Jason Binder (Classics '12) recently completed an undergraduate thesis under the direction of Dr. Daniel McLean:
My undergraduate thesis has focused on Athenian Old Comedy with a concentration on the most famous of the Athenian comic poets, Aristophanes (ca. 446 – 386 BCE). Of his 11 extant plays I explored three of the most abusive and topical: Acharnians, Knights, and Clouds. My goal has been to disentangle the ostensible contradictions between the poet’s self-presentation in each play and the overarching values that the plays extoll. For example, is the Aristophanes who virulently attacks the sophistic ‘Socrates’ of Clouds at odds with his own use of sophistic argumentation? Is it not ironic that the choral leader in Knights utilizes rhetoric while the Paphlagonian (Cleon) is mocked for his own use of rhetoric? While on the surface these paradoxes may seem irresolvable, through a closer examination I argue that they point to a critique not of the aforementioned individuals but rather the sociocultural movements of Aristophanes' day that they served to epitomize. As such I postulate that the plays are commentaries on the limited tools for sociopolitical engagement in 5th century Athens.