Eating, Drinking and Re-thinking with Case Studies from Post-war French Fiction

Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures, 67


January 31st, 2020

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'The discussion in this book engages with and extends current debates in its field but more importantly the deployment of the trope of ‘leftovers’ as an analytical tool is really innovative and exciting.'
Kathryn Robson, Newcastle University

Eating and drinking are essential to survival. Yet for human animals, they are intrinsically ambivalent, proliferating with ideological, historical and psychological leftovers. This study reveals and mobilizes the provisional meanings, repressed experiences and unacknowledged tensions bound up with representations of food, drink and their consumption. It creates a flexible critical framework by bringing together an unexploited convergence of post-war French thinkers who use – or whose thought is legible through – figures of eating and drinking, including Barthes, Bataille, Beauvoir, Bourdieu, Certeau, Cixous, Derrida, Fischler, Giard, Kristeva, Lacan, Lefebvre, Lévi-Strauss, Mayol and Sartre.

New combinations emerge for elucidating the intersecting effects of incorporation; constructs of class, gender and racial difference; bad faith; distinction; secondary ideological signifying systems; provisional meanings bound up with linguistic traces; economies of excess; everyday ‘making-do’; the ethics of consuming the other; the return of the repressed; lack; abjection; and notions of ‘eating on the sly’, ‘mother’s milk’, the ‘omnivore’s paradox’ and ‘gastro-anomie’.

The vast possibilities for re-thinking with eating and drinking are further exemplified in case studies of novels in which – often beyond authorial intentions – food and drink are structurally important and interpretatively plural. These are Robbe-Grillet’s Les Gommes/The Erasers (1953); Ernaux’s Les Armoires vides/Cleaned Out (1974); Darrieussecq’s Truismes/Pig Tales (1996); and Houellebecq’s La Carte et le territoire/The Map and the Territory (2010). New understandings of post-war French cultural production are revealed in these case studies. But above all, the analyses demonstrate the potential for literary, comparative, cultural, film, gender and food studies of re-thinking with eating and drinking across genres, periods and places.

‘The wide-ranging implications of food and drink that Cruickshank analyzes make this book essential reading for all students and scholars.'
Jennifer L. Holm, Gastronomica

Author Information

Ruth Cruickshank is a Senior Lecturer in French and Comparative Literature and Culture at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Tapping the Critical Potential of Representations of Eating and Drinking13
The Untapped Critical Potential in Representations of Eating and Drinking13
Opening a New Chapter for Textual Consumption15
The Literary Case – and Case Studies – for Eating, Drinking and Re-thinking17
Different Ingredients for Reading22
1. (Re-)Thinking with Eating and Drinking25
There Will Always Be Leftovers25
Lévi-Strauss: Re-thinking Food as ‘Good to Think With’28
Food at the Centre of Being: Jean-Paul Sartre’s Eating and Thinking in Bad Faith33
The Necessary Luxury of Eating: Bataille’s General Economies of Excess35
Lefebvre, Certeau, Giard and Mayol: The Everyday Creative Potential of Eating and Drinking38
Bourdieu’s Distinction: The Power in Food Choices and the (Embodied) Politics of Taste42
Sampling Barthes: From the Ideology in Eating and Drinking to Textual Play with Food45
Leftovers, Always Already: Traces, Remainders and ‘Eating Well’ with Derrida55
Beauvoir and Cixous: From Constructs of Domestic Enslavement to Mother’s Milk and ‘Eating on the Sly’59
Leftovers in Lacan and Kristeva: Desire, Lack, Trauma and Abjection64
Fischler’s Interdisciplinary Potential: Incorporation and the ‘Omnivore’s Paradox’69
2. Re-thinking the Story: Food, Drink and Interpretation in Alain Robbe-Grillet's Les Gommes73
Reading Les Gommes through Eating and Drinking75
Critical Engagement with Eating and Drinking in Les Gommes77
Mises en Abyme: Bearing Fruit beyond Authorial Intention82
Subversive Eating and Drinking: Realism and (Historical) Remainders95
Lack and Character: What Is Eating Wallas et al.?100
3. Feeding and Reading Ambivalence: Incorporating Difference in Annie Ernaux's Les Armoires vides109
Reading Les Armoires vides through Eating and Drinking111
Critical Engagement with Eating and Drinking in Les Armoires vides113
Supplementing Distinction: Incorporating and Abjecting Food and Values117
Intertextual Feeding: Gendered Comfort Reading, Bad Faith and ‘Eating on the Sly’124
Eating, Drinking and Exploitation: Traumatic Leftovers134
4. Food Questioning Values in Marie Darrieussecq’s Truismes/Pig Tales141
Reading Truismes through Eating and Drinking142
Critical Engagement with Eating and Drinking in Truismes145
Gendered Stereotypes and Carno-phallogocentric Words150
Conflict, Collaboration and Colonialism: Late Capitalism’s Traumatic Excess158
Incorporation and Ambivalence: Pulling Narratives, Food and Values out of Shape164
5. Weighing up the Potential of Literary Consumption175
Reading La Carte et le territoire through Eating and Drinking177
Critical Engagement with Eating and Drinking in La Carte et le territoire180
Biting Back in the Market for Literary Consumption: Feeding off Prestige and Alcohol Abuse184
Eating Badly in the Twenty-first-century Global Market: Lack, ‘Gastro-anomie’ and Catastrophic Excess192
Traces and Potential: Bits and Pieces, Shreds and Scraps201
Conclusion: Taking on Leftovers211