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Carol Mavor author of Aurelia: Art and Literature through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale

person dressed in bird costume
Axel Hoedt, Stork, Endingen, Germany, 2013, from the series Once A Year

In Aurelia: Art and Literature through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale, Carol 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.


Carol Mavor is Professor of Art History and Visual Culture at the University of Manchester, England. As a writer who takes creative risks in form (literary and experimental) and political risks in content (sexuality, racial hatred, child-loving and the maternal), she has published widely on photography, cinema, colour and childhood. All her books, including Blue Mythologies: Reflections on a Colour (Reaktion, 2013), are richly illustrated with an eye on design. Her most recent monograph, Aurelia: Art and Literature through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale (Reaktion, 2017), is splashed with plenty of aurelian gold metallic ink and is perhaps the most beautiful of Mavor’s publications: indeed, it is an ‘artist’s book’.

She is a kissing cousin of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Susan Stewart, in her attention to touch and affect, in her sensitivity to her own emotions and sense perceptions in her apprehension of art. So, for an art historian in particular, her work is singular, unusually labile, sensuous, associative, and almost disturbingly intense.

— Emma Wilson, Critical Quarterly