Ava Shirazi is a scholar of ancient Greek literature and philosophy with broad research interests in the cultural and intellectual histories of aesthetic thought. In recent years, she has been especially interested in the role of materiality and media in ancient discourses on cognition and sensation and in questioning the potentials and limits of approaching Greek and Greco-Roman theories of visuality through a post-human framework. Overall, in both her teaching and research, she is committed to exploring the ancient world in a holistic manner, and putting all facets of culture—literary, philosophical, material, and scientific—into conversation.
Her comprehensive and interdisciplinary approach to antiquity is reflected in her current book project, “The Mirror and the Senses: Reflection and Perception in Classical Greek Thought.” Unlike glass mirrors today, which embody and signify accuracy in the creation of images, the earliest mirrors were made of bronze. The project looks at how this particular and very different type of reflective medium shaped the cultural imagination of ancient Greece, where bronze mirrors surged in production and popularity. Working across a wide array of materials, from literary, philosophical, and scientific archives to actual bronze mirrors, painting and iconography, as well as practices of beautification and ritual, the book argues for an inextricable link between the materiality of Greek mirrors and the transformative intellectual work on vision and sensation at the time.
Additionally, Shirazi has published and prepared forthcoming work on vision and sense perception in the non-canonical texts of the fourth century and materiality and affect in Greek Tragedy. Other essays in preparation range in subject from the relationship between cosmology and the arts in Greek poetry and prose to nature and beauty in imperial epistolary writing. While at Princeton, she has been developing two future book-length projects under the working titles of “Light and Enlightenment in the Greco-Roman World” and “Labor, Landscape, and the Anti-human.”
Shirazi received her PhD in Classics from Stanford University and holds a B.A. in English and Classics from the University of Toronto. During her appointment at Princeton, she has taught in the ‘Humanities Sequence’ (Interdisciplinary Approaches to Western Culture) and developed courses on cultural histories of vision and visuality as well as fictions and philosophies of transformation. Her courses have been offered across Classics, Humanistic Studies, History, and Comparative Literature. This fall, she is co-teaching a graduate seminar with Dan-el Padilla Peralta on “Ancient Media, Modern Media Theory” for the Program in the Ancient World.