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Webchat with Mary Beard, Tuesday 9 October 12.30-1.30pm

(136 Posts)
PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 04-Oct-12 11:34:39

Hi everyone,

We are delighted to welcome the inimitable Mary Beard to Mumsnet for a live webchat on Tuesday 9 October between 12.30-1.30pm.

Mary Beard (who needs no introduction to many of you, we're sure!) is a Professor of Classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and the classics editor of the TLS. Her books include the acclaimed and best-selling Pompeii, The Roman Triumph, The Parthenon (in the Wonders of the World series of which she is general editor) and It’s A Don’s Life. She is the winner of the Wolfson Prize for History for Pompeii (Profile, 2008), writes a highly successful blog for The Times and recently presented a wonderful BBC TV series on the Romans.

Alongside fellow Classicist Emily Pillinger, Mary will be contributing to a lively 2-day Roman History course as part of the Mumsnet Academy, on 13-14 October at Faber and Faber, London. This is a fantastic opportunity to meet Mary while brushing up on the history of a society that, in many ways, shapes the way we live today. No previous knowledge of Roman History required. Sign up here.

Put 9 October in your diary or if you can't join us live, post a question to Mary in advance.

portiathecat Fri 05-Oct-12 23:16:49

Another Classics grad here (Durham) - still SO passionate about Latin, Ancient Greek, the literature, philosphy, art, etc. I'm a management consultant (nearly a worse reputation than bankers or estate agents...!), but I use the skills I learnt on my degree course daily. I also appreciate the foundation that Latin has given me for other European languages.
My question for Mary is: how do we best communicate the benefits of a classical education to 'the powers that be'? I don't think the issue is with young people - they will study (and want to study) what they percieve as interesting. Aged 11 I was introduced to the Greek alphabet, which I found fascinating. Luckily the head of my school was a Cambridge Classics grad, so I was encouraged and supported. How do we encourage that interest in young people?

FairPhyllis Sat 06-Oct-12 04:51:13

Hi Mary

I'm a classicist (but from the Other Place) and current doctoral student. I am pretty certain I am going to leave academia after I submit because I am so utterly depressed at the state of the job market and the prospect of spending my career jumping through arbitrary hoops from various bodies and having to let considerations of gaming the never-ending REF cycle determine the kind of research I do.

Of course I knew it was like this before I started post-grad work, but I do think it has got worse even since I started.

My question is: if you were a doctoral student now (or even an undergraduate), would HE be sufficiently attractive enough for you stay in it?

And as a related follow-up, do you think that the REF/RAE system has had damaging effects on research in HE? In the sense of the constraints it imposes on the type of research you can do (particularly as a early-career researcher) and the kind of academic it produces?

<volunteers services for a lapsed classicists course because it sounds FUN>

Hi Mary, just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed your series on the Romans.
My question - what's your favourite Roman site?

freerangelady Sat 06-Oct-12 18:31:58

Hi Mary,

Egyptologist by nature and training here but your Romans series reinvigorated my A - Level interest. Just wanted to declare myself another fan really and how interesting I found your series. Oh, and your book on Pompeii dictated my honeymoon - I went on about the book so much DH took me there!

My question is to add to the others already asked really; are we going to see more of you on TV or any new books in the pipeline?

SirBoobAlot Sat 06-Oct-12 20:42:27

< waves to freerangelady from behind a pile of Egyptology books >

freerangelady Sun 07-Oct-12 09:42:23

<waves back to SirBoob after raising head from new Paul Sussman book delivered yesterday...but head quickly back down as it's so good>

Issy Mon 08-Oct-12 16:10:09

I know I've already had a question, but can I ask another one?!

If so, and at the risk of an incitement to libel, would you care to match modern world "celebrities" (politicians, entertainers, world leaders etc.) to their Roman equivalents? Who are the 20th/21st century Augustus, Virgil, Caligula, Catullus, Livia Drusilla, Pliny or Messalina?

ScaryBOOAlot Mon 08-Oct-12 16:45:45

Oooh Freerange are his books good? Have heard of them but never read any.

TunipTheVegemal Mon 08-Oct-12 17:12:53

If we're asking second questions then....

Have you seen Horrible Histories and if so what do you think of their Greek/Roman sketches?

(Issy - what a libel trial that would be!)

ninjasquirrel Mon 08-Oct-12 18:11:34

Hi Mary

If you had to choose one lesson from classical history for today's politicians, what would it be?

whataboutbob Mon 08-Oct-12 18:24:19

Hello Mary,

Any advice to help my extremely bright 4 year old eventually get into Oxbridge- but preferably NOT classics I'd like him to get a job after he graduates. Thanks

freerangelady Mon 08-Oct-12 19:22:16

Scary - I've just finished the Labyrinth of Osiris and it's a great modern detective story written by a chap who knows his modern Eygpt and describes it well but also knows his Egyptology (he'd excavated there.) I'm partway through his first book now and it's very good - he very sadly recently died rather young so there's only 3 or 4 books I think.

I love it as a great romping read.

ScaryBOOAlot Mon 08-Oct-12 19:35:22

Talking of fiction...

Mary: Do you like historical fiction? I find some of it wonderfully enjoyable, and some woefully lacking in research.

LineRunner Mon 08-Oct-12 19:57:15

Hi Mary

Does feminism matter in the study of Roman history and Roman archaeology?

Thanks.

Pantah630 Mon 08-Oct-12 21:08:07

Hi Mary, my interest in Roman History began with Colleen McCulloughs Masters of Rome series, I loved your book on Pompeii and your TV series was fascinating, for both me, DH and DS2. My boys bought me a place on the course this weekend and I'm busy scanning books from the reading list now. DS2 is learning Latin, I'm trying to get him to teach me too so we can decipher those tombs when we finally make it to Rome.

My question is: How accurate are the historical fictions from McCullough and Lindsey Davis? I'd love for them to be mostly there.

blondieminx Mon 08-Oct-12 21:35:56

Hello Mary, welcome to MN! I loved your series. When are you next back on screen?

My mum read classics at Durham and she still teaches Latin and Greek part-time, we both think you're such a fabulous presenter smile - are you planning to do any more MN courses at a not-beginner level at all?

champagnesupernova Mon 08-Oct-12 22:03:36

Hello Mary

Thanks for coming on MN

Just echoing this question: "Do you think that Classics is still a relevant degree for students to study?"

I did Classics and I do appreciate the help that Latin gave me with learning romance languages.

BUT when I graduated 13 years ago - I very much felt that I wasn't really prepared for anything, especially up against folk with more vocational degrees

I very much flailed around in my early career - employers didn't really know what I was capable of or really what value my degree had.

Luckily I found my feet, and now work for a phenomenal company and do work which fits around my family.

While I want my 2 DSes to study the classics I don't think I would be inclined to push them any further than GCSE (or whatever they replace it with).
Am I wrong?

LineRunner Mon 08-Oct-12 22:20:28

Mary

Is it really possible to study, say, Cicero (or Catullus!) without being able to understand Latin? Some translations are incredibly editing and censorious. I would feel sad if one preferred translation were to be fossilised because no-one knew the language anymore outside of the Vatican.*

Talking of which - Jo-Ann Shelton As the Romans Did, Yes or No??

*Gove disclaimer: not a fan at all.

EvilTwins Mon 08-Oct-12 23:11:37

Hi Mary.

I was at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Sunday and enjoyed the debate you took part in. I wish it had been longer! I didn't get to ask my question though so would be interested in your views. I graduated from a good university (Warwick) and went straight into state school teaching. I am now Head of 6th Form in a rural Gloucestershire school. I have aspirations for my students, and, according to Lord Adonis on Sunday, am the right sort of person for the job. However, my school has not sent a single student to Oxbridge for a number of years. The issue isn't that I don't have aspirations for my students, it's the culture of "not for the likes of us" which comes from home. What do you think can be done to break down these barriers? Thanks. ET.

JumpJockey Tue 09-Oct-12 09:42:26

Hello Mary, I see you around a lot as I work in one of the Cambridge institutions you frequent <cloak of mystery> grin

I think we're so lucky in Cambridge to have female academics like you and Athene Donald as figureheads for young female students, and schoolchildren, to admire and want to emulate. And of course boys, but girls in particular. How do you think we can encourage more children to consider academia as a career, valuable in its own right, at a time when the government seems to be destroying much of our capacity for our ongoing international academic success by removing so much funding (especially for non-STEM subjects) and, as FairPhyllis says, putting so much emphasis on the 'products' of research rather than the process of learning itself?

LineRunner Tue 09-Oct-12 10:09:57

I am looking forward to this.

horsebiscuit Tue 09-Oct-12 10:28:30

Hello Mary, thank you for coming to MN.
Like others on this webchat, I would like to foster a curiousity about and love of history in my children. Can you remember your childhood and what it was which particularly turned you on to history, and specifically the period which you have chosen? Was it something you were drawn to at an early age, or later?
I'm going to be starting by taking DD1 to the British Museum exhibition about Pompeii and Herculaneum next year- so excited!!

SheelaNeGig Tue 09-Oct-12 11:45:39

Have to go to bloody work but wanted to wave and say hello before I go.

<<wave, wave, hello!>>

bestemor Tue 09-Oct-12 12:16:58

Salve Mary
I loved the series, although I didn't manage to see all of it - (and to think this used to be thought of as a dry-as-dust subject!)

But I'm always intrigued by the glimpses we get of the different peoples the Romans had to contend with, and I'd love to find out more, for example, how were the Britons related to the Gauls? Were the Picts a Celtic group or something different? and what ever became of them? and so on.

So I wondered if you could recommend a book that would shed some light on all this, wwithout being too turgid!

Gratias ago.

Hello! I am very excited about this.

I would like to know: was there informal, domestic teaching of reading at any point during the periods you study? I'm really interested in how, in medieval times, it's women who teach children to read, at home. But the records are bad, so we know more details about formal education.

I find lots of books on Roman and Greek formal education (usually of boys), but were mothers teaching their daughters (or sons), too?

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