Modern Greek Literature
Image, Mourning, Pleasure, Ritual: The Poetry of C.P. Cavafy
How does poetry address the problem of surviving unprecedented loss in the modern period while also dealing with the unacknowledged losses suffered by lives on the sexual margins, for whom the challenge of survival takes shape under the punitive social forces of law and medicine? In this seminar we will take up the case of C.P. Cavafy, an Alexandrian writing in Modern Greek during the first third of the twentieth century, and investigate how Cavafy’s innovative poetic form grapples with historical loss and gay male sexuality from the periphery of empire. As a community of readers, we will delve deeply together into Cavafy’s poetic form, language, images, and constellations of disparate places and times across Greek linguistic tradition in order to pursue questions of loss, mourning, pleasure, ritual, sexuality, and temporality. We will consider Cavafy’s poems in comparative and historical dialogue with the visual arts (e.g., photography, film, and painting) and other literary traditions (e.g., decadence). Secondary readings will be drawn from the disciplines of anthropology, classics, literary history and theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis. How do Cavafy’s poems configure the relation between loss and sensual pleasure in ways that allow us to think about the erotic potential of mourning for queer subjects?
Cavafy’s poems will be available in English translation. Reading knowledge of Modern Greek is not required.