Journal of Romance Studies

Disorderly eating in Marie Ndiaye’s ‘La Gourmandise’, or The solitary pleasure of a Mère de famille

Journal of Romance Studies (2020), 20, (2), 365–389.

Abstract

NDiaye’s typically subtle and polysemic story ‘La Gourmandise’ (1996) can be interpreted as the cautionary tale of a housewife’s short-lived frenzy that could have ended with a descent into madness brought on by the escalation of a destructive secret passion (binge eating). It also represents, writ large, everywoman’s everyday battle with food. A third approach might see the protagonist, working-class drudge Antoinette who has little cultural capital, striking out for her own space, creativity, and luxurious pleasure in a tragi-comic rewriting not only of Emma Bovary, but of Marie-Antoinette, legendary for promoting cake, or Virginia, whose intellectual ambitions necessitate a room of her own. The text asks, with Antoinette, what is gluttony and why is it a deadly sin? ‘La Gourmandise’ moves craftily between the everyday human (woman), the animal, and the sacred. An ‘idiot boy’, Edo, is the pendant to fleshy Antoinette, her grotesque shadow, and the threshold figure who acts to safeguard the moral community that in the end will keep her in her place, her crazy bid for freedom forgotten.

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Works cited

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Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de (1972) Romans contes et mélanges I (Paris: Livre de Poche). Google Scholar

Asibong, Andrew (2013) Marie NDiaye: Blankness and Recognition (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press). Google Scholar

Asibong, Andrew, and Aude Campmas (eds) (2017) Flaubert, Beckett, Ndiaye: The Aesthetics, Emotions and Politics of Failure (Amsterdam: Brill/Rodopi). Google Scholar

Atwood, Margaret (1969) The Edible Woman (Toronto: McLelland and Stewart). Google Scholar

Bennett, Carys E., Richard Thomas, Mark Williams, Jan Zalasiewicz, Matt Edgeworth, Holly Miller, Ben Coles, Alison Foster, Emily J. Burton, and Upenyu Marume (2018) ‘The broiler chicken as a signal of a human reconfigured biosphere’, Royal Society Open Science, 12 December, https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.180325. Google Scholar

Bordo, Susan (1993) Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press). Google Scholar

Brillat-Savarin, Jean-Anthelme (1982) Physiologie du goût (Paris: Flammarion). Google Scholar

Duras, Marguerite (1984) L’Amant (Paris: Minuit). Google Scholar

Ehrenreich, Barbara (2018) Natural Causes: Life, Death and the Illusion of Control (London: Granta). Google Scholar

Ellmann, Maud (1993) The Hunger Artists: Starving, Writing and Imprisonment (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London: Virago). Google Scholar

Géné, J.P., and Marie NDiaye (1996) La Gourmandise (3 Les Péchés capitaux) (Paris: Editions du Centre Pompidou). Google Scholar

Houellebecq, Michel (1994) Extension du domaine de la lutte (Paris: Editions Maurice Nadeau). Google Scholar

Hyde, Lewis (1983) The Gift (New York: Random House). Google Scholar

Jordan, Shirley (2017a) Marie NDiaye: Inhospitable Fictions (Cambridge: Legenda). Google Scholar

Jordan, Shirley (2017b) ‘Looking for Marie NDiaye: Autofictional fragments from Autoportrait en vert (2005) to La Cheffe, roman d’une cuisinière (2016)’, conference paper podcast, https://www.sas.ac.uk/videos-and-podcasts/culture-language-and-literature/looking-marie-ndiaye-autofictional-fragments (accessed 12 June 2020). Google Scholar

Jordan, Shirley (2018) ‘Eating between pleasure and discontent in Marie NDiaye’s “La Gourmandise”’, in Diana Holmes, Maggie Allison, and Carrie Tarr (eds), Women Behaving Badly? Women’s Pleasures and their Discontents in Contemporary French and Francophone Cultures (Oxford: Peter Lang), 203–217. Google Scholar

Kristeva, Julia (1980) Pouvoirs de l’ horreur: essai sur l’abjection (Paris: Seuil). Google Scholar

NDiaye, Marie (1991) En Famille (Paris: Minuit). Google Scholar

NDiaye, Marie (1997) ‘Le Jour du Président’, in Amélie Nothomb, Marie Ndiaye, Jean-Pierre Ostende, Eugène Nicole, and Jean-Jacques Viton, La double entente du je (Bordeaux: L’été du livre en Gironde), 29–46. Google Scholar

NDiaye, Marie (2007) Mon cœur à l’étroit (Paris: Gallimard). Google Scholar

NDiaye, Marie (2009) Trois femmes puissantes (Paris: Gallimard). Google Scholar

NDiaye, Marie (2013) Ladivine (Paris: Gallimard). Google Scholar

NDiaye, Marie (2016) La Cheffe, roman d’une cuisinière (Paris: Gallimard). Google Scholar

Ronell, Avital (2002) Stupidity (Urbana: University of Illinois Press). Google Scholar

Royle, Nicholas (2017) An English Guide to Birdwatching (Oxford: Myriad). Google Scholar

Schwartz, Hillel (1990 [1986]) Never Satisfied: A Cultural History of Diets, Fantasies and Fat (New York: Doubleday). Google Scholar

Sorente, Isabelle (2013) 180 jours (Paris: JC Lattès). Google Scholar

Still, Judith (2015) Derrida and Other Animals: The Boundaries of the Human (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press). Google Scholar

Still, Judith (2019) ‘Refusing consumption and querying genre: A partial reading of Marie NDiaye’, in Unidentifiable Literary Objects, ed. S. Jackson and C. Bostock, Parallax, 25.3: 288–303. Google Scholar

Voltaire, François-Marie Arouet de (1972) Romans contes et mélanges I (Paris: Livre de Poche). Google Scholar

Filmography

Coppola, Sophie (dir.) Marie Antoinette (2006). Google Scholar

Coppola, Sophie (dir.) Marie Antoinette (2006). Google Scholar

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Author details

Still, Judith

Still, Judith