The critic and mythographer on fairytales, feminism, modern art, translation and the LRBby Zeljka Marosevic / May 8, 2014 / Leave a comment
“I wanted my writing to aim at the vitality, and above all the linguistic richness, of fiction, or poetry”
Marina Warner’s criticism focuses on myth, fairytale and religion in art and literature, and she writes regularly for the London Review of Books where she is a Contributing Editor. Her books include Alone of All Her Sex, Monuments and Maidens and Stranger Magic, for which she won the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. She is currently Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at University of Essex as well as the chair of this year’s International Man Booker Prize. Mary Kay Wilmers, editor of the LRB, has playfully described her as a “mythographer extraordinaire.”
You contributed to the Hayward Gallery’s 2013 exhibition “Curiosity: Art & the Pleasures of Knowing,” and also wrote an essay for the accompanying book. In the essay you note that curiosity has been seen as a vice to which young women were especially prone. How did you start as a critic, and did you encounter such prejudices?
I don’t think I actually encountered as many prejudices in the realm of criticism as I did in other realms. There’d been a number of pioneers, especially amongst literary editors. The first literary editor for whom I worked was Claire Tomalin. She was then at the New Statesman, and she took me with her to the Sunday Times, where I became a regular book reviewer. The Sunday Times was definitely dominated by men—those were the days of El Vino and hard-drinking, hard-boiled and tough-talking journalism—but it wasn’t exclusive.