News: When Yale-NUS met a Roman Poet in China

12 September 2019 (Thu),

Assoc. Prof. Steven Green presenting at the Yale-NUS workshop (Feb 19)

For the past three years, Associate Professor Steven Green has been involved in a Chinese-government-sponsored project which is charged with translating into Mandarin, and providing commentaries for, the entire corpus of Ovid, the mercurial Roman poet of the first century BCE who wrote about love, the heroic world, metamorphosis, religion, and his own exile.

As an international scholar on Ovid, Assoc. Prof. Green was an invited speaker for the project’s inaugural conference, ‘Globalising Ovid’, which took place at Shanghai Normal University, China, in June 2017. A volume of conference proceedings in Mandarin is in press.

But Assoc. Prof. Green also wondered what wider role Yale-NUS might play in this collaboration. “A project of this sort”, he explains, “requires advanced level Latin, advanced level Mandarin, and a good knowledge of Ovid himself. This is a very rare combination of critical skills in global academia. I have two of these elements, and the third element, advanced level Mandarin, is abundant at Yale-NUS owing to both the student demographic and the Singaporean education system.”

Group photo of some of the participants at the Yale-NUS workshop (Feb 19)

Yale-NUS offers its students the opportunity to learn Latin from the beginning to an advanced level – even as part of a dedicated Minor in Global Antiquity – and Assoc. Prof. Green runs his own research-led course entitled ‘Ovid the Innovator’.

Some Yale-NUS students, then, develop the full set of critical skills for the project, and Assoc. Prof. Green was keen to connect them with it. In February 2019, he led a two-day workshop on Ovid’s exile poetry, generously sponsored by the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture and Civilisation Programme. Members of the translation project participated, including Prof. Jinyu Liu (Principal Investigator; DePauw University/ Shanghai Normal University), Dr. Ying Xiong (Shanghai Normal University), and Dr. Chun Liu (Peking University). In addition, about 20 Yale-NUS students and Faculty came together to discuss different aspects of Ovid’s exilic persona and to critique Chinese translations-in-progress.

Pei Yun Chia presenting at the ‘Ovid in China’ panel at the joint CA/ FIEC meeting in London (July 19)

One particular Yale-NUS alumna, Pei Yun Chia, has been formally involved in the international project for the past two years. Having taken advanced Latin with Assoc. Prof. Green, Pei Yun is in charge of translating into Mandarin Ovid’s short didactic poem on face cosmetics. Pei Yun participated at the February workshop and, along with other members of the team, she and Assoc. Prof. Green recently gave a joint presentation at the annual meeting of the Classical Association/ Fédération internationale des associations d’études Classique in London, in July 2019, as part of an ‘Ovid in China’ panel. This panel will itself also lead into a published collection of papers.

Some of the Ovid project members at the ‘Ovid in China’ panel at the joint CA/ FIEC meeting in London (July 19): Pei Yun Chia is top row, third from left; Assoc. Prof. Green in bottom row, far right

On the collaborative endeavours so far, Assoc. Prof. Green reflects, “It has been great to see how the distinctive brand of ancient world studies at Yale-NUS, and the valuable set of skills that different Yale-NUS members hold, can bring such value to this exciting international project, and I look forward to future collaborations.”