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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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Feeding and Reading Ambivalence

Feeding and Reading Ambivalence

Incorporating Difference in Annie Ernaux’s Les Armoires vides/Cleaned Out

(p.97) Chapter Three Feeding and Reading Ambivalence

Ruth Cruickshank

Liverpool University Press

Les Armoiresvides/Cleaned Out (1974) is the first of Ernaux’s many texts exploring how gender and class have indelible leftovers. Enduring traces of the working-class rural café-épicerie of narrator Denise’s childhood with its ambivalent desires and constraints are explored in terms of abjection and of her ambivalent incorporation of the discourses of the Church, education and the patriarchy which affects her senses of value, shame and sexual appetite. The analysis supplements understandings of how class difference may be perpetuated through the (food) ‘choices’ which are effectively determined. Secret eating brings arousal but also (along with poor diet and alcohol in excess) offers insights into the traumatic effects of post-war modernization, as well as the Second World and Algerian Wars. Eating whilst reading offers solace and fuels the narrative with intertexts, but also evokes the transformative dangers of (inter)textual ‘eating on the sly’. Representations of eating and drinking raise questions of the politics of both narrative and sexual reproduction. Indeed, food and drink are bound up with psychological and embodied remainders of gendered prejudice which counter conventional feminist perspectives, and the narrator reads and consumes in bad faith, lacks freedom over her reproductive future and cannot escape inevitable remainders.

Keywords:   Annie Ernaux, Les Armoires vides, Cleaned Out, bad faith, ‘Eating on the sly’, incorporation, distinction, abjection, feminism, Algerian War

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