UCL News


Learning from Ovid

21 April 2009

Link:Knowledge transfer programme at UCL Arts & Humanities Maurice Biriotti, UCL Honorary Visiting Professor of Humanities for Business, will deliver his inaugural lecture 'Learning from Ovic: Literary and Organisational Transformation'.

Professor Maurice Biriotti

Held on 29 April 2009 at 5 pm in the Chadwick Lecture Theatre, admission to the event will be free to students, staff and alumni of UCL.

Professor Biriotti has founded a successful consultancy firm which applies humanities teaching to commercial challenges of all kinds. His approach is at the leading edge of a sea-change in management training and executive education, a change which has received added impetus by the downturn now confronting the economy.

A BBC broadcast recently featured the mushrooming of a 'tent city' on the outskirts of Sacramento, capital city of California, once the seventh largest economy in the world. The scores of homeless, many of them families with children, provoked shock in the reporter who repeatedly referred to such a sight as 'unprecedented', a term used consistently of late to describe all aspects of the current economic downturn. Yet there is little which is truly unprecedented as those who study the arts and humanities soon learn to know.

Tent cities featured in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, for example, in that same sunshine state of California and were the setting for some of that novel's most powerful scenes of social commentary on the Great Depression in the US. The banking scandals which helped to spark our present crisis are all too familiar to those who study 19th fiction. Balzac, Zola, Dickens, and Trollope all examine such affairs, the personalities involved and the effects such scandals had on society. Economic shortages have given rise to a variety of responses throughout history and left their mark on society thereafter. Hyper-inflation in 1930s Germany provides just one case. The Thirty Years War in Europe in the 1600s, post-war France, Greece and Italy in the 20th century and Zimbabwe today are some others.

It is increasingly recognised that the economic crisis of 2008-9 has been brought about by those who have blinded themselves to the wider context of society. Human qualities not usually given much attention by business lend an unpredictable aspect to this crisis and will play a key role in its solution. The usual mechanistic formulae used by business provide little insight into these elements of the crisis and those seeking to solve current commercial problems are left in need of new perspectives. There is a growing appetite for fundamental change in the commercial and financial sectors which specialists in arts and humanities can help to fulfil.

Professor Biriotti's lecture pays tribute to the late Diane Middlebrook, former Visiting Research Professor to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities within UCL English who was working on a life of Ovid at the time of her death.

For further information about the lecture, please contact Berry Chevasco. To find out more about the knowledge transfer programme at UCL Arts & Humanities, follow the link at the top of this item.