Visiting Scholars


Marina Warner writes fiction and cultural history. Her books include From the Beast to the Blonde (l994) and Stranger Magic: Charmed States and The Arabian Nights (2011; winner of the National Book Critics Circle award, the Sheykh Zayed Prize and the Truman Capote award). She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, Professorial Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies,  a Fellow of the British Academy, President of the Modern Humanities Research Association for 2018,  and was elected President of the Royal Society of Literature in 2017.  In 2015, she was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities, and in  2017 she was given a World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a British Academy Medal. Fairy Tale: A Very Short Introduction came out in January 2018 and Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists will be published in the fall. She began the project in Palermo, Sicily; and is currently researching the concept of Sanctuary and writing an ‘unreliable memoir’ A Life Mislaid about her childhood in Egypt.

1) Guest lecture, Tuesday, May 1st 2018 4:00-6:00PM in the McCune Conference Center

Marina Warner delivered a lecture entitled Sanctuary and Literature: Words on the Move


In the present refugee crisis, millions of people are being driven from their homes by war, religious conflict,  racial ostracism, famine, and poverty. Can literature help?  Stripped of material possessions, refugees, migrants, and ‘arrivants’ still own their minds  which are filled with memories, stories,  and knowledge.  Can the cultural baggage of the imagination, the stories that displaced people carry in their heads,  provide ways of establishing connection with their new circumstances?  Can stories, inspired by the cultures they belong to, overcome barriers of language and custom, help them relate to the new place of arrival and develop a place of refuge where they belong?  Marina Warner will explore how the role of the imagination, expressed in literary forms, can provide threads which may be woven into the fabric of belonging.  She will look at travelling texts,  such as the animal tales known in Europe as Aesop’s Fables, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Arabian Nights, and explore these literary migrants in  relation to the history of legal sanctuary. She will also draw on the experience of, a refugee project in Palermo in Sicily, to illuminate this burning issue of our time, and the relationship between culture, equality, and citizenship.


2) Film screening and interview, Wedneday, May 2nd 2018, 7:00-9:15PM

Marina Warner took part in a screening of The Adventures of Prince Achmed, with discussion of the fim moderated by Prof. Peter Bloom to follow, from 7:00 -- 9:15PM at the Carsey-Wolf Center. 


3) Graduate Seminar, Thursday, May 3rd 2018, 2:00-5:00PM, Phelps 6206C 

Marina Warner offered a guest seminar entitled A Childhood in Cairo: Making It Up with the Past.

A Life Mislaid: A Highly Unreliable Memoir, a work in progress, is inspired by Marina Warner’s childhood in Cairo, where her British father opened an English and French bookshop in l947. It was burned down in the nationalist revolution of l952 which brought Nasser to power. The book explores British colonialism in the light of these political changes, and reflect on principles of inclusion and exclusion, social values and hierarchy, in relation to her southern Italian mother who had to learn to become an English lady. The seminar will discuss the Bible story (Judges 12:6) that relates how all those who could not pronounce the word 'shibboleth', were killed; the term 'shibboleth ‘has since expanded to mean something closer to 'the closely held and cherished values of the tribe.'  If you are joining a community, you need to know them to survive; in the context of Egypt, the shibboleths of the British powers in Egypt and their colonial way of the life were out of joint with what was happening around them. As the history of present-day Egypt continues in repression and turmoil, I am trying to understand the colonial past and the values in which I was raised and place the child I was in relation to this turbulent and often distressing story.


Previous Visiting Scholars:

Professor Christopher Prendergast visited the campus of UCSB October 17th-21st as the Graduate Center for Literary Research's Distinguished Visiting Professor for 2016-2017. Prendergast is Emeritus Professor at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of King's College. He was formerly Distinguished Professor in French and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.