The Tropics Bite Back

The Tropics Bite Back

Culinary Coups in Caribbean Literature

Valérie Loichot

The surprising relationships between food and starvation and the practice of literary cannibalism

304 Pages, 6 x 9 in

  • Paperback
  • 9780816679843
  • Published: April 24, 2013
  • eBook
  • 9781452939315
  • Published: April 14, 2013


The Tropics Bite Back

Culinary Coups in Caribbean Literature

Valérie Loichot

ISBN: 9780816679843

Publication date: April 24th, 2013

304 Pages

8 x 5

"The Tropics Bite Back is a brilliant and highly original work of scholarship from one of the outstanding voices in contemporary Francophone studies. Valérie Loichot identifies cannibalism as the master trope of Antillean Literature, and goes on in this mature and insightful book to explore and analyze its various manifestations in a series of penetrating and novel readings. Exciting and profound, the book is both engaged and engaging." —Nick Nesbitt, Princeton University

The ubiquitous presence of food and hunger in Caribbean writing—from folktales, fiction, and poetry to political and historical treatises—signals the traumas that have marked the Caribbean from the Middle Passage to the present day. The Tropics Bite Back traces the evolution of the Caribbean response to the colonial gaze (or rather the colonial mouth) from the late nineteenth century to the twenty-first. Unlike previous scholars, Valérie Loichot does not read food simply as a cultural trope. Instead, she is interested in literary cannibalism, which she interprets in parallel with theories of relation and creolization.

For Loichot, “the culinary” is an abstract mode of resistance and cultural production. The Francophone and Anglophone authors whose works she interrogates—including Patrick Chamoiseau, Suzanne Césaire, Aimé Césaire, Maryse Condé, Edwidge Danticat, Édouard Glissant, Lafcadio Hearn, and Dany Laferrière—“bite back” at the controlling images of the cannibal, the starved and starving, the cunning cook, and the sexualized octoroon with the ultimate goal of constructing humanity through structural, literal, or allegorical acts of ingesting, cooking, and eating.

The Tropics Bite Back employs cross-disciplinary methods to rethink notions of race and literary influence by providing a fresh perspective on forms of consumption both metaphorical and material.

Valérie Loichot is associate professor of French and English and core faculty in the Department of Comparative Literature at Emory University. She is also author of Orphan Narratives: The Postplantation Literature of Faulkner, Glissant, Morrison, and Saint-John Perse.


Introduction: The Cannibal and the Edible

1. From Gumbo to Masala: Édouard Glissant’s Creolization in the Circum-Caribbean

2. Not Just Hunger: Patrick Chamoiseau, Aimé Césaire, and Jean-Baptiste Labat

3. Kitchen Narrative: Food and Exile in Edwidge Danticat and Gisèle Pineau

4. Sexual Traps: Dany Laferrière and Gisèle Pineau

5. Literary Cannibals: Suzanne Césaire and Maryse Condé

Afterword: Can Hunger Speak?