In many fin de siècle medical and literary texts, Christianity is understood not as a religion of the soul but as a cultural background which favors the production of discourses on the body and its pleasures. A reading of Christian allusions in C.P. Cavafy’s writings in this intertextual context sheds new light on the role of religion in his work by uncovering a strong connection between Christianity and modes of enjoyment. This is true especially in poems that bear the traces of the transition from the Greco-Roman world to that of Christianity. The enjoyment sustaining the Christian dialectic between fleshly obsession and guilt can be traced back to the patristic texts on which Cavafy relied for poetic material. But the strong affects (disgust, fear, terror) that are associated with and even generated by Christianity in a number of his texts (“Salome,” “Julian at the Mysteries,” “Terror,” “Myris”) suggest that Cavafy places Christian enjoyment in a critical perspective. The same affects mark the intersection between Christianity and sexuality in the work of Arthur Rimbaud, who—despite his very different ironic poetics—offers a parallel to Cavafy’s rewriting of the body through rather than in spite of the Christian legacy.


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pp. 149-178
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