High School Research Student Tatiana produces a podcast on The Myth of Io in Ovid’s Metamorphosis
Student Spotlight: Tatiana is a sophomore studying at the ISF Academy in Hong Kong. She started her Polygence project in the Fall of 2019 with her mentor Sarah, a PhD in Classics from Harvard University. Tatiana's Polygence project was researching and translating the original Latin text of the Myth of Io, and studying the myth has been depicted overtime. Her project culminated in a professional-caliber podcast educating listeners on the evolving interpretations of the myth over millenia. You can listen to her podcast here and read more about her Polygence experience below.
Listen to Tatiana's podcast on The Myth of Io in Ovid’s Metamorphosis
"I want people to be able to recognize...that just because this was written so long ago doesn't mean that it’s not relevant today.”
So let’s start at the beginning, before Polygence. How did you develop this deep interest in Classics? And had you done any sort of research project or original translations before?
Well, my school offers Latin classes starting in grade 7. My older sister took Latin, so then I wanted to take it too. I became really interested in it, and I’ve continued to take Latin every year since. I also was able to take Greek in grade 9. So I guess it was through this exposure of ancient languages that I became interested in Classics.
In school we do translate original Latin works as well, but Ovid's Metamorphoses is not part of the syllabus. When I was accepted into the Polygence program, I knew this is something I wanted to do with my mentor.
So it seemed like you had a general topic of interest. What was it like coming up with a project idea and scope? Did you know what you wanted to create before meeting with Sarah for the first time?
Actually no, at first I just wanted to explore different ideas, but then in my first session Sarah helped me narrow down my topic. She asked me which part of Classics I was most interested in, and then I told her I think I would like to explore Greco-Roman mythology. She then started talking about different [art forms] — different paintings — and how the way they were painted reflected a specific culture. I thought that was really interesting because I never really got to study art history in school. So, I decided to do that. In a way it was multidisciplinary, because I was reading classics and then looking at the interpretations of these myths over time [through art].
How did you then decide you wanted to do a podcast? Had you ever made one before?
Well, I wanted to do something analysis based, so I guess that gave me options. I could have done a blog or a research paper or podcast. I really liked the idea of a podcast because it's something that I've never done before. I thought it would be nice to try it out. I also wanted to practice my speaking skills because I never really get to do that in school.
What was it like putting a podcast together for the first time?
It was really fun and I really liked editing on GarageBand. At one point it was kind of weird listening to my voice over and over again, but it was exciting to record!
I actually recorded it underneath my comforter in my room because when I tried it the first time there was a lot of background noise. I just couldn't cut it out otherwise. It got me so annoyed. So then I would spend half an hour straight underneath my comforter recording it in complete darkness.
“I actually recorded it underneath my comforter in my room because when I tried it the first time there was a lot of background noise. I just couldn't cut it out otherwise.”
That’s amazing. What resourceful-ness! Can you tell us in a few sentences what your podcast is about?
Yeah, my podcast is about the different interpretations of the myth of Io over time. And the myth of Io is about this girl named Io who was raped by Jupiter (or Zeus). After she was raped by Zeus, Hera (or Juno) got jealous. So Zeus transformed Io into a cow and then gave Io to Juno. At the end of the myth, Jupiter sends another God Hermes (or Mercury) to kill the guard of Io and then return her to her normal form as a human.
So I looked at the different interpretations of this myth over time. I found that the way ancient Greek vases depicted this myth was very different from other time periods. For instance, the Greeks focused most on the action of Hermes killing the guard of Io, while Io was a cow. But then if you look at Renaissance paintings; we see Io as a human instead of a cow. Then, she represents these female virtues such as forbearance or endurance. In one painting, Coreggio’s Jupiter and Io, you see her kind of giving into Jupiter; she does not resist in the painting like she actually does in the myth. But then if you look at how we read the myth now, we look at her story as a story of rape and sexual assault. And these different interpretations reflect the culture and the specific political climates during each time period.
And how did your Polygence sessions with Sarah support your project? What kinds of material did you guys go over together?
All of our sessions were discussions. Sarah would send me a few papers beforehand to read, and then I would read and take notes and then we would discuss and try to figure out how I could use this information. That was how we spent at least our first five sessions before I started writing the podcast [script]. So we do that for part of the time, and then in the remaining time, we would translate different myths together in Latin.
Translating was great. I usually would not dare to translate something myself because, you know, it's kind of difficult. But Sarah would give me guidance. Also, if my translations were a little bit chunky -- if they didn't make as much sense -- she would help me make them make more sense. I think she just really helped me understand how to translate better. So I didn’t just understand the Latin better, but I was able to make it into real English.
She gave me the confidence to not stick so rigorously to the Latin. Sometimes the English translation feels really awkward. And since I have to if you like in my podcast I actually had to say my translations out loud and if they didn't sound right then that would be really weird. So yeah, she taught me how to convey the meaning while not sticking to the Latin so rigorously.
“I think she just really helped me understand how to translate better. So not just understanding the Latin but being able to make it into real English. She gave me the confidence to not stick so rigorously to the Latin”
For instance, well I don't really remember the exact Latin phrase I’m thinking of, but I translated it into English as “Either I am wronged or I am being wrong.” That’s nine words, but in Latin it was just three words and used the subjunctive. I remember the first time I tried translating it; I was just really confused because it didn't make any sense to me. But then Sarah guided me through it. And then I managed to find a way to translate it that made more sense. She would propose one way and then I would propose another, and we’d go back and forth until we found a translation we liked.
What was Sarah like as a mentor? How is she different from maybe a teacher or tutor you've had in the past?
She was very supportive. She gave me lots of comments on my script before I actually started recording [and] all her comments were really encouraging. Then our discussions were incredibly fruitful; she gave me so many good ideas. She also taught me how to organize it into something that was logical. You know, in the first few sessions, we had different ideas but I couldn't really piece it together into one coherent podcast outline or script. So then we had a discussion about how to organize my research.
Also, I’m really glad because all our sessions were really conversational and discussion-based as opposed to lecture-based. I was able to talk about a lot of things with her. I think that’s how she was most different from other teachers: because for teachers or for tutors, they would just tell you things and you just have to take notes. But with Sarah I think I told her as many things as she told me; so it was really a two-way kind of thing.
“...for teachers or for tutors, they would just tell you things and you just have to take notes. But with Sarah I think I told her as many things as she told me; so it was really a two-way kind of thing…”
How has your Polygence project influenced the way you're thinking about what you want to study in college?
I've always kind of had my mind on Classics - maybe as a minor or even a major. But now that I've been exposed to art history, I definitely want to take that as a class. I was so fascinated reading different interpretations of these paintings and also trying to come up with interpretations of my own. So art history will definitely definitely be a class that I will be taking in college. It’s amazing just how much you can get from a painting. I used to take art classes, but for me it used to be a tedious activity. But then with Sarah, I started to look at art In a different light.
I have one last question – do you have any advice for students who are either thinking about doing Polygence or just starting their projects?
Your project is really important. But ultimately what you want to get out of it is not only your project, but what you learn. So don't limit yourself to just learning what's relevant to your project, but try to explore different ideas beforehand. Because I came into Polygence not really knowing what I wanted to do, and I think that was a benefit for me. I learned more than I would have learned if I had decided: Oh, I'm just going to do this. Ultimately some of the papers weren’t as useful as others were, but then I still learned a lot. So, my advice would just be to [not feel the need] to narrow down your topic. Feel free to learn more than you think that you have to learn.
“Feel free to learn more than you think that you have to learn.”_