Risk and Humanities

Darwin College Lecture Series
Professor Mary Beard, University of Cambridge
LMH, Lady Mitchell Hall
Friday, February 12, 2010 - 17:30 to 18:30

Biography

Mary Beard is one of Britain's best-known Classicists - Fellow of Newnham College and a distinguished Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge where she has taught for the last 25 years. She has written
numerous books on the Ancient World, including the 2008 Wolfson Prize-winner, 'Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town' which portrays a vivid account of life in Pompeii in all its aspects from food to sex to politics.
Previous books include 'The Roman Triumph', 'Classical Art from Greece to Rome' and books on the Parthenon and the Colosseum as part of a series on wonders of the world. Her interests range from the social and cultural life of Ancient Greece and Rome to the Victorian understanding of antiquity.

In addition she is Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and writes an engaging, often provocative, blog, A Don's Life, a selection of which has recently been published in book form, 'It's a Don's Life'.

In 2008 Mary was visiting Sather Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she gave a series of lectures on Roman laughter, one of her
current research interests.

Abstract

Was there risk before modernity? This lecture explores how we might tell the ancient history of risk -- from oracles (an ancient form of risk assessment) through gambling and agricultural strategies to the parade of Luck and Chance in sculptural form. In Greece and Rome (and other pre modern societies) is it misleading to think in terms of risk? Is it more helpful to ask simply, "What did people worry about?" -- a question to which we find some surprising answers. At the same time, there is another agenda underlying this lecture: an exploration of the risks facing research and teaching in the Humanities. What do academics need to be worried about today and for the future?

The lecture will include the first consultation of the Oracles of Astrampsychus for many centuries.

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