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This article is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

Aurelia: Art and Literature through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale Carol Mavor
My forthcoming book, Aurelia: Art and Literature Through the Mouth of the Fairy Tale, to be published by Reaktion Books in 2016, is told with a butterfly tongue that celebrates, warns, swallows, chews and rebels. Aurelia awakens the fairy tale realm in a wide-range of authors, artists, books and objects who fall down its hole. Beyond the expected Brothers Grimm and Lewis Carroll, there are more surprising inclusions: like the gold of Ovid’s Midas; the magical materiality of glass; the real and imagined beasts of a medieval manuscript [below] ; the tragic candyland of the 1950s child-poet Minou Drouet; and the Ice Age’s ivory sculpture known as the Lion Man of the Hohlenstein Stadel.

Swallowtail Butterfly, Nicholas of Lyra's Commentary on the Bible

What follows are three Aurelian specimens: one gold; one red; and one brown. First is a chrysalis of the book’s golden introduction, entitled ‘Speaking Aurelian’. Second is a red snippet of a Southern Gothic photographer, entitled ‘What is black and white and red all over? Answer: The photographs of Ralph Eugene Meatyard (1925-1972)’. And last is a brown bittersweet taste of the most famous Harlem Renaissance poet, ‘Dreaming Brown with Langston Hughes (1902-1967)’.


1
Speaking Aurelian


An ‘aurelia’ is the pupa of an insect, especially when it reflects a brilliant golden colour, as with some butterflies. Vladimir Nabokov, author and lepidopterist, was beguiled by ‘those butterflies that have carved golden pupa, called also chrysalis, which hang from some surface in the open air […] with golden knobs and plate-armor wingcases.’1 ...


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