Marina Warner

Dame Marina Sarah Warner, DBE, FRSL, FBA (born 9 November 1946) is an English novelist, short story writer, historian and mythographer. She is known for her many non-fiction books relating to feminism and myth. She has written for many publications, including The London Review of Books, the New Statesman, Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph and Vogue.[1] She has been a visiting professor, given lectures and taught on the faculties of many universities.[2]

Dame Marina Warner

BornMarina Sarah Warner
9 November 1946
London, England
OccupationMythographer, novelist, lecturer, professor

She resigned from her position as Professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex in 2014, sharply criticising moves towards "for-profit business model" universities in the UK,[3] and is now Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London.[4] In 2017 she was elected president of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL), the first time the role has been held by a woman since the founding of the RSL in 1820.[5][6][7]

Early life

Marina Warner was born in London to an English father and Italian mother. Her paternal grandfather was the English cricketer Sir Pelham Warner.[8] She was brought up in Cairo, Brussels and in Berkshire, England, where she studied at St Mary's School, Ascot. She studied French and Italian at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.[9] While at Oxford she was the editor of Isis: a magazine for Oxford University (published by Robert Maxwell).[10]. She is a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. In 1971, she married William Shawcross, with whom she had a son, Conrad.[11] The couple divorced in 1980.[12]

Marina Warner is the titular "lady writer" of the Dire Straits song of that name, whom the singer sees on television "talking about the Virgin Mary" and reminds him of his former lover.[13]


Her first book was The Dragon Empress: The Life and Times of Tz'u-hsi, Empress Dowager of China, 1835–1908 (1972), followed by the controversial Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (1976), a provocative study of Roman Catholic veneration of the Virgin Mary. These were followed by Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (1981) and Monuments & Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form (1985).

Warner's novel The Lost Father was on the Booker Prize shortlist in 1988. Her non-fiction book From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers won a Mythopoeic Award in 1996. The companion study of the male terror figure (from ancient myth and folklore to modern obsessions), No Go the Bogeyman: On Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock, was published in 2000 and won the British Academy's Rose Mary Crawshay Prize that year. Warner's other novels include The Leto Bundle (2001) and Indigo (1992).[9] Her book Phantasmagoria (2006) traces the ways in which "the spirit" has been represented across different mediums, from waxworks to cinema. In December 2012, she presented a programme on BBC Radio Four about the Brothers Grimm. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984.[14] In 1994 she became only the second woman to deliver the BBC's Reith Lectures, published as Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time, in which she gave an analysis of the workings of myth in contemporary society, with emphasis on politics and entertainment.[15]

She received an honorary doctorate (DLitt) from the University of Oxford on 21 June 2006, as well as holding honorary degrees from the universities of Exeter (1995), York (1997) and St Andrews (1998), and honorary doctorates from Sheffield Hallam University (1995), the University of North London (1997), the Tavistock Institute (University of East London; 1999), Oxford University (2002), the Royal College of Art (2004), University of Kent (2005), the University of Leicester (2006), and King's College London (2009).[9][16]

She was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to literature.[17]

She was a professor in the Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex from 2004 until her resignation in 2014.[18] She took up a chair in English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, University of London, in September 2014. She is a quondam fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and was chair of the judges of the Man Booker International Prize 2015.[19]

She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to higher education and literary scholarship.[20][21]

In 2015–16, she was the Weidenfeld Visiting Professor of European Comparative Literature in St Anne's College, Oxford.[22]

In March 2017, Warner was elected as the Royal Society of Literature's 19th – and first female – president, succeeding Colin Thubron in the post.[6]

Honours and awards


  • The Dragon Empress: Life and Times of Tz'u-hsi 1835–1908 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972)
  • Alone of All Her Sex: The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1976) ISBN 0-330-28771-0
  • In a Dark Wood (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977)
  • Queen Victoria Sketch Book (Macmillan, 1979)
  • The Crack in the Tea-Cup: Britain in the 20th Century (André Deutsch, 1979)
  • Joan of Arc: The Image of Female Heroism (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1981)
  • The Impossible Day (Methuen, 1981)
  • The Impossible Night (Methuen, 1981)
  • The Impossible Bath (Methuen, 1982)
  • The Impossible Rocket (Methuen, 1982)
  • The Skating Party (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1982)
  • The Wobbly Tooth (André Deutsch, 1984)
  • Monuments and Maidens: The Allegory of the Female Form (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1985)
  • The Lost Father (Chatto & Windus, 1988)
  • Into the Dangerous World (Chatto & Windus, 1989)
  • Imagining a Democratic Culture (Charter 88, 1991)
  • Indigo (Chatto & Windus, 1992)
  • L'Atalante (British Film Institute, 1993)
  • Mermaids in the Basement (Chatto & Windus, 1993)
  • Richard Wentworth (Thames & Hudson, 1993)
  • From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers (Chatto & Windus, 1994)
  • Managing Monsters: Six Myths of Our Time (Reith Lectures) (Vintage, 1994)
  • Wonder Tales: Six Stories of Enchantment (editor) (Chatto & Windus, 1994)
  • Six Myths Of Our Time: Little Angels, Little Monsters, Beautiful Beasts, and More (New York: Vintage Books, 1995)
  • Donkey Business Donkey Work: Magic and Metamorphoses in Contemporary Opera (University of Wales, 1996)
  • The Inner Eye: Art beyond the Visible (National Touring Exhibitions, 1996)
  • No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling and Making Mock (Chatto & Windus, 1998)
  • The Leto Bundle (Chatto & Windus, 2001) Long listed for the Man Booker Prize.
  • Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds (Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Murderers I Have Known and Other Stories (Chatto & Windus, 2002)
  • Collected Poems by Sally Purcell - preface (Anvil Press, 2002)
  • Signs & Wonders: Essays on Literature and Culture (Chatto & Windus, 2003)
  • Phantasmagoria (Oxford University Press, 2006)
  • Stranger Magic: Charmed States & The Arabian Nights (Chatto & Windus, 2011)
  • Once Upon a Time – A Short History of Fairy Tale (Oxford University Press, 2014)
  • Fly Away Home (Salt Publishing, 2015)
  • Forms of Enchantment: Writings on Art and Artists ([Thames & Hudson], 2018)


Four-part interview conducted by Henk de Berg (2017).

-- part I (on myth):

-- part II (on fairy tales):

-- part III (on fiction):

-- part IV (on stories in transit):


  1. Zeljka Marosevic, "Critical Thinking #5: Marina Warner", Prospect, 8 May 2014.
  2. "Other activities",; accessed 1 January 2015.
  3. Jonathan Brown, "Marina Warner compares UK university managers to 'Chinese communist enforcers'", The Independent, 3 September 2014.
  4. "Celebrated author and academic Marina Warner joins Birkbeck",, 29 September 2014.
  5. "Royal Society of Literature elects Marina Warner as its first female President", Press Release, The Royal Society of Literature, 2017.
  6. "First woman boss for RSL", BookBrunch, 17 March 2017.
  7. "Professor Marina Warner elected first female President of the Royal Society of Literature", Birkbeck, University of London, 6 April 2017.
  8. Marina Warner, "My grandfather, Plum", The Guardian, 11 June 2004.
  9. Profile Archived 15 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Contemporary; accessed 31 December 2014.
  10. Isis, no. 1523, 9 November 1966, p. 1.
  11. Rebecca Guinness, "London Artist Conrad Shawcross Makes His Mark in New York", Vanity Fair, 12 June 2009.
  12. Entry in Who's Who.
  13. Gleick, Elizabeth (24 May 1999). "Books: Boo! (Scared Yet?)". Time. Retrieved 25 July 2014.
  14. "Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010. Retrieved 10 August 2010.
  15. "Marina Warner", British Council, Literature.
  16. "About Marina Warner",; accessed 31 December 2014.
  17. "No. 58729". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 June 2008. p. 8.
  18. Marina Warner, "Diary", London Review of Books, Vol. 36, No. 17, 11 September 2014, pp. 42–43.
  19. "Recent news",; retrieved 11 November 2014.
  20. "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N8.
  21. 2015 New Year Honours List Archived 2 January 2015 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 31 December 2014.
  22. "Weidenfeld Visiting Professorship in Comparative European Literature", St Anne's College, University of Oxford.
  23. John Williams (14 January 2012). "National Book Critics Circle Names 2012 Award Finalists". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  24. John Williams (1 March 2013). "Robert A. Caro, Ben Fountain Among National Book Critics Circle Winners". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 December 2014.
  25. "2013 Sheikh Zayed Book Award Winners Announced". 3 April 2013. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  26. "Sheikh Zayed Book Award promotes new category in Berlin". Khaleej Times. 10 September 2012. Retrieved 8 October 2012.
  27. "Marina Warner", The Holberg Prize 2015.
  28. "From Wikipedia to Roman coins: British Academy recognises excellence in the humanities and social sciences". The British Academy. Retrieved 5 October 2017.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Elizabeth Wright
Karen O'Brien
Rose Mary Crawshay Prize
Joanne Wilkes
Succeeded by
Annette Peach
Lucy Newlyn
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