Maria Boletsi receives Visiting Research Fellowship Princeton
The Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies at Princeton University annually offers a limited number of Visiting Research Fellowships for scholars in the humanities or the social sciences worldwide, who wish to spend time in residence at Princeton pursuing independent research projects, free of teaching and other obligations.
Maria Boletsi has just received one of these fellowships and will be spending next semester at Princeton working on a project on the poetry of C.P. Cavafy (1863-1933) – a Greek poet who lived in Alexandria, Egypt, and is internationally considered as the most distinguished modern Greek poet.
Specters of Cavafy
With this fellowship, Maria Boletsi hopes to complete a book on this poet – tentatively titled Specters of Cavafy - on which she has been working on and off in the past years.
Boletsi: 'Cavafy’s work remains emphatically contemporary and open to reinvention. It addresses theoretical and cultural concerns that mark the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. His poems keep coming back like specters, claiming, and being claimed by, the present. My project sets up a new approach to Cavafy’s poetry through the notion of spectrality.
Specters and ghosts have emerged as conceptual metaphors in cultural theory since the 1990s, in attempts to rethink history, make sense of the present, and re-imagine the future. Taking up such theorizations of the specter, I develop spectrality as a theoretical lens for revisiting Cavafy’s poetry and its bearing on our present. Spectral forces permeate Cavafy’s poetry, for example, in the form of shadows, apparitions of past lovers or forgotten historical figures, half-hidden presences; conflicting ‘truths’; liminal spaces and subjectivities; a ruptured historical experience and a nonlinear temporality, whereby past, present, and future traverse each other.
By tracing the spectral as a central metaphor in Cavafy’s poetry, I want to explore how his poetry relates to modern conceptions of temporality and history around Cavafy’s time. But I also zoom in on his poetry’s contemporary ‘afterlives’: the functions of certain adaptations or uses of his poems in the Western cultural and political imaginary since the 1990s, as well as, specifically, in contemporary crisis-stricken Greece. I thereby pose the twofold question of how our present – its concerns, anxieties, discourses – ‘haunts’
Cavafy’s poetry, inviting new understandings of his work, and how Cavafy’s poems ‘haunt’ global and local realities from the end of the Cold War to the current Greek crisis, yielding unexpected understandings of these realities. Princeton is an ideal place for doing the remaining research for this project: it has an outstanding library for Modern Greek studies, a rich tradition of scholarship on Cavafy, and a vibrant community of scholars with expertise relevant to this project.'