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Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures and Innovations Paperback – 13 Mar 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (13 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1781250499
  • ISBN-13: 978-1781250495
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

With such a champion as Beard to debunk and popularise, the future of the study of classics is assured (Daily Telegraph)

She's pulled off that rare trick of becoming a don with a high media profile who hasn't sold out, who is absolutely respected by the academy for her scholarship ... what she says is always powerful and interesting (Guardian)

witty, erudite collection...To Beard, the classical past is alive and kicking - and she has the great gift of being able to show just why classics is still a subject worth arguing about (Sunday Times)

an irrepressible enthusiast with a refreshing disregard for convention (FT)

She stands in the great tradition of myth-puncturing Latin classicists (New York Review of Books)

Beard is the best...communicator of Classics we have (Independent on Sunday)

highly engaging (Sunday Telegraph)

sparkling (The Lady)

so engaging, and at times so very funny (Edith Hall Times)

this is the perfect introduction to classical studies, and deserves to become something of a standard work in the future (Observer)

Book Description

Mary Beard takes us on an exhilarating journey through the extraordinary riches of the classical heritage, and why it still matters.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stanley Crowe on 13 Nov 2013
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book very much, but anyone tempted to buy it should understand what it is: a collection of review essays on classical figures and topics, sensibly organized both chronologically and thematically -- but it is emphatically NOT itself a history of the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome. Those "confronting the classics" are the authors of the books that Beard is reviewing, and throughout Beard reviews them with an eye to their adequacy or otherwise as historians. So the book isn't history -- it's ABOUT history and what it is to try to do history well. That means that it's about how people handle evidence, especially the very fragmentary evidence that we have from so long ago. There are documents, there are artifacts, and there are the results of archeological activity. How do we, in the 21st century, put such stuff together to tell a convincing (aspiring to "true") story about Octavius or Alexander or Boadicea? It's tempting to say that the ancient world had its historians too -- Tacitus, Suetonius, Thucydides et. al. -- but they wrote decades or even centuries after the events they relate, so they have to be looked at with pretty cool scrutiny. So -- to sum up, a general reader who is interested in history and in the problems of writing history will find this book accessible and enjoyable. And you learn things! It's something to know that we know quite a bit about Augustus's life before he took care of Antony and Cleopatra but very little about the four decades of his rule as emperor. Beard speculates interestingly on why that is so. In general, we get a sense of the fragments of knowledge that seem beyond dispute and then are brought face to face with the obvious difficulties of "connecting the dots," as we would now say.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mac McAleer TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 Jan 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a book of book reviews. Their author, Mary Beard, is an academic, blogger and all-round patron saint of the classics. She has "adapted and updated" the reviews which first appeared in the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books or the Times Literary Supplement. They all concern some aspect of ancient Greece or Rome and are all of a high standard. Sometimes a single book is reviewed; sometimes two or three related ones. Usually it is the subject of the book under review that is the focus as much as the book itself. These are really essays on the current state of classical studies. Indeed, Mary Beard claims that "reviews have long been one of the most important places where classical debates take place".

The thirty-one reviews are divided into five sections: ancient Greece; early Rome; imperial Rome; ordinary Roman life; the classics from the viewpoint of tourists or scholars. The first review concerns Minoan Crete; the last is an appreciation of Astérix. In between, the articles are as varied as the classical world itself, for example: Thucydides and his impossibly difficult-to-read Greek; What made the Greek laugh?; How great was Alexander?; The myth of Cleopatra; Cicero; Hadrian and his villa; Ex-slaves and snobbery; Boudicca; Pompeii for tourists.

The New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books and the Time Literary Supplement are all publications for a general but discerning readership. I assume that a discerning viewer of May Beard's TV programmes would enjoy these reviews, as would any classicist. The reviews are short, on average eight pages, so this is a book to dip in and out of. The reviews are also clever, entertaining and often surprising.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By amacater on 9 Mar 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the fruit of many years of scholarship: it is, primarily, a collection of essays and reviews which deal with aspects of classical culture. This is not a book intended for undergraduates or scholars per se: it is not a heavyweight purely academic tome but accessible to all. The extended essay/review format allows for the treatment of many subjects but these remain reviews: this is Prof. Beard of the London Review of Books / TLS rather than the bright TV presenter cycling round Rome or the chatty tone of A Don's Life.

I would recommend this to anybody whose interest has been piqued by Mary Beard's TV programs and wants to explore aspects in a little greater depth - all the chapters contain end note references to the books reviewed.

As noted elsewhere in her blog, Prof. Beard paid tribute to her editor, Peter Carson. This book was edited by him up until his death and he is the dedicatee. It is beautifully printed and in a good quality binding and a tribute to a great editor, whose own translations of Tolstoy are about to be published.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By F. R. Jack on 31 Oct 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A series of edited book reviews and by its nature breakfast rather than dinner. Neatly divided into themed sections. Slightly too much focus on the perceived limitations of the reviewed texts but for the most part a delightful romp through a breathtaking range of topics. A light, down-to-earth and humorous experience as always from Professor Beard, a National Treasure IMHO, peppered with amusing anecdotes and observations. Dodgy foundation myths of Rome, roving arms of Roman statues, The Golden Bough and Asterix. Hugely enjoyable in the round and I think probably taught me much more than I realised as I went along for the ride. I would definitely recommend this book.
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