Force-Feeding: Consumption and Sexuality in Frank G. Paci's Black Madonna
Informed by calls to re-evaluate the relationship between Canadian literature and power in the wake of Canada’s sesquicentennial, this paper examines Frank G. Paci’s Black Madonna, a 1982 Italian-Canadian novel that played a significant role in early discussions of Canadian multiculturalism. This paper reassesses Paci’s representation of the protagonist Marie, a second-generation Italian-Canadian woman. Using Judith Butler’s concept of the construction of the gendered body and Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection, this paper analyzes Marie’s struggle for bodily control and her rejection of her Italian mother’s ideals about food, sexuality, and family. Through applying this framework of gender performativity and abjection of Otherness, this paper argues that Marie’s disordered relationships with food and her sexuality are a result of the pressure on second-generation female immigrants to perform cultural identity while simultaneously assimilating into Anglo-Canadian culture. I contend that Marie’s rape fantasies and sexually transgressive encounters are indicative of the corporeal tensions faced by female immigrants in Canada, while her bulimic abjection of Italian food acts as a physical manifestation of the abjection of immigrant cultures by both Canadian multiculturalism and second generation immigrants within multiculturalism. This reassessment of Black Madonna provides a framework for re-reading early multicultural texts through a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between multiculturalism, gender, sexuality, food, and trauma.
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