Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Comparative Literature


Wayne Koestenbaum

Committee Members

Andre Aciman

David Reynolds

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Byzantine and Modern Greek | Classical Literature and Philology | Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | European Languages and Societies | Interactive Arts | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Literature in English, Anglophone outside British Isles and North America | Literature in English, North America | Literature in English, North America, Ethnic and Cultural Minority | Modern Literature


Comparative Literature, Modern Poetry, Eroticism, Identity, Language, Photography


This treatise is the first extensive comparative study of Walt Whitman and C. P. Cavafy. Despite the abundant scholarship dealing with the work and life of each, until now no critic has put the two poets together. Whitman’s poetry celebrates birth, youth, the self and the world as seen for the first time, while Cavafy’s diverts from the active present to resurrect a world whose key, in Eliot’s terms, is memory. Yet, I see the two poets conversing in the crossroads of the fin de siècle; the American Whitman and the Greek Cavafy embody the antithesis of hope and dislocation to such a degree that a comparative examination of their poetics reveals two minds, and two narratives, closer than their continents. The textual approach of my subject includes the examination of poetry, prose writings, and autobiographical documentation, as well as biographical testimony. The thematic approach is organized around three key subjects that I see as integral and consistent in the poetics of Whitman and Cavafy: the sea, the city and the body.