mary beard confronts the classics

ConfrontingTheClassicsHCJoanna Scutts at The Washignton Post:

The essays that make up most of “Confronting the Classics” are as much about what happens in the gap between antiquity and modernity as they are about the ancient works of art, literature, history and architecture themselves. Beard has no time for misty-eyed idealizing of the culture of Greece and Rome (or the era when it was more widely studied), beyond what it may reveal about those doing the looking back. Classical study has been lamented as “in decline” since at least Thomas Jefferson, as she points out, and such laments “are in part the expressions of the loss and longing and the nostalgia that have always tinged classical studies.” The scholars whose books she praises most highly are therefore those who do not try to smooth over the gaps in the record but to jump into them and peek about.

In the past few years, Beard has become the public face of modern classical scholarship in Britain, fronting BBC television shows about Pompeii and Caligula. Her high profile has made her the target of some vicious online attacks, which she has discussed in a blog she writes for the Times Literary Supplement. In light of her experience, her examinations of the misogyny and mythmaking surrounding powerful women such as Boadicea,Cleopatra and Augustus’s wife Livia are particularly trenchant.

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