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Bodies Out of Time: Sculpting Queer Poetics and Queering Classical Sculpture in the Poetry of C. P. Cavafy

Watson, J. L. (2022) 'Bodies Out of Time: Sculpting Queer Poetics and Queering Classical Sculpture in the Poetry of C. P. Cavafy.', International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 29 (2). pp. 190-213.


Two major themes dominate the poetry of the Alexandrian poet, C. P. Cavafy: homosexual desire and Greekness, broadly defined. This paper explores the interconnectivity of these motifs, showing how Cavafy’s poetic queerness is expressed through his relationship with the ancient Greek world, especially Hellenistic Alexandria. I focus on Cavafy’s incorporation of ancient sculpture into his poetry and the ways that sculpture, for Cavafy, is a vehicle for expressing forbidden desires in an acceptable way. In this, I draw on the works of Liana Giannakopoulou on statuary in modern Greek poetry and Dimitris Papanikolaou on Cavafy’s homosexuality and its presentation in the poetry. Sculpture features in around a third of Cavafy’s poems and pervades it in various ways: the inclusion of physical statues as focuses of ecphrastic description, the use of sculptural language and metaphor, and the likening of Cavafy’s beloveds to Greek marbles of the past, to name but three. This article argues that Cavafy utilizes the statuary of the ancient Greek world as raw material, from which he sculpts his modern Greek queerness, variously desiring the statuesque bodies of contemporary Alexandrian youths and constructing eroticized depictions of ancient Greek marbles. The very ontology of queerness is, for Cavafy, ‘created’ using explicitly sculptural metaphors (e.g. the repeated uses of the verb κάνω [‘to make’] in descriptions of ‘those made like me’) and he employs Hellenistic statues as a productive link between his desires and so-called ‘Greek desire’, placing himself within a continuum of queer, Greek men.

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Publisher statement:Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:15 March 2021
Date deposited:15 July 2021
Date of first online publication:28 May 2021
Date first made open access:15 July 2021

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