On October 30th this year, the UOC proudly awarded an honary degree (“honoris causa”) to the British academic Mary Beard.The vice-rector of the UOC Pastora Martínez Samper and the rector Josep Planell presented Mary with this award in a beautiful ceremony in the city hall in Barcelona. So who is Mary Beard and why did she receive the award?
One of the joys of learning a second language is the chance to follow and understand great thinkers and writers from other cultures and countries. Mary Beard is one of those great thinkers. She is an academic, a classicist who specialises in Ancient Rome. In 2004 she became Professor of Classics at Cambridge University and she is extremely well respected for her academic status. However, her academic career is not the only reason for her fame. In the UK Mary has long been active in the media. She is a famous political commentator, writer and TV presenter. She has made entertaining and informative TV programs which have made the classics and Roman history more accessible to people.
But Mary has also found a role for representing and promoting women in the UK media. She has had a big influence on the debate about women in the spotlight. She presents her programs without make up and with little attention to her appearance. In fact, her clothes, teeth and hair caused a famous British TV critic A.A.Gill to criticise her TV programs by focusing almost entirely on her physical appearance and writing that she was too ugly to be seen on TV. Her reply was to question A.A.Gill’s intelligence in trying to suppress female thinkers. In this way, she is seen to have had a big influence on modern day feminism.
Finally, this is what Mary has to say about her experience on 30th on her latest blog post, ‘Feminism in Barcelona’:
“The Universitat Oberta (the “Open University”) is a great institution based in Barcelona, doing much the same great job as our UK “Open University”, but in this case entirely digitally. It is also a university, as I learned yesterday, that is proud to come out and say that it is a feminist institution.”
You can follow Mary on Twitter and through her blog ‘A Don’s Life’. You can also see her programs on YouTube. Try this one here on Caligula, these video have subtitles in English to help you. If you love Game of Thrones, you’ll love her programs about the lives of the emperors in the Roman Empire!