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Level 7

7AACM214 C.P. Cavafy: the making of a modernist

Credit value: 20 credits
Module convenor/tutor:  Professor David Ricks
Teaching pattern: 10 x 2-hour class (weekly)
AvailabilityPlease see module list for relevant year
Assessment: 1 x essay of 5,000 words (100%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.


Places on this module will be capped at 16 and will be allocated in the first instance to those students who are following the King's College London MA Classical World and its Reception degree programme or the MA Comparative Literature degree programme and secondly to students from any College following the MA Classics programme. Any remaining places up the maximum size of the class will then be distributed proportionally between Colleges.

The modules offered in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand: there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary between years.

C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933), a Greek poet from Alexandria, is not only the best known Greek poet since antiquity: he is also a poet seen worldwide as a modernist with a worldwide influence fit to set beside that of Eliot and Pound.

This module explores some of the readings in poetry (ancient Greek, English, and French) which helped to form the distinctive poetic world of this polyglot, cosmopolitan, and pleasingly laconic modern poet. It should be of interest to anyone working on literary modernism or the reception of classical antiquity, or with an interest in poetry generally.

Cavafy’s 154 collected poems have been translated unusually often and well, and all material may be studied in translation.

Provisional teaching plan

  • Week 1: Cavafy the reader: an introduction to his Alexandrian poetic

  • Week 2: Cavafy and Shakespeare’s plays

  • Week 3: Cavafy and Shakespeare’s Sonnets

  • Week 4-5: Cavafy and the Greek Anthology

  • Week 6: Cavafy and Tennyson

  • Week 7-8: Cavafy and Browning

  • Week 9: Cavafy and Baudelaire

  • Week 10: Cavafy's other readings [students to find further examples of Cavafy's readings in poetry, Greek (ancient, medieval or modern) or other] and give short presentation

Suggested introductory reading

This is suggested reading and purchase of these books is not mandatory.

  • C.P. Cavafy,  The Collected Poems [bilingual edition, with translation by Evangelos Sachperoglou] (Oxford World’s Classics)

  • Shakespeare, Hamlet, Antony & Cleopatra, Sonnets

  • The Greek Anthology, book VII (Loeb) (selections)

  • Tennyson, Selected Poems, ed. Aidan Day (Penguin)

  • Browning, Selected Poems, ed. Daniel Karlin (Penguin)

  • Baudelaire, any selection

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