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Women & Power: A Q and A with Mary Beard

by Mercer Weaver

On September 28, Lupercal held its latest book club meeting discussing Mary Beard’s 2017 book Women & Power: A Manifesto. Over 30 members from around the world joined the meeting, with numbers high enough to warrant two pages of videos on Zoom. Following along with an interactive Latin worksheet designed by Skye Shirley and Lyla Cerulli, the first half of the meeting began with discussions on the women and figures referenced in the book. Participants discussed their reception of the sections and thoughts on figures such as Hortensia and Margaret Thatcher. After the discussion period, Beard herself joined in for a Q&A about Women & Power and feminism.

To wrap up the discussion on the blog, Beard agreed to answer a few more general questions about Women & Power and her experience in the Classical field.

Mercer Weaver: What inspired you to write Women & Power: A Manifesto?

Mary Beard: The truth is that it came out of two lectures I gave at the British Museum (for the London Review of Books).. So it wasn’t a question of my own inspiration as such. But it did enable me to pull together ideas that I had been reflecting on (off and on!) for years.

MW: What has your experience in the classical field been like, and how has that experience shaped your work?

MB: I have been very lucky. I have worked incredibly hard, it is true… but then other people also work incredibly hard and they don’t have the luck or support that I have had. I have always been encouraged to follow up my mad ideas.. That has helped.

MW: Are you happy with the initial reception of Women & Power, and what do you hope the ongoing impact of your book will be?

MB: I am very happy. The two lectures were on the LRB Website and I wasn’t sure that it was worth publishing as a book. How wrong was I. I hope it will prompt people to see that the structures of misogyny are deeply embedded in Western ways of thinking… We have done very well to demolish some of the worst bits, but there is still a long way to go.

MW: Why do you think it’s important to make connections between the modern and ancient world?

MB: Because it helps us understand some of the roots of why we think as we do.

MW: The last two books we’ve read for our Lupercal book club so far have been focused on modern reception of Classical figures. We were wondering what your thoughts are on modern interpretations– is myth static or does it have the ability to change based on cultural context?

MB: If it was static it wouldn’t be myth!!

The book and date for Lupercal’s next book club meeting is yet to be decided. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!

Mercer Weaver (they/ them) is an editor for the Lupercal blog. They are currently double majoring in Classics and Ancient Mediterranean Studies and Women’s Studies at Penn State University. In addition to Latin and the ancient world, their interests include reading and crafting.

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