D. David Williams

Position title: Solmsen Fellow (2023-2024)

Ph.D., Department of Classics and Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago

This is a headshot of a man with glasses standing in his office and smiling.

“Addressing Clouds”: Aristophanes and the Attic Enlightenment

In this book, I offer a holistic reassessment of the fifth-century playwright Aristophanes’ engagement with contemporary intellectual culture, making a new case for the intellectual-historical significance of the comic poet’s extant oeuvre. I develop a new framework for interpreting the comedies of Aristophanes not as plays that passively receive and reflect contemporary intellectual trends, but as substantive contributions to contemporary conversations about the nature of knowledge and intellectual authority. Aristophanes’ attitude toward intellectuals should be understood as part of what I call an Attic “counter-enlightenment,” a critical response to a new type of intellectualism that was emerging in late fifth-century Athens.

D. David Williams received his Ph.D. from the Department of Classics and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago in 2022; he also spent a year as a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2018-2019) and one as a visiting student at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (2021-2022). In 2022-2023, he was a visiting scholar in the Department of Classical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

His research focuses on the literature and intellectual history of archaic and classical Greece, with a particular concentration on Athenian drama, Socrates and the sophists, and Plato. He is at work on three long-term research projects. The first, an expansion of his dissertation research, focuses on Aristophanes’ engagement with contemporary intellectual culture (see above). The second is a collaborative volume on the sophist Hippias of Elis. The third is a comprehensive study of the use of gnomic statements on the tragic stage.