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«Plaisirs de femmes»

Women, Pleasure and Transgression in French Literature and Culture

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Edited By Maggie Allison, Elliot Evans and Carrie Tarr

Feminist approaches to questions of women, pleasure and transgression have generally been premised on the assumption that women’s pleasures are typically constrained – if not ignored, marginalized or forbidden – in patriarchal cultures. The naming, foregrounding and pursuit of women’s pleasures can therefore be deemed potentially transgressive and linked to women’s emancipation in other realms. The essays in this volume draw on a range of materials, from travel writing and the novel to film and stand-up comedy, addressing the specificity of French and Francophone approaches to women, pleasure and transgression across a range of historical contexts.

The volume is divided into three sections: intellectual and creative pleasures; normative pleasures, that is, pleasures conforming to women’s conventionally expected roles and status as well as to accepted views regarding race, national identity and sexuality; and perverse pleasures, that is, pleasures transgressive in their tendency to reject authority and norms, and often controversial in their «excessive» appetite for violence, sex, alcohol or food. In each case, questions are raised about how we approach such pleasures as feminist researchers, motivated in part by a desire to counter the notion of feminism and feminist research as something «dour» or joyless.

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13 Eating Between Pleasure and Discontent in Marie NDiaye’s ‘La Gourmandise’ (1996) (Shirley Jordan)

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Shirley Jordan

13 Eating Between Pleasure and Discontent in Marie NDiaye’s ‘La Gourmandise’ (1996)

This chapter analyses the transgressive relationship to food experienced by the protagonist of Marie NDiaye’s enigmatic short story ‘La Gourmandise’ (1996), focusing in particular on the unusual intensity of her pleasure. As Sarah Sceats reminds us, ‘food and eating are inseparable from both physical and psychic appetites and power relations’, and ‘writers use feeding, feasting, cooking and starving for more than simple mimetic effect’ (1996: 118). NDiaye is no exception. I begin with some overarching observations on food and eating in the author’s work as a whole in order to provide a context. Although little has been written about the subject, NDiaye’s narratives are unusually preoccupied with the slippery meanings of food, with food preparation, with eating events, and with the social and symbolic dimensions of eating.1 She is predominantly concerned with commensality – that is, with sharing food as part of a relationship of hospitality in its widest sense – and situates food within a social context and an implicit ethical framework. Eating in NDiaye raises complex moral questions and lends concrete form to intricately ambivalent human relationships. For the most part it is disorderly or perverse and eating events are snagged between pleasure and discontent. Thus the recurring paterfamilias figure that traverses her fiction calls the family together for meals where he gorges to the point of choking, or throws his plate of food out of the window (2005: 88; 2009: 23...

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