Magical Fiction Forum: Study Qs

Opening pages of the original edition of La Dama Ovale by Leonora Carrington

Just a week to go! The fabulous Magical Fiction Forum is next weekend. If you want to get a jump on things, I decided to offer a few study questions and suggestions to shape the conversation to come. Or at least to get my own thoughts organised! Have you already got your copy of The Oval Lady? They can be hard to come by. Fortunately all the stories are in The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington which is quite easy to come by,

If you can get the 1975 edition, there’s a great foreword by Gloria Orenstein. I notice that a lot of the current literary discourse around Carrington is comfortable with surrealism but not at all with magic. Orenstein’s foreword illustrates why magic is essential to understanding her stories (and her art I’d add, but that’s not my job at present). Orenstein calls the Oval Lady a mystery and hieroglyphic, and writes further that ‘Carrington’s art and writing express the mystery of being through occult parables whose true meaning becomes accessible to those who acquire initiation into the specific form of symbolism that her works display’. To understand these ‘talismanic tales’ we need to explore these stories as keys to unlock a deeper understanding.


Questions to consider include the birds represented and why? Why are oval plates ‘aristocratic’? Tartarus (Tartar in Complete) is based on Carrington’s own beloved childhood toy: what do horses mean for her? What do the numbers symbolise?


The best known of her stories: why the hyena? What do you know about the species? Why Gulliver’s Travels? How does class play a role?


This is a New York story: where do her other stories take place? How did she feel about life in NYC? Why must she first look through her hair? Why do the rabbits have such a strange diet? Why are the people silvery?


In Complete this is called A Man in Love: the story begins with a transgression–why? How might war experiences have shaped her relationship to food? Food often bonds people, but is that how it appears here? Foxes, wolves and rats: in what ways do they live in the city?


Heavens! What to do when you’ve been summoned by the monarch and the chauffeur has just buried your car? How do you deal with a ‘mad’ queen? This story has a deliciously macabre Alice feel to it, do you feel as if you are through the looking glass as you read it? What happens after all?


The difficulty of embarrassing relatives! Laughing at the moon has some precedent, but what would inspire laughter at a sunset? Jam makes a reappearance: what does jam symbolise for you? This story features music hall songs: how are they used? Why would cabbages fight? While chess is the game most associated with the surrealists, here we have another appearance of draughts (checkers): what seems to be important about the game? Would you want to read the Misses Cunningham-Jones’ book?


The Magickal Women Partnership proudly presents the Magical Fiction Forum: Fairy tales, fantasy, magical realism, surreal fiction: this forum aims to bring together leading authors and scholars to discuss the impact and influence of texts that transcend their genre and leave readers enchanted and transformed. Online via Zoom. 


Tickets are £30.00 for the full day. All talks will be recorded; tickets include access to the Zoom sessions and to the videos once the event has finished. All times GMT.

27 FEBRUARY 2021

Terri Windling … 11:00-12:00

Scarlett Amaris … 12:10-13:10

Diane Purkiss … 13:20-14:20

Liz Williams … 14:40-15:40

K.A. Laity … 15:50-16:50

Shveta Thakrar … 17:00-18:00