Modernism as World Literature: The Case of C. P. Cavafy

Modernism as World Literature: The Case of C. P. Cavafy

Takis Kayalis (Hellenic Open University)

Translated into many languages and circulating in multiple editions, the poetry of C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) has attracted broad international audiences for nearly a century and, more recently, has been engulfed in the much-debated category of “World Literature.” Some of Cavafy’s poems have assumed a universal and almost proverbial function in the global public sphere, whereas others have acquired new meanings and pertinence in diverse historical, cultural and gender-related contexts, alien to those of their original conception. As Aamir R. Mufti recently observed, “no other modern writer has gained a comparable reputation in world literature based, to this extent, on translations of his work.”[1] Moreover, aside from its strong global readership, Cavafy’s work has been used by poets and artists all over the world as raw material for inspiration and re-translation into new cultural production; it has also been widely employed in the global political sphere and in the context of sexual politics.

The proposed panel will focus on Cavafy’s rich and unique example to investigate a number of topics that are central to current approaches to literary Modernism, including:

  • National vs Global perceptions of Modernism
  • Modernism and World Literature
  • Translation and the Centre-Periphery dichotomy
  • Modernism and Gender
  • Political Uses of Modernism

[1] A. R. Mufti (2021), “Constantine Cavafy in the Colony: Hellenism at the Margins of Empire,” boundary 2, 48 (2), p. 177.

Interested scholars are invited to send their proposal, including a short bio and 300-word abstract, to modernism@ugent.be by 15 February 2023. The proposal must include the title of both the individual paper and the panel session.