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The political and military collapse of Athens during Peloponnesian War (431 – 404 BCE) was paralleled by a collapse in the norms—social, familial, religious, and moral—that informed traditional civilized behavior. This disintegration was reflected in a number of contemporary texts that wrestled with the implications of this cultural collapse—particularly with respect to its implications for logos (language, reason, narrative), which intellectuals at the time understood to be a cultural construct belonging to the realm of nomoi (laws, customs). In this thesis, I look at a range of texts from Thucydides’ History, to tragedies by Euripides and Sophocles, to a rhetorical exercise by Gorgias, a leading intellectual of the time, in order to examine how the crisis of logos was both analyzed in literary works of the period and made itself felt in those works themselves. Part 1, “Logos and the Crisis of Politics,” analyzes some of the political implications of the collapse of logos as analyzed in works of history and theater; Part 2, “Logos and the Crisis of Reality,” investigates the way in which contemporary intellectuals saw the “crisis of logos” as affecting our ability to perceive, and to describe, reality itself. A brief conclusion ruminates on the implications of the Athenian model more generally, and on its parallels with similar concerns today.
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Karmen, Kaitlin Elizabeth, "Oaths, Phantoms, Contagion, Truth: The Crisis of Logos in Fifth-Century Athenian Culture" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 166.
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