Barry McNamara  |  Published November 02, 2021

蒙茅斯学院, Ovid and China

A Roman poet, 18th-century punch bowls and a Monmouth College professor.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The following is just another example of the success and reach of the outstanding classics program at 蒙茅斯学院.

TOM SIENKEWICZ: Emeritus classics professor shows book featuring his article on 18th-century punc... TOM SIENKEWICZ: Emeritus classics professor shows book featuring his article on 18th-century punch bowls depicting images from Ovid's "Metamorphoses."Excuse the slip into simplified Chinese for the phrase “Monmouth College,” but it’s part of the story that grew out of emeritus professor Tom Sienkewicz’s participation in a “Globalizing Ovid” conference.

In 2017, Sienkewicz participated in the international conference, which was held at China’s Shanghai Normal University in commemoration of the bimillennium of Ovid’s death. One of the three canonical poets of Latin literature – along with Virgil and Horace – Ovid is believed to have died in 17 A.D.

“The conference was not only an opportunity to commemorate Ovid, but also an encouragement for cross-cultural conversations about the globalization of the Greco-Roman classics,” said Sienkewicz.

One of the outcomes of the conference was the publishing of New Frontiers of Research on the Roman Ovid in the Global Context, which Sienkewicz said has been called “the first scholarly book published in China on Ovidian research.”

Included in the book is an article based upon the paper that Sienkewicz read at the “Globalizing Ovid” conference. Titled “Ovidian Scenes on 18th-century Chinese Porcelain,” Sienkewicz’s paper was translated into Chinese. It is an examination of a series of three punch bowls decorated with scenes from Ovid’s famous epic poem, Metamorphoses.

A professor of classics at Monmouth from 1984-2017, Sienkewicz said he saw a listing for the Shanghai event and was “intrigued.”

“I Googled ‘Ovid in China,’ and one of the things that came up was the punch bowls,” he said. “I thought, ‘This is weird. How did this happen?’”

Sienkewicz soon learned the answer.

OVID IN CHINA: This porcelain punch bowl is engraved with an image depicting the fall of Phaethon... OVID IN CHINA: This porcelain punch bowl is engraved with an image depicting the fall of Phaethon.“Chinese artists used engravings from European editions of Ovid’s poem to depict these scenes on the porcelain, which were commissioned by Europeans,” said Sienkewicz. “In the first part of the 18th century, the Europeans didn’t know how to manufacture porcelain, but by the end of the century, they had figured it out.”

The editor of the two-volume work is Jinyu Liu, professor of classics studies at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Liu is also the head of the Ovid Translation Project.

Sienkewicz and Liu are co-editors of a forthcoming book that will feature 17 articles, including one by Sienkewicz that he called a “sequel” to his three-punch-bowl paper.

“Globalizing Ovid” was held in conjunction with a project titled “Translating the Complete Corpus of Ovid’s Poetry into Chinese with Commentaries.” The goal of this ambitious project, funded by a major grant from the National Social Science Foundation of China, is to translate into Chinese all the works of Ovid and to accompany those translations with commentaries.

“Many of Ovid’s works have never before been translated into Chinese,” said Sienkewicz. “This project is now an ongoing international effort by more than a dozen translators and scholarly consultants.”

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