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Winifred Mary Beard, (born 1 January 1955), is an English scholar and classicist.
Beard, a New Yorker fellow, and Royal Academy of Arts Professor of Ancient Literature, she is described as "learned but accessible."
She is the Classics editor of The Times Literary Supplement, where she also writes "A Don's Life" on a regular basis.
Her regular media appearances and occasionally controversial public remarks have earned her position as "Britain's best-known classicist." In the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to classical civilisation research, Beard was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
Mary Beard, a single child, was born in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, on January 1, 1955. Joyce Emily Beard, her mother, was both a headmistress and an avid reader. Roy Whitbread Beard, her father, was employed as an architect in Shrewsbury. She described him as "a raffish public-schoolboy type and a complete wastrel, but very engaging."
Beard was educated at Shrewsbury High School, a girls' academy that was then funded as a direct grant grammar school. She was taught poetry by Frank McEachran, who was attending Shrewsbury School at the time, and was the inspiration for schoolmaster Hector in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys. She would dig dig digs during the summer, but the motivation was, in part, the possibility of earning some pocket money.
At 18 she sat through the then-comprehensive entrance exam and interview for Cambridge University, earning a spot at Newnham College, a single-sex institution. She had considered King's but decided against it after learning that the college did not offer scholarships to women.
Any man in Beard's first year had skepticism about the academic capabilities of women, which only increased her determination to succeed. She also developed feminist convictions that remained "highly influential" in her later life, though she later referred to "modern orthodox feminism" as a factor. Joyce Reynolds, one of her tutors, was Joyce Reynolds. Beard has since stated that "Newnham should do better in making itself a place where critical questions can be generated" and has also expressed her views on feminism, saying, "I can't imagine what it will be to be a feminist." Beard has cited Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, and Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess as both influential in the evolution of her personal feminism.
Beard graduated from Cambridge with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree: as per tradition, her BA was later extended to a Master of Arts (MA Cantab) degree. She remained at Cambridge for her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree; she completed it in 1982 with a dissertation based on Cicero's works.
Beard taught classics at King's College, London, from 1979 to 1983; she returned to Cambridge in 1984 as a Fellow of Newnham College and the first female lecturer in the classics faculty. The Late Republic, which she co-wrote with Cambridge historian Michael Crawford, was published in the following year.
The Times Literary Supplement's classics editor, John Sturrock, approached her for a look and brought her into literary journalism. Beard assumed his duties in 1992 at Ferdinand Mount's behest.
Beard was one of many writers invited to contribute to the London Review of Books shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. Many people, after "the shock had faded," thought "the United States had it coming," she said, and that "even if their heart is in the right place, the price will pay." In a November 2007 interview, she said the hostility that these remarks sparked had still not subsided, though she believed it had become a common belief that terrorism was linked to American foreign policy. At this time, Paul Laity of The Guardian had dubbed her "Britain's most well-known classicist."
Beard was named Professor of Classics at Cambridge in 2004. She was named Visiting Sather Professor of Classical Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, where she gave a series of lectures on "Roman Laughter." Sigmund H. Danziger Jr. Memorial Lecture in the Humanities at the University of Chicago from 2007-2008.
As part of the London Review of Books winter lecture series, Beard held a lecture on the public voice of women at the British Museum on February 14th. It was captured and broadcast on BBC Four a month later under the heading Oh Do Shut Up, Dear! Telemachus, the son of Odysseus and Penelope, was ordered to withdraw from her chamber before beginning the lecture. (The title refers to Prime Minister David Cameron's request to a female MP. "Calm down, dear!" says the lady. (Critical sexist put-down) "This film, which has received widespread spout backlash as a "classic sexist put-down," says the author. Beard gave a second lecture entitled "Women in Power" from Medusa to Merkel three years later. It looked at the extent to which women are culturally ingrained in the workplace, as well as how idioms from ancient Greece are still used to normalize gender violence. "We don't have a model or a template for what a strong woman looks like," she says. We only have templates that make them guys.
Beard delivered the Society for Classical Studies' sesquicent Public Lecture on January 5, 2019, marking the organisation's 150th anniversary. "What do we mean by Classics now?" she said. "Italian people who speak in a foreign country are among the thousands of people to vote. "
The Gifford Lectures, which were delivered at Edinburgh University in May 2019, were titled 'The Ancient World and Us: From Fear and Fear to Enlightenment and Ethics.'
Clifford Ando, a Chicago classical scholar, characterized Beard's scholarship as having two main aspects in its approach to sources. One of the reasons is that she insists that ancient sources be understood as evidence of their authors' attitudes, culture, and convictions, not as reliable sources for the events they refer to. The other is that she argues that modern histories of Rome must be contextualized within their authors' attitudes, worldviews, and goals.