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Eastern Questions

Hellenism and Orientalism in the Writings of E. M. Forster and C. P. Cavafy

Peter Jeffreys

Publication Year: 2005

What is the relationship between E. M. Forster’s quintessentially British novels, stories and essays and the abstrusely historical and erotic musings of the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy? The answer is both complex and illuminating.The apparent differences are bridged by Forster’s penchant for antiquities and interest in matters Oriental, by Cavafy’s Anglophilia and British education. While these facts have generated comparative criticism that places novelist and poet in a Hellenistic continuum, the scholarly discussion to date has overlooked the ideological tensions that separate these two important modernists along a cultural divide. Hellenism is a way into their shared interests in the classical past, yet it also marks a point of dissension regarding the essence of Greek civilization. Similarly, their Orientalist visions led them to radically diverse configurations of the East. Dr. Jeffreys’s parallel reading of Forster and Cavafy explains not only how Forster and Cavafy were both rooted in Western Hellenism, but also how their suppositions about it diverged significantly and how the two confronted the Orient in quite different ways. New light is also cast on their friendship; their different political views may have impeded its development. Eastern Questions: Hellenism and Orientalism in the Writings of E. M. Forster and C. P. Cavafy makes use of unpublished documents, newly edited unfinished poetry (here made available for the first time to an English readership), and lesser-known texts, both fictional and nonfictional. The exchange between literary and non-literary texts, prose and poetry, focuses the ideological center of Forster’s lifelong engagement with Greece and India and identifies the essence of Cavafy’s prolonged fixation on matters Hellenic. In the process Jeffreys’s New Historicist study applies contemporary critical trends in modern Greek studies to Forster criticism, producing an incisive, fresh reading of the relationship and the Cavafy and Forster canons.

Published by: ELT Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. vii-

Acknowledgments

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pp. viii-ix

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Introduction

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pp. 1-4

ANY PARALLEL reading of such distinct writers as E. M. Forster and Constantine Cavafy must be qualified; for what bearing do Forster’s quintessentially British novels, stories and essays have on the abstrusely historical and erotic musings of an Alexandrian poet? The answer is somewhat complex...

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1. A Mutual Hellenism

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pp. 5-31

MANY GENERAL observations have been made about the influence of Cavafy on Forster. The common assumption is that, prior to his stay in Alexandria, Forster possessed a narrow classicizing view of Hellenism that his contact with the Greek poet challenged and ultimately changed. ...

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2. The Road from Colonus

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pp. 32-51

FORSTER’S DEBT to classical Greece for inspiration and subject matter cannot be overemphasized. In keeping with the tradition of Victorian and Edwardian Hellenism, he habitually looked back to Hellenic culture as a moral and humanistic standard, what he would eventually term “the spirit of life”...

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3. The Eastern Question

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pp. 52-87

THE RENASCENT INTEREST in Hellenism that gripped the Victorians and climaxed in what Hugh Kenner has termed the “Renaissance II”1 had a parallel in Orientalist studies. Europe’s rediscovery of India and the East is the subject of Raymond Schwab’s The Oriental Renaissance...

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4. Cavafy's Orientalizing Hellenism

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pp. 88-114

CAVAFY’S CONSTRUCTION of an Eastern Hellenic world as the valorized imaginary topos of his poems was, as we have seen, founded largely upon the acquired historic and literary traditions of Western Hellenism and Orientalism. The synthesis of these two discourses gradually produced...

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5. Forster and the Eclipse of Hellenism

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pp. 115-139

FORSTER’S A Passage to India surely owes something of its indeterminate nostos to Cavafy’s “Ithaka.”1 Both works share an Orientalizing journey motif which culminates in an ambiguous point of destination. Whereas in the poem the East serves as an exotic stimulus to an ostensibly Greek voyage...

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Conclusion

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pp. 140-142

IT IS ONE of the curiosities of publishing history that Forster’s posthumously printed fiction effected a critical reappraisal of the novelist’s other works, particularly in light of its homosexual revelations. Although Maurice was “completed” in 1914, the last section of the book was revised in 1919 and 1932...

Abbreviations

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pp. 143-144

Notes

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pp. 145-198

Appendix

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pp. 199-

Index [Includes About the Author and Back Cover]

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pp. 200-212


E-ISBN-13: 9780944318348
Print-ISBN-13: 9780944318195
Print-ISBN-10: 0944318193

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: None
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: 1880-1920 British Authors Series, No. 18

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Forster, E. M. -- (Edward Morgan), -- 1879-1970 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Orientalism in literature.
  • Hellenism in literature.
  • Cavafy, Constantine, -- 1863-1933 -- Criticism and interpretation.
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