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

Organiser and Chair: 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.


Paschalis Nikolaou (Ionian University) – Cavafy’s Languages: Some Notes on the Poet Inflecting Other Literary Traditions in the Wake of Modernism

Ewa Róża Janion (University of Warsaw) – Cavafy’s Modernism and Polish Homosexualities

Angeliki Mousiou (Onassis Foundation) – World Literature in the Cavafy Archive: Tracing a Modernist Canon

Takis Kayalis (Hellenic Open University) – C.P. Cavafy’s Modernist Connections