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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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Part III: Eating Disorders, the Body and Identity


Part III Eating Disorders, the Body and Identity Dearbhla McGrath 6 Trauma and Transformation: Eating Disorders in Marie Darrieussecq’s Truismes abstract Marie Darrieussecq’s debut novel Truismes [Pig Tales] (1996) charts a young unnamed woman’s transformation into a pig. While the narrative never alludes directly to eating disorders, the young woman’s obsession with food and her body means that Truismes does, in fact, give us an insight into the pressure that is put on young women by society to achieve or maintain the ‘perfect’ female form. Set in a dystopian version of Paris where a misogynistic and fascist political regime is in place, the protagonist suffers sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of several people. Some feminists have considered the pro- tagonist’s transformation into a sow as a negative reinforcement of stereotypical images of the ‘imperfect’ woman as a ‘fat pig’. However, this analysis will investigate how Darrieussecq takes this pig stereotype and turns it on its head. In one way, the metamorphosis repre- sents the mental anguish of the young woman but, perhaps, more importantly, through it, Darrieussecq, in the end, creates a means of escape for the protagonist. Only when she has fully undergone the metamorphosis can she escape the pressure and abuse from society and find freedom, both physically and mentally. Marie Darrieussecq’s debut novel, Truismes, is set in a dystopian version of Paris where a misogynistic and fascist political regime has taken over, led by the ‘charismatic’ Edgar. Darrieussecq paints a bleak picture of an extremely...

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