I came to Princeton in 2009 after completing my BA in Classics and Mathematics at Vanderbilt. While I have always been a literature and philosophy person, the Summer Session at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, which I did in 2010, sparked a continuing interest in ancient art, architecture, and material culture. It also gave me my first experience of modern Greece, a place I have come to love very much.
My interest in the realia of ancient life—its techniques, procedures, institutions, and material conditions—and in theories of technology and media (Heidegger, Simondon, Deleuze, Kittler, Stiegler) has led me to write my dissertation on Aristophanes. Old Comedy is famously embedded, if not trapped, in the particularities of fifth-century Athenian life, whereas tragedy is widely appreciated for approaching the universal “human condition.” I argue that the worldview implicit in Aristophanes’ comedies is at least as universal as any that can be gleaned from the tragedies of Aeschylus, Sophocles, or Euripides. Some aspects of this worldview are, 1) that human beings are the products of a few basic drives (for sex, money, power…); 2) that people are therefore not mysterious but easily intelligible, and differences between “great” and “small” are unimportant; 3) that the honest poet should avoid both mythic and linguistic obscurities, and instead deal as directly as possible with the simple facts of the here-and-now; 4) that humans do not differ from other animals in values or psychology, but only bodily; 5) that physical autonomy, which would constitute the only possible solution to the problem of our suffering, is impossible to achieve.
My thesis demands an approach that is at once deeply rooted in the historical specificity of fifth-century Athens and broadly comparative, and I’m especially eager to explore continuities between the world of Aristophanes and the world that appears in the tradition of French realism, from Balzac to Céline to Michel Houellebecq—a tradition for which Aristophanes offers by far the best ancient precedent. An unabashed Francophile, I can happily talk for hours about Derrida, Badiou, or Meillassoux, but I have come to feel that Houellebecq’s dictum, “Respectez les philosophes, ne les imitez pas,” is sound advice for literary critics as well as poets.