Barry McNamara  |  Published September 19, 2022

Ovid in China

Monmouth emeritus classics professor Thomas J. Sienkewicz is co-editor of new book on Roman poet.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A collaboration between a Monmouth College emeritus classics professor and a faculty member at DePauw University has led to a recently published book, which offers a fresh look at the ancient Roman author Ovid.

THOMAS J. SIENKEWICZ: Emeritus professor taught classics at Monmouth from 1984 to 2017. THOMAS J. SIENKEWICZ: Emeritus professor taught classics at Monmouth from 1984 to 2017.Brill Academic Publishers, a Dutch international academic publisher founded in 1683 in Leiden, Netherlands, has published Ovid in China: Reception, Translation and Comparison, co-edited by Thomas J. Sienkewicz, Capron Professor of Classics Emeritus at Monmouth College, and Jinyu Liu, Professor of Classical Studies at DePauw University.

Ovid lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature.

Authored by international scholars, the 17 essays in Ovid in China put the Roman poet in a Chinese context, often from a Chinese perspective. The works examine Ovid’s interaction with China in a broad historical context, including: the arrival of Christian missionaries in 1294, the depiction of Ovidian scenes on 18th-century Chinese porcelain and the growing Chinese interest in Ovid in the early 20th century. Also included is a 21st-century collaborative project to translate Ovid’s poetry into Chinese with commentary and comparative studies on such themes as conceptualization of time, consolation, laughter, filicide and revenge.

“The book is intended for a wide audience, including those interested in Ovid, Latin literature, the reception of Ovid’s poetry in a non-Western context, cross-cultural translation, and comparative studies,” said Sienkewicz.

His collaboration with Liu on the project began in 2017 when Sienkewicz read a paper titled “Ovid’s Metamorphoses on 18th-Century Chinese Porcelain” at a conference at Shanghai Normal University. The conference, organized by Liu and titled “Globalizing Ovid: An International Conference in Commemoration of the Bimillennium of Ovid’s Death,” was the first professional meeting in China devoted to the Roman poet.

OVID IN CHINA: Emeritus professor Thomas J. Sienkewicz collaborated on the project with DePauw Un... OVID IN CHINA: Emeritus professor Thomas J. Sienkewicz collaborated on the project with DePauw University professor Jinyu Li. Sienkewicz’s paper from the conference was published in Chinese by Pekin University Press in 2021 in New Frontiers of Research on the Roman Poet Ovid in a Global Context, which was edited by Liu. The English translation of the Sienkewicz chapter is “Ovidian Scenes on 18th-century Chinese Porcelain.”

Together, Sienkewicz and Liu organized two professional meetings on the Ovid in China theme, the first at the 2018 meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South in Albuquerque and the second at the 2019 Congress of the Fédération internationale des associations d’études classiques and the Classical Association in London. At the latter conference, a representative from Brill invited Sienkewicz and Liu to submit a proposal on the topic in their Metaforms series, which publishes monographs and collected volumes devoted to the critical investigation of a broad and diverse field: the reception of Greco-Roman antiquity.

In addition to editing this volume, Sienkewicz and Liu wrote a detailed introduction and Sienkewicz contributed a paper entitled “Scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses on Four 18th-Century Chinese Export Porcelain Punchbowls.” The image on the cover of the book depicts the fall of Phaethon from Metamorphoses 2 on one of the punchbowls discussed by Sienkewicz in his paper.

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