes the Better Part."
  • Kunapipi, 1994, Chantal Zabus, "Spinning a Yarn with Marina Warner," pp. 519-529.
  • Library Journal, October 1, 1995, Marie L. Lally, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, pp. 83-84; February 15, 1999, Julia Burch, review of No Go the Bogeyman, p. 152; April 15, 2012, David S. Azzolina, review of Stranger Magic, p. 83.
  • London Review of Books, September 29, 1988, pp. 11-13; August 18, 1994, Margaret Anne Doody, review of Managing Monsters, pp. 15-16; March 23, 1995, pp. 12-13.
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  • Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 29, 1985, p. 3; September 20, 1992, pp. 7, 14; May 14, 1995, p. 11; October 29, 1995, pp. 1, 11.
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  • Nation, September 11, 1976; May 30, 1981; January 11, 1986, p. 20; November 20, 1995, Alfred Corn, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, p. 612.
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  • Newsweek, June 28, 1981.
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  • New York Times, November 17, 1976; June 24, 1981; March 4, 1983; March 24, 1989, p. C29; April 14, 1994, p. C28.
  • New York Times Book Review, October 24, 1976; December 2, 1979; August 2, 1981; December 1, 1985, p. 13; May 7, 1989, p. 26; September 13, 1992, p. 12; March 12, 1995, p. 6; November 5, 1995, pp. 7, 9; January 12, 2003, David Thomson, review of Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds, p. 22; March 25, 2012, Harold Bloom, review of Stranger Magic, p. 9.
  • Observer (London, England), September 11, 1988, pp. 35, 42; November 2, 2002, David Jays, "Forever Changes," review of Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds, p. 17; November 13, 2004, Stephanie Cross, review of Signs & Wonders: Essays on Literature & Culture, p. 18.
  • Publishers Weekly, August 28, 1995, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, p. 96; September 2, 1996, review of Wonder Tales, pp. 111-112; January 4, 1999, review of No Go the Bogeyman, p. 78; January 23, 2012, review of Stranger Magic, p. 154.
  • Scotland on Sunday, May 27, 2001, Jonathan Patrick, review of The Leto Bundle, p. 15; August 26, 2001, Julie Wheelwright, profile of Marina Warner, p. 21.
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  • Sheffield Thursday, fall, 1994, Lisa Hopkins, "An Interview with Marina Warner" pp. 81-95; summer, 1995, Lisa Hopkins, "Revisiting The Tempest: Marina Warner's Indigo. "
  • Spectator, June 18, 1977; August 29, 1981; April 10, 1982; October 8, 1988, pp. 31-32; December 19, 1998, Jane Gardam, pp. 69-70; June 23, 2001, Sara Maitland, review of The Leto Bundle, p. 40.
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  • Sunday Times (London, England), May 20, 2001, Phil Baker, "Lost in Mythology: Books," review of The Leto Bundle, p. 45.
  • Time, May 24, 1999, "Boo! (Scared Yet?): Marina Warner, a Keen Student of Fairy Tales, Takes a Look at Things That Go Bump in the Night," review of No Go the Bogeyman, p. 84.
  • Times (London, England), September 3, 1981; October 24, 1985.
  • Times Higher Education Supplement, January 13, 1995, Nick Groom, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, p. 19; March 1, 1996, Elaine Williams, "Stature and Her Liberty," interview with Marina Warner, p. 23; December 25, 1998, Nicholas Tucker, review of No Go the Bogeyman, p. 20.
  • Times Literary Supplement, January 5, 1973; June 17, 1977; December 14, 1979; August 28, 1981; November 20, 1981; April 30, 1982; September 28, 1984; December 20, 1985, p. 1446; September 16, 1988, p. 1012; February 19, 1993, p. 22; November 18, 1994, p. 25.
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  • Virginian Pilot, January 7, 1996, Diane Scharper, "The Feminist Mother Goose in From the Beast to the Blonde, Marina Warner Analyzes Fairy Tales in the Context of Women's History," review of From the Beast to the Blonde, p. 12.
  • Vogue, December, 1995, Rebecca Mead, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, pp. 180-181.
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  • Women's Studies, May, 1998, Maureen O'Connor, review of From the Beast to the Blonde, pp. 305-306.


  • Bryn Mawr Classical Review Online, (August 18, 2004), David H.J. Larmour, review of Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds.
  • Iowa Now, (March 25, 2013), Christopher Clair, "Marina Warner Receives Truman Capote Award."
  • Marina Warner Home Page, (April 22, 2013).
  • Telegraph Online, (August, 12, 2003), Helen Brown, review of Signs & Wonders; (February 25, 2013), Peter Stanford, "Marina Warner and the Cult of Mary."
  • Times Higher Education Online, (November 21, 2003), Anna Fazackerley, review of Signs & Wonders. *


Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000103470