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234 × 156 × 25 mm
256 pages
140 colour illustrations
01 Jun 2017

Aurelia Art and Literature Through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale Carol Mavor

In the eighteenth century the members of London’s Society of Aurelians were butterfly collectors. The term ‘Aurelian’ relates to the chrysalis, and the golden colour it can display before the butterfly emerges. As a twenty-first-century Aurelian, Carol Mavor collects fairy tales old and new and awakens them out of their chrysalises: like slumbering Snow Whites in caskets of gold and glass; like Briar Roses in tangles of branches and thorns.

In Aurelia, Mavor takes special interest in the fairy tale’s gastronomy, including Alice’s Wonderland cake marked eat me, the sugar of the witch’s house in ‘Hansel and Gretel’ and the more disturbing ingestions of cannibalism, as in the Brothers Grimm’s ‘The Juniper Tree’, where a murdered boy sings through the mouth of a bird: ‘My mother she killed me. My father he ate me.’

Moving beyond this, Mavor discovers the fairy-tale realm in more surprising places: the tragic candy-land poetry of the 1950s ‘genius’ child-poet Minou Drouet; the subterranean world of enchantment in the cave paintings of Lascaux; the brown fairies of African American poet Langston Hughes; and Miwa Yanagi’s black-and-white, bloody photograph of the Grandmother and Little Red Riding Hood holding one another in the cut open belly of the wolf, as an allegory of the victims of Hiroshima. Through the lens of the fairy tale Mavor reads the world of literature and art as both magical and political.

‘Is it possible to write critically about fairy tales by writing a fairy tale? Until reading Carol Mavor’s stunning “magical” analysis of how fairy tales transform themselves and influence all aspects of art, literature, and life, I would have said, no. Yet, Mavor has proven me wrong, for she has created an extraordinary, poetical and analytical fairy-tale that embraces all types of fairy tales and demonstrates how we comprehend and metonymically live our lives through these stories . . . Though Mavor explores sadism, cruelty, and darkness in fairy tales and related works, she does this with the hopeful intention that the gold of art and literature will shine and lead us to see the world anew. This is why she employs well over a hundred photographs which are literally breath taking.’ — Jack Zipes, Marvels and Tales

‘Forget whatever you previously associated with “fairy tales,” and enter Carol Mavor’s kaleidoscopic universe of art and literature. Everyone from Ralph Eugene Meatyard to Kiki Smith to Frank Baum to Emmett Till to Francesca Woodman to Langston Hughes is here, and so many more, held together by Mavor’s casually erudite, finely spun web. Aurelia is as strange, enigmatic, and full of magic as its subjects.’ — Maggie Nelson, Faculty, Chair MFA Creative Writing Program, School of Critical Studies at CalArts

‘This deliriously lovely book newly illuminates the thrill, the seduction and the horror of the fairy-tale imagination. Its labile connections, its puns, its plays on words, take the reader forever unawares and deliver up choice, gilded, unexpected treats. In her gorgeous prose and with her unequaled visual imagination, Carol Mavor takes us into a wonderland where a lamb suckles at a young girl's breast, parents crave to eat their children, and passions are as sugar-coated as they are strange. Hedonistic, rapacious, enchanted by fragility, by passing butterfly pleasures, Mavor is unflinching and acute in her analysis of family romance and of the darkness of these childhood tales.’ — Emma Wilson, Professor of French Literature and the Visual Arts, University of Cambridge

Aurelia invites us to share Carol Mavor’s journeys through the rabbit-hole of poetic consciousness into the realm of primordial – fantasmatic – desire. It is all at once alluring, seductive, illuminating, and frightening.’ — Hayden White, University Professor, Emeritus, of the History of Consciousness, University of California

‘Carol Mavor spins a meta fairy tale that transports us through a fevered, dreamlike constellation of words and images. Along the way, she demonstrates how fairy tales—which may or may not involve actual fairies—have deeply affected (mostly Western) art and literature . . . Aurelia is Mavor’s sixth book and the latest to showcase her famous ability to write with a compelling mix of intellectual rigor, playful curiosity, and her own passionate sensibilities. The writing is lush and gorgeous, and so is the book itself.’ — Laura M. André, manager of the photo-eye Bookstore

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Carol Mavor is Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Manchester. She has published widely on photography, cinema, colour and childhood. Her books include Aurelia: Art and Literature through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale (Reaktion, 2017).