Journal Article

The Homeric Elpenor and those who made <i>il gran rifiuto</i> (Dante’s <i>Inferno</i>, Canto 3) in the poetry of George Seferis: Modernist <i>nekuias</i> and antiheroism<sup>†</sup>

Polina Tambakaki

in Classical Receptions Journal

Volume 5, issue 1, pages 144-165
Published in print January 2013 | ISSN: 1759-5134
Published online July 2012 | e-ISSN: 1759-5142 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/crj/cls007
The Homeric Elpenor and those who made il gran rifiuto (Dante’s Inferno, Canto 3) in the poetry of George Seferis: Modernist nekuias and antiheroism†

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The First World War has been linked with the appearance of iconic modernist epics, where the theme of the nether world has pride of place, most often based on the archetypal journeys to the Underworld in Homer’s Odyssey (book 11), Virgil’s Aeneid (book 6) or Dante’s Inferno. It was in the context of these modernist reworkings of the Underworld that Elpenor, the first shade encountered by Odysseus in his journey to the Underworld, established his presence in modern literature. But in no other writer did Elpenor play such a pivotal role as he would play in the work of the Greek poet George Seferis (Nobel laureate 1963). This article explores how the Seferian Elpenor was formed through a slow process where the poet’s wish to write ‘an Odyssey in reverse’ was initially informed by a negative reaction towards C. P. Cavafy’s ‘Dantian’ poem ‘Che fece … il gran rifiuto’, and then by a poetic dialogue with T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Ezra Pound’s Canto 1 and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. It sheds new light on the complex intertextual nexus around Elpenor as a modern antihero and offers new perspectives on Seferis’ early involvement with Cavafy and Pound.

Journal Article.  9211 words. 

Subjects: Classical Reception ; Literature ; Methods and Historiography ; Intellectual History

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