C. P. Cavafy was a writer of the British Empire whose situation resembles that of other colonial writers and should be examined in that context, as well as in the light of the contradictory logic of Orientalism-Anglicism. In the modern West's interest in the late Hellenistic era, philhellenism and Orientalism become one. Cavafy responds to imperial philhellenism by rejecting its triumphalism and exploring matters of colonial displacement. The emphasis on Hellenistic states in fragmentation displaces the canonical veneration of classical antiquity. Cavafy looks at empire topographically from its margins and chronologically in the process of its decline. In these colonial peripheries, to be a Hellene is primarily to be a philhellene. Cavafy's historical vignettes resonate with life in the modern empire, and his drawn parallels between Hellenistic and British Empires highlight the institutional fragility of empire as a form.
Constantine Cavafy in the Colony: Hellenism at the Margins of Empire
Aamir R. Mufti was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, and is professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author, most recently, of Forget English! Orientalisms and World Literatures (2016) and is currently working on a book titled “Strangers in Europa: Migrants, Terrorists, Refugees.”
Aamir R. Mufti; Constantine Cavafy in the Colony: Hellenism at the Margins of Empire. boundary 2 1 May 2021; 48 (2): 177–203. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-8936712
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