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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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Decadence’s Gay Legacy

Decadence’s Gay Legacy

(p.159) Epilogue Decadence’s Gay Legacy
Reframing Decadence

Peter Jeffreys

Cornell University Press

This book concludes with a discussion on the gay legacy of literary decadence and its influence on C. P. Cavafy's poetic expression of homosexuality, and how it continues to play a role in the ongoing attraction of queer artists and critics to his work. By focusing on his erotic poetry, it shows that Cavafy often sublimates raw sexuality in favor of a more elevated passion transfigured by memory and aestheticized by art. It suggests that Cavafy also presents a genuine physicality in poems that worship male beauty and recount specific sexual encounters. Finally, the chapter argues that Cavafy's erotic poems illustrate “the peculiar merging of eroticism and aestheticism that is distinctive to gay male culture,” and that his “kitschification” as a gay icon may be a manifestation of his unique relationship to the decadent tradition.

Keywords:   literary decadence, C. P. Cavafy, homosexuality, male beauty, erotic poetry, eroticism, aestheticism, gay male culture

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