Seth Estrin specializes in the art, archaeology, and visual culture of ancient Greece, with a focus on sculpture of the Archaic and Classical periods. His scholarship and teaching explore the lived experience of art objects in ancient Greece – their sensuous properties, their entanglement with felt experiences such as memory and emotion, and their place in shaping intersubjective encounters and personal histories. His research, which foregrounds close study of surviving objects, engages with ancient concepts and vocabulary for the experience of art as evidenced through ancient literature and inscriptions. Many of his publications deliberately bridge traditional boundaries between the study of the ancient material and literary records.
Estrin's first book, Grief Made Marble: Funerary Sculpture in Classical Athens (forthcoming with Yale University Press), explores the relationship between art and emotion, focusing on how the experience of bereavement in Classical Athens and the emotions of grief and pity were shaped by forms of relief sculpture. Grounded in careful study of numerous extant funerary monuments, new readings of dozens of funerary epigrams, and close consideration of both ancient and modern theories of emotion, the book offers not simply a new history of an important corpus of Greek sculpture, but a new understanding of the capacity of sculpture – specifically, relief sculpture – to configure how bereaved individuals processed their grief.
His current research examines how the making and beholding of art objects in early Greece served to construct embodied facets of social identity, such as notions of sexual or racial difference. A second book project, preliminarily entitled Kouros and Kore: Archaic Greek Sculpture and the Making of Sexual Difference, questions the binarist framework of kouros (“boy”) and kore (“girl”) that has traditionally organized the study of early Greek sculpture. In so doing, it argues for a new understanding of the role of sculpture in constructing the idea of the sexed body in Archaic Greece.
Estrin received his BA in Classics and Art History from the University of Toronto, his MSt in Classical Archaeology from the University of Oxford, and his MA and PhD, also in Classical Archaeology, from the University of California, Berkeley. In 2020-21, he was the J. Clawson Mills fellow in the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He has previously held fellowships from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. and from the Social Science Research Council.