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Reframing Decadence: C. P. Cavafy's Imaginary Portraits (Hardback)
  • Reframing Decadence: C. P. Cavafy's Imaginary Portraits (Hardback)
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Reframing Decadence: C. P. Cavafy's Imaginary Portraits (Hardback)

(author)
£40.00
Hardback 272 Pages / Published: 18/11/2015
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During his sojourn in England during the 1870s, a young Cavafy found himself enthralled by the aesthetic movement of cosmopolitan London. It was during these years that he encountered the canvases and personalities of Pre-Raphaelite painters, including Burne-Jones and Whistler, as well as works of aesthetic writers who were effecting a revolution in British literary culture and channeling influences from France that would gradually coalesce into an international decadent movement. In Reframing Decadence Peter Jeffreys returns us to this critical period of Cavafy's life, showing the poet's creative indebtedness to British and French avant-garde aesthetes whose collective impact on his poetry proved to be profound. In the process, Jeffreys offers a critical reappraisal of Cavafy's relation to Victorian aestheticism and French literary decadence.Foremost among the tropes of decadence that captivated Cavafy were the decline of imperial Rome, the rise of Christianity, and the lingering twilight of Byzantium. The influence of Walter Pater on Cavafy's view of classical and late-antique history was immense, inflected as it was with an unapologetic homoerotic aesthetic that Cavafy would adopt as his own, making Pater's imaginary portraits an important touchstone for his own historicizing poetry. Cavafy would move beyond Pater to explore a more openly homoerotic sensuality but he never quite abandoned this rich Victorian legacy, one that contributed greatly to his emergence as a global poet. Jeffreys concludes by considering Cavafy's current popularity as a gay poet and his curious relation to kitsch as manifest in his ongoing popularity via translation and visual media.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801447082
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 23 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

"In this original and fascinating book, Cavafy emerges not as an isolated, aesthetically detached, and somewhat eccentric literary figure but as a deeply culturally engaged cosmopolitan writer. Peter Jeffreys, who seems to know more about Cavafy than any critic alive, shows how Cavafy's early stays in Britain and France gave him an intense foundation in an ongoing decadent tradition then emerging as a countercultural force in British and French writing, painting, and criticism. Reframing Decadence explores Cavafy's fitful journalistic and literary career, the museum and gallery works he would have undoubtedly encountered during his London sojourn, and the contemporary texts he might have read as an exile in Britain."

-- Richard Kaye, Hunter College, author of The Flirt's Tragedy: Desire without End in Victorian and Edwardian Fiction

"This book follows the long trajectory from Symbolist to Modernist poetics and erotics by placing C. P. Cavafy at the crossroads of French decadence and British aestheticism, Hellenic belatedness and Roman decline, Byzantine taste and Pre-Raphaelite art, colonialism and homosexuality, modern empire and Greek diaspora. Peter Jeffreys, the eminent Cavafy interpreter, editor, and translator, has written a superb biocritical study of impressive geographical, historical, and intermedial breadth on the role of the Author in high modernity. This is a landmark reading of a poet who has become nothing less than a strategy for the caring for the self and the making of the world."

-- Vassilis Lambropoulos, C. P. Cavafy Professor of Modern Greek, University of Michigan, author of The Rise of Eurocentrism

"Until now Cavafy's adolescence in England has been buried in obscurity; and much of his creative life in Alexandria has been unexplained. But now we have a work of literary criticism backed by genealogy and solid ethnography which places the extended Cavafy family at the heart of the artistic avant garde in 1870s London. Peter Jeffreys reveals the family's intimacy-both as patrons and lovers-with leading painters and poets. The precocious young Cavafy was raised in a milieu that gave shape to his poet's technique and sensibility, that encouraged him to be sexually bold and shameless, and that directed his art for the rest of his life. Linking aestheticism in England to the decadence of Cavafy's poetry, Jeffreys has done more than follow a literary thread; he has shown how Cavafy was literally a child of these movements. With this new advance, Jeffreys is well on his way towards a comprehensive literary biography of Constantine Cavafy."

-- Michael Haag, author of Alexandria: City of Memory

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