Οn Ghost Ships, Conjurations, and Broken Promises: C.P. Cavafy’s Poetics of the Spectral

modern greek studies

In this week's Modern Greek Seminar and special lecture, we welcome Prof. Maria Boletsi (Universities of Amsterdam and Leiden), who will speak 

 

Οn Ghost Ships, Conjurations, and Broken Promises: C.P. Cavafy’s Poetics of the Spectral

 

The lecture is the first part of a three day TORCH event on "Rethinking Modern Greek Studies in the 21st Century". The full programme can be found here 

All Welcome for the opening lecture and/or the following days' pannels and roundtables.

 

 

Abstract of Prof. Boletsi's lecture

C.P. Cavafy’s writing experimented with ways of activating the past in the present. This preoccupation gave shape to his poetics of the spectral: a poetics that yields a porous ‘now’ inhabited by – literal and figurative – spectral figures. Cavafy’s spectral poetics takes shape through various strategies for keeping death, finality or completion at bay without appealing to eternal life, fixity or the permanence of poetic truth.  This talk centers on two such strategies, exploring the ways they produce a spectral present: broken promises and conjurations. Poetic characters constantly invoke spectres from the past (or the future), seeking to activate them in the present, even though the felicity of such conjurations is not always guaranteed and their effect is impermanent. Promises are also persistently made from poetic characters to others or to themselves, but most of the times they are deliberately or involuntarily broken. Unfaithfulness, broken pledges, and unmet commitments pervade Cavafy’s universe. What broken promises share with conjurations is a denegation of death and endings. Both speech acts transgress the line between life and death and resist the end of desire. As such, they constitute strategies for deferring death and ensuring that both the past and the future keep haunting the poetic present in incalculable ways, just as the poems themselves haunt future presents.

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