Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Family Lecture Series 2023: Mary Beard - What Can We Learn From The Classics?

Tuesday, April 25, 2023 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Event Presenter/Author: 
Mary Beard

This lecture, "The Shock of the Old," is the second in a series of three Berlin Family Lectures. The first lecture will be held on April 20th, while the third lecture will be held on April 26th. Individual lecture descriptions for each date can be found HERE.

Presented in partnership with the University of Chicago Division of the Humanities.

This event will be held in person at the David Rubenstein Forum. At this time, the venue is observing University of Chicago COVID guidelines. Virtual attendance is also possible via Zoom. 

Register for both In-Person and Virtual attendance HERE

About the lecture series: Acclaimed lecturist Mary Beard will challenge some of our assumptions about Classics. In an age in which the humanities are said to be increasingly under threat, it is all the more important to confront the basic question of why on earth we should be bothered with what happened (or was written) 2,000 years ago.

What do we mean by Classics and what do we hope to get out of it? These lectures puncture some of the myths of the subject, both ancient and modern. There will be no bathing in the well-springs of “Western Civilisation” here, no celebration of “timeless” values—but equally no claim that Classics has had a uniquely reactionary voice in modern cultural conversations. In exploring the fun, the dangers and the heady uncertainties that Classics brings, Mary Beard argues that it can help us to think differently, to look at the world with new eyes, and to understand better where our own assumptions come from.

During the three lectures, a cast of characters will be introduced that range from ancient gladiators to Marxist theorists and 20th-century poets, and the audience will tour Rome with Hitler and Mussolini, while also glimpsing the role of the ancient world in modern liberation movements. But the Berlin Family Lectures will start off with a carbonized piece of Egyptian cake, more than 3,000 years old.

About the lecturer: Mary Beard is one of the most original and best-known classicists and is distinguished as an English scholar of ancient Rome who shares her knowledge broadly on the BBC and in the classroom. She is a professor emerita in Classics at Newnham College within the University of Cambridge; the classics editor of The Times Literary Supplement, where Beard writes a frequently published blog called “A Don’s Life;” and a frequent host of BBC broadcasts about Pompeii, ancient Roman history, and historic figures such as Julius Caesar and Caligula.

In 2018, she became Dame Commander of the British Empire for her services to the study of classical civilizations. Among many honors, Beard received the Wolfson History Prize in 2009 for her book Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (2008), the Bodley Medal in 2016 for her outstanding contributions to the world of books, and honorary degrees from Oxford University, Yale University, and University of St. Andrews, among others.

When Beard began her TV career in middle age, she broke boundaries of gender and appearance for learned commentators who had traditionally been what she describes as “craggy white men.” Beard calls herself a “craggy white woman.” She believes that looking closely at Greece and Rome helps us to understand more about ourselves and recognize how we have learned to think as we do. Beard has an uncanny ability to make classical studies, ancient Roman history and life highly intriguing and relevant for current times.

Event Location: 
David Rubenstein Forum
1201 E 60th St
Chicago, IL 60637