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LeftoversEating, Drinking and Re-thinking with Case Studies from Post-war French Fiction$
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Ruth Cruickshank

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620672

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620672.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use.date: 07 December 2021

Re-thinking the Story

Re-thinking the Story

Food, Drink and Interpretation in Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Les Gommes/The Erasers

(p.61) Chapter Two Re-thinking the Story

Ruth Cruickshank

Liverpool University Press

His first nouveau roman [‘new novel’], Robbe-Grillet’s Les Gommes [The Erasers] (1953) eschews conventional storytelling, anthropomorphizing meanings and psychological motivations, instead focussing on ‘the adventure of language’. Food, drink and the places they are consumed are part of a strategy of subverting literary realism, noir conventions and classical tropes as Robbe-Grillet seeks to deny readers narrative satisfaction. However, the interpretative multiplicity of eating and drinking counters such intentions, notably in frequently food-premised mises en abyme (including and exceeding the famous tomato quarter), intended to encapsulate the narrative but full of leftover political, social, cultural and psychological meaning. Robbe-Grillet’s subversion of Oedipus Rex and its scenes of nourishment (and its withdrawal) along with references to hunger point to characters and a narrative fuelled by lack. Constructs of gender and of class distinction are revealed in Robbe-Grillet’s representations of food and drink, as are coercive and excessive effects of capitalism in everyday life. Descriptions of eating and drinking are shown to have ambivalent remainders of trauma (from the Second World War and the impact of consumer culture). Re-thinking the novel through its representations of eating and drinking shows how writing and reading – like feeding – are necessarily transformative, multiple and conflictual processes.

Keywords:   nouveau roman, new novel, Alain Robbe-Grillet, Les Gommes, The Erasers, mise en abyme, Oedipus, lack, remainders, distinction

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