Carol Mavor: Auerlian Sadism - Turning the Fairy Tale’s Golden Key

Open Lecture


Aurelia (Latin for golden) sounds like oralia (Michael Moon’s made up word for the double consumption of the eyes and the mouth). Midas wished for everything that he touched to turn to gold, but the outcome was disastrous. He found that he could not eat (gold). The fairy tale and related myths and fables, often turn on gold.

This lecture looks at four golden tales: Ovid’s ‘Midas’; Aesop’s ‘Killing the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg’; Grimm’s’ ‘The Golden Key’; and Tim Krabbé’s ‘The Golden Egg’. In all, to eat gold (from metaphorically consuming it to literally swallowing it) turns sadistic. In 1994, the artist Janine Antoni made a pair of brooches (the artist’s nipples cast in 18k rose gold) called Tender Buttons: on the front side is the promise of ‘golden’ milk for sucking; on the back side are painful pins for sadistic attachment. Sadism demands a story (Laura Mulvey) and the golden fairy tale delivers it with ‘a tone licked clean’ (James Merrill).

Professor Carol Mavor is the author of five books. The first four were published by Duke University Press: Reading Boyishly: Roland Barthes, J. M. Barrie, Jacques Henri Lartigue, Marcel Proust, and D. W. Winnicott (2007), Becoming: The Photographs of Clementina, Viscountess, Hawarden (1999) Pleasures Taken: Performances of Sexuality and Loss in Victorian Photographs (1995) and Black and Blue: The Bruising Passion of Camera Lucida, La Jetée, Sans soleil and Hiroshima mon amour (2012). In 2008, Grayson Perry named Reading Boyishly as his ‘Book of the Year’. Mavor’s Blue Mythologies: A Study of the Colour was published by Reaktion Books in 2013 (translated into Turkish 2014, Chinese, 2015). Her newest book, Aurelia: Art and Literature Through the Eyes and Mouth of the Fairy, is forthcoming from Reaktion in 2015. In 2010-2011, Mavor was the Northrop Frye Chair in Literary Theory at the University of Toronto.

Recently, Mavor has co-produced, with artist Megan Powell, a thirty-nine minute moving image portrait funded by Arts Council, England entitled FULL. The film premiered at Stills Gallery (Edinburgh) in October 2014 and will be screened in the new Grand Hall at The Whitworth Art Gallery (Manchester) on 26 February 2015. Currently, Mavor is hard at work on fairy tales and a novel entitled Like a Lake.


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