Tuesday 7 October 2014

Mary Beard is rude about the French

For those who want something lighter, then please take a listen to Jeremy Paxman and Mary Beard on this week's A Good ReadJeremy and Mary didn't see eye to eye - to put it mildly! 

What stood out for me though was an absolute jaw-dropper of a remark from Professor Beard. She said at one point, with absolute confidence:
For example, peasants in the 16th Century didn't know what they themselves looked like. They didn't have mirrors. You only know what you look like because somebody tells you that you look like somebody else.
Now, she was talking about peasants in France and we all know that the French are famous for not washing very often but, surely to goodness, even peasants in France in the 16th Century washed some time and, when they did, would have seen their own reflections in that magical liquid known as water. Similarly, many a peasant may have seen such congregations of this remarkable substance known as 'puddles' or 'ponds' or 'wells' or 'lakes' or 'rivers', or other such reflective aqueous things, which might also have shown them what they looked like without having to be entered in a village lookalike competition. They then might have reflected on the matter, so to speak, and put two and two together. The French are clever like that. 

Therefore, for a famous professor like Mary Beard to assert that "peasants in the 16th Century didn't know what they themselves looked like" because "they didn't have mirrors" ought to go down in the history books as a classic example of 21st Century academic stupidity. 

And to think she presents historical documentaries for the BBC, hosts editions of A Point of View and appears quite regularly on Question Time.

Mary is a professor of Classics. I recommend that she re-reads the tale of Narcissus. She might find it helpful.

1 comment:

  1. She looks a lot better than usual in your photo, but I read that Mary Beard said ”I am what a 59-year-old woman looks like when she hasn't had anything done."

    Aggressive / defensive. Is that a ‘thing’?

    You know when people aren’t ashamed of being innumerate? “I’m hopeless at maths” they say, as if it’s endearing. Yet people who can’t read don’t boast about that, until dyslexia came to the rescue.
    Well, Mary Beard seems to be having a collective dig at the image-conscious, inferring that it’s vain and narcissistic to take an interest in one’s appearance, when in fact she’s kind of boasting about being visually illiterate. I mean, if only because she puts herself on the telly, she could show some signs of visual self-awareness. “Haven’t had anything done?” What, like having a rudimentary hairstyle? Or does that come into the category of vanity? I know, she didn’t like what AA Gill said, and she found it hurtful. But put yourself on the telly and that’s what happens. People look at you.


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