Marina Warner on Sanctuary: The Portable Shelter of Words
In this lecture, author and cultural historian Marina Warner (Birkbeck College) will discuss the medieval concept of sanctuary and how words helped define the character of a place and, with it, the rights of fugitives and other dislocated individuals.
Abstract: The early medieval concept of sanctuary granted a safe haven to fugitives from justice regardless of their innocence or otherwise. It was instituted by social consensus, not by force; violations were looked upon as serious crimes against the law. It lasted nearly a thousand years in the archipelago of Britain. As an example of performative utterance, the law of sanctuary reveals how words can establish the character of a place and its boundaries. Marina Warner will look at the interactions between cultural acts - writing, reciting, making - and sites of arrival in the experience of dislocated individuals. Can literature in different media help refugees in the convulsed conditions of today?
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). She has curated exhibitions, including The Inner Eye (l996), Metamorphing (2002-3), and Only Make-Believe: Ways of Playing (2005). Her essays on art will be collected in Art & Enchantment (forthcoming Thames & Hudson). She is currently writing a book inspired by her childhood in Cairo after World War II, and is involved in a project, Stories in Transit, for encouraging creative activities in refugee communities. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Birkbeck College, a Fellow of the British Academy and President of the Royal Society of Literature. In 2015, she was awarded the Holberg Prize in the Arts and Humanities.