Dr. Michelle Zerba’s New Book: Modern Odysseys: Cavafy, Woolf, Césaire, and a Poetics of Indirection

Dr. Michelle Zerba, professor of English and classical studies, has published a new book, Modern Odysseys: Cavafy, Woolf, Césaire, and a Poetics of Indirection.

The following is a short description of the book:

Michelle Zerba’s Modern Odysseys explores three major writers in global modernism from the Mediterranean, Anglo-European Britain, and the Caribbean whose groundbreaking literary works have never been studied together before. Using language as an instrument of revolution and social change, C. P. Cavafy, Virginia Woolf, and Aimé Césaire gave expression to the forms of human experience we now associate with modernity: homoeroticism, transsexuality, and racial consciousness. More specifically, Zerba argues that Odyssean tropes of diffusion, isolation, passage, and return give form to works by these writers but in ways that invite us to reconsider and revise the basic premises of reception studies and intellectual history.

Combining close readings of literary texts with the study of interviews, essays, diaries, and letters, Zerba advances a revisionary account of how to approach relationships between antiquity and modernity. Instead of frontal encounters with the  dyssey, Cavafy, Woolf, and Césaire indirectly—but no less significantly—engage with Homer’s epic poem. In demonstrating how such encounters operate, Modern Odysseys explores issues of race and sexuality that connect antiquity with the modern period.