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Filling the Void: Bulimarexic Characters in Postmodern Italian Women's Writing

Citation: Calamita, Francesca Filling the Void: Bulimarexic Characters in Postmodern Italian Women's Writing. In: Paradoxical Languages: Eating Disorders in Contemporary Women's Writing, 16 May 2014, Senate House, University of London. (Unpublished)

Bulimarexia, as defined by Marlene Boskind-Lodahl in 1977, is a pathology where gorging is followed by purging in an endless cycle that mirrors the medical descriptions of anorexia and bulimia. Many “disorderly eaters” experience both these phases and their body shape often communicates their relationship with food at different stages of their lives. Italian women writers of the 1990s-2000s, such as Gianna Schelotto (born 1939), Alessandra Arachi (born 1964) and Michela Marzano (born 1970) have portrayed in their fiction and autobiographies a variety of characters who suffer from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. In a desperate attempt to transform their unloved bodies and to lose weight, these characters try to express their dissatisfaction through food consumption, particularly their unhappy relationships with their mothers, fathers and lovers who often misunderstand the meaning of their anorexic struggle. These young women engage in binging and purging, thus experiencing a bulimarexic existence; they believe that by acquiring a new silhouette, they will be able to overcome their frustrations and needs. Binging becomes a way to fill their emotional void, while starving can be interpreted as a way to escape their suffocating families and societal expectations. This paper seeks to decode the multifaceted meaning of bulimarexia in Una fame da morire [Starving to Death] (Schelotto, 1992), Briciole [Crumbs] (Arachi, 1994) and Volevo essere una farfalla [I Wanted to be a Butterfly] (Marzano, 2011), with an emphasis on the complex and troubled relationship the protagonists experience with the members of their families and their absent men.

Additional Information: This is an early version of a longer piece to be submitted to the volume Writing Separation, ed. by Lizzie Towl (Victoria University of Wellington, NZ)
Creators: Calamita, Francesca and
Subjects: Culture, Language & Literature
Divisions: Centre for the Study of Contemporary Women's Writing


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