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Starvation, Food Obsession and Identity

Eating Disorders in Contemporary Women’s Writing


Edited By Petra M. Bagley, Francesca Calamita and Kathryn Robson

Anorexia, bulimia, binge eating and troubled relationships with food and bodies have been depicted by writers across a variety of languages and cultures, since before the medicalisation of eating disorders in the late nineteenth century to the present day. This cross-cultural volume explores the fictional portrayal of these self-destructive yet arguably self-empowering behaviours in contemporary French, German and Italian women’s writing. Covering autobiography, fiction and autofiction, the chapters included here outline different aspects of the cultural encodings of anorexia in Europe today. Contributors analyse how literary texts not only recount but also interrogate wider cultural representations of eating disorders, particularly with regard to concepts of (gender) identity, the body, the relationship with the mother, and the relation between food and words. This volume seeks to draw out the multiple meanings of anorexia as both a rebellion against and conformity to dominant (and gendered) socio-political structures. It explores the ways in which contemporary women’s novels and memoirs both describe and, importantly, also redefine eating disorders in present-day Europe.


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The editors would like to thank the School of Language and Global Studies, University of Central Lancashire, the School of Modern Languages, Newcastle University and the Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia for their financial support. We would also like to express our gratitude to Gill Rye, former Director of the Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women’s Writing (Institute of Modern Languages Research, University of London) for selecting our papers for a symposium entitled ‘Paradoxical Languages’ in 2014 which was the catalyst for this publication. Furthermore, we very much appreci- ate the detailed, constructive feedback we received from the anonymous reviewers during the preparation for this publication. Finally, Francesca is very grateful to Claudia Bernardi, Adalgisa Giorgio, Marco Sonzogni, Bernadette Luciano, Sally Hill and Deborah McGrady for the personal and academic support received over the edit- ing of the manuscript.

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