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Forms of Enchantment

Writings on Art & Artists

Marina Warner


An anthology of compelling essays by Marina Warner, one of our pre-eminent writers and critics

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Marina Warner compellingly explores the layers of allusion, symbols and stories underlying art from the 16th to the 21st centuries. In making the case for a uniquely writerly way of thinking with and about art and artists, she sets out to share the dynamism, fluidity and passions of the objects of her enquiry.

Approaching art and artists primarily through the fields of anthropology, mythology and fairy tale, Warner argues for art’s place in society as a site of enchantment: a realm in which imagination holds the key to knowledge and understanding. Metamorphosis features vividly across the imagery, media and subject matter of the artworks selected, which include pieces by Paula Rego, Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois, Tacita Dean and Hieronymus Bosch. This collection engages with artists – particularly women artists – noted for reaching beyond the visible and transforming a rich inner life into uncanny, sometimes disturbing matter.

Inspiring and highly engaging, Forms of Enchantment unites the imaginations of artist, writer and reader, forging a reading experience that parallels the intrinsic pleasure of looking at art.

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'A trove of insight and erudition, lightly worn as ever, and provide a vision of a new aesthetics that is refreshingly optimistic'
The Times Literary Supplement

'What stands out in this work is the depth of [Warner’s] engagement: she does not simply look hard at each artist’s work but interrogates hard too. Her approach is more philosophical and psychological than art historical, and what draws her to her subjects is their storytelling'
RA Magazine

'Warner’s scholarly knowledge is not just worn lightly but presented with a flourish'

'Warner is a weaver of enchantments, each sentence a silken knot charming you further into the web of her meanings'
Independent on Sunday

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 288 pp

Publication date: 7 March 2024

ISBN: 9780500295960

Contents List

Foreword • I. Playing in the Dark • Paula Rego: Giving Fear a Face • Henry Fuseli: In the Passionate Playground • Janine Antoni: Hide & Seek • Richard Wentworth: Things That Talk • Kiki Smith: Wolf-Girl, Soul-Bird • II. Bodies of Sense • Hans Baldung Grien: A Fatal Bite • Louise Bourgeois: Cut and Stitch • Zarina Bhimji: Customs of the Country • Helen Chadwick: The Wound of Difference • Tacita Dean: Footage • III. Spectral Technologies • Joan Jonas: Future Ghosts • Sigmar Polke: Stone Alchemy • Al & Al: Visions of the Honeycomb • Jumana Emil Abboud: Dreaming the Territory • Christian Thompson: Magical Aesthetics • IV. Iconoclashes • Hieronymus Bosch: Trumpery, or The Followers of the Haywain • Damien Hirst: Once a Catholic... • Felicity Powell: Marks of Shame, Signs of Grace • Frans Masereel: Naked in the City • Cristina Iglesias: Where Three Waters Meet • Julie Mehretu: The Third Space

About the Author

Marina Warner’s study of the Arabian Nights, Stranger Magic (2011) won the Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award in 2013; in 2015 she was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities and was made DBE. She is a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, a Fellow of the British Academy and President of the Royal Society of Literature.