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Reframing DecadenceC. P. Cavafy's Imaginary Portraits$
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Peter Jeffreys

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780801447082

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801447082.001.0001

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“Aesthetic to the point of affliction”

“Aesthetic to the point of affliction”

Cavafy and British Aestheticism

(p.1) 1 “Aesthetic to the point of affliction”
Reframing Decadence

Peter Jeffreys

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the lingering impact of Victorian aestheticism on the young C. P. Cavafy and how he was exposed to various artistic circles while he was living in England. More specifically, it considers Cavafy's relationship to Henry James and Pre-Raphaelite art to show how British painting influenced his aesthetics and the pictorial dimension of his lifelong engagement with literary decadence. It also explores how Cavafy's aesthetic sensibility was shaped by his filial ties to the Ionides family as well as their patronage of important Pre-Raphaelite painters and poets. In particular, it discusses the poetic influence of Algernon Charles Swinburne, whose subversive Hellenism is positioned within the broader framework of painterly influences, including the palettes of Edward Burne-Jones and James McNeill Whistler. Finally, the chapter explains how aesthetic pictorialism—a pervasive overlap between painting and poetry—came to defines Cavafy's oeuvre and how his exposure to British aestheticism resulted in his initiation and immersion into French decadence.

Keywords:   aestheticism, C. P. Cavafy, Henry James, Pre-Raphaelite art, British painting, literary decadence, Ionides family, Algernon Charles Swinburne, pictorialism, poetry

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