Journal of Romance studies

Food, disorder, and disgust in Marie NDiaye

Journal of Romance studies (2020), 20, (2), 323–346.


This article argues that food, food preparation and disorderly eating are core concerns in Marie NDiaye’s writing. The author’s detailed depiction of protagonists’ unusual relationships to food is shown to contribute to the complex and enigmatic ethical matter of her texts. Through analysis of scenes of disorderly eating in three novels, Mon Cœur à l’étroit (2007), Ladivine (2013), and La Cheffe, roman d’une cuisinière (2016), the article shows how food practices in NDiaye are intricately connected to identity and integral to her protagonists’ emergence as ethical subjects. NDiaye’s focus is characteristically on the negative affect that may be associated with food, most notably disgust. Accordingly, the article explores the significance of disgust feelings in her work, particularly as they are generated by excess. It concentrates on disgust that is occasioned by two key animal substances: meat and fat. It also examines the ethics of food production and the increasingly ascetic gastronomy elaborated in La Cheffe.

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Author details

Jordan, Shirley