Seth Estrin

Biography

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 ancient art – its sensuous and affective properties, its entanglement in subjective experiences such as memory and emotion, and its place in intimate 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.

The relationship between art and subjectivity is at the heart of Estrin’s current book project, Grief Made Marble: Funerary Sculpture in Classical Athens. This book examines Classical Attic funerary monuments – the largest surviving corpus of Classical Greek sculpture – through the lens of bereavement, exploring how these monuments were configured so as to open up private grief and compel beholders to engage with it. Central to the project is an investigation of what it means to recognize a person in a work of art, an experience historicized and theorized through close attention to the Greek concept of intersubjective recognition, anagnorisis. Bringing together sculpted and inscribed elements of funerary monuments that have long been studied apart, the book explores how the combination of text and image served to generate recognition in ways that structured cognition, emotion, and sensory perception. The result is a history of sculpture grounded in the emotions and experiences of everyday life in Classical Athens.

A second book project, tentatively entitled Art and Embodiment in Archaic Greece, explores how concepts of the self were shaped through artistic practices in early Greece. Focusing on various facets of embodiment, from constructs of gender and sexuality to the capacities to speak, to feel, or to emote, the book examines how materials such as stone, clay, and bronze were used in the Archaic period to articulate the possibilities of human experience and to test its limits.

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.

Publications

Horoi and Horizons in Fifth- and Fourth-Century Athens.” In Shifting Horizons: A Line and its Movement in Art, History, and Literature, ed. L. Burkart and B. Fricke. Basel: Schwabe Verlag, forthcoming.

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“Sirens on the Edge of the Classical Attic Funerary Monument.” In Music and Memory in the Ancient Mediterranean, ed. L. Curtis and N. Weiss (261-286). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021.

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Stewart, A., E. Driscoll, S. Estrin, N. J. Gleason, E. Lawrence, R. Levitan, S. Lloyd-Knauf, and K. Tuberville. “Classical Sculpture from the Athenian Agora, Part 2. The Friezes of the Temple of Athena Pallenis (Temple of Ares).” Hesperia 88.4 (2019): 625-705.

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“Experiencing Elegy: Materiality and Visuality in the Ambracian Polyandrion.” In The Genres of Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models, ed. L. Kurke, M. Foster, and N. Weiss (298-324). Leiden: Brill, 2019.

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Memory Incarnate: Material Objects and Private Visions in Classical Athens, from Euripides’ Ion to the Gravesite.” In The Materialities of Greek Tragedy: Objects and Affect in Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, ed. M. Mueller and M. Telò (111-132). London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

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“Cold Comfort: Empathy and Memory in an Archaic Funerary Monument from Akraiphia.” Classical Antiquity 35 (2016): 189-214.

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“Living Surfaces: The Materiality of Minoan Wall Painting.” In Beyond Iconography: Materials, Methods and Meaning in Ancient Painting Studies, ed. S. Lepinski and S. McFadden (109-125). Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, 2015.

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Profiles

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