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The Poetics of Cavafy

The Poetics of Cavafy: Textuality, Eroticism, History

Gregory Jusdanis
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    The Poetics of Cavafy
    Book Description:

    This full-length theoretical examination of Constantine Cavafy breaks the study of this great Greek poet free from the narrow context of traditional scholarship and introduces the latest critical developments into the study of Greek poetry.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5880-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. x-2)

    Modern Greek literature is of marginal concern to contemporary critical practice. It occupies a place of secondary importance with regard to the literary traditions of Western Europe and North America. It is the object of mild, if not patronizing, interest on the part of critics who wish to broaden their Anglocentric perspective. This study is written in the context of, and against, this xenophobia. It concerns the poetics of the Greek poet Constantine P. Cavafy. One of its aims is to see how Cavafy’s poetics relates to the theories of art and literature of nineteenth-and early twentieth-century writers in Western...

  5. 1. POET
    (pp. 3-37)

    Western culture has regarded the poet as a source of poetry, or at least an essential component in the creative process. With romanticism a change occurred in the conception of the poet, manifested both in the enhanced social status he enjoyed as a purveyor of truth, and also in the increased reference made to him to explain and interpret poetry. In his influential study of romanticism,The Mirror and the Lamp, M. H. Abrams demonstrates that while previous ages in their conception of poetry foregrounded either the role of reality (which poetry copied) or the function of the audience (which...

  6. 2. AUDIENCE
    (pp. 38-63)

    I referred to the audience indirectly in the preceding chapter, when I argued that since romanticism the dominant literary discourses have taken little account of the audience as a factor in the production, transmission, and analysis of poetry or art in general. Poetry has been primarily conceived of in terms of the poet, from whom it was thought to flow, and who conferred upon it the status of art. The artist has come to be viewed as the sole creator of art, fashioning forms of beauty out of nature’s raw materials, which—independently of cultural restraints and social institutions—he...

  7. 3. POETRY
    (pp. 64-113)

    I argued in the last chapter that the two different conceptions of the audience in Cavafy reflect two conflicting approaches to poetry or art;¹ the one draws attention to art as the private concern of the poet and his initiates, and the other stresses the position of art as a social entity in the broad context of an extra-aesthetic reality. Without limiting my analysis to the perhaps restrictive dichotomy of private and public art, I want to examine, in all its diversity, Cavafy’s concept of poetry, which ranges from the conventional denotation of verse composition, to an all-embracing connotation of...

    (pp. 114-135)

    In Chapter 3 I mentioned that the appearance of the autonomous and autotrophic artwork was related to a similar development in the latter part of the nineteenth century, when language emerged as an opaque and independent object of study. A crisis in the way language was understood and used led to a questioning of its expressive and referential function. This linguistic skepticism manifested itself in the preoccupation with artistic form and in the search for an autonomous poetic discourse, a pure yet absolute type of poetry that would subsume all reality yet allude only to itself. My aim in this...

    (pp. 136-155)

    As was shown in Chapter 4, many of Cavafy’s poems call attention to the texts they have absorbed and in this way emphasize not only their fictionality, but also their nonreferential language. By visibly exhibiting the layers of textuality they have incorporated, such poems reaffirm the intertextual nature of literature. A text undoubtedly belongs to a reticulation of citations and allusions. But these poems do not touch upon the process by which a poem is constructed out of these tissues of texts. They do not discuss the relationship between the poem and its past, between the text and its literary...

  10. 6. WORLD
    (pp. 156-175)

    Cavafy sees art principally as an autonomous and autotrophic entity relying on its intrinsic resources and making minimal reference to reality. This conception of art was analyzed in Chapter 3, where it was shown that it is of recent date, stemming from the philosophical speculation of the late eighteenth century. It represents one of several ways of understanding the aesthetic. The earliest and most familiar approach to art is the mimetic, according to which art is a reflection of the world: people, ideas, actions, events, places, and things in general. Art takes the world as its subject and accordingly is...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 176-180)

    Considering the complexity and many-sidedness of Cavafy’s poetics, it would be improper to impose a single view upon Cavafy’s productive and creative attempts to comprehend the meaning of art and literature, to incorporate this understanding in his own writing and dramatize it as theme. Thus I cannot conclude with a convenient summary of Cavafy’s poetics. Although it would be simple to argue that aestheticism most accurately describes his poetics, that definition would be a violent reduction of his thought. Cavafy struggled with many sometimes incompatible approaches, borrowing ideas from diverse sources in his endeavor to map out a poetic theory;...

  12. References
    (pp. 181-190)
  13. Index
    (pp. 191-193)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 194-194)