Lavatori explores human interaction in the works of Amélie Nothomb

Gerard Lavatori, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, lectures about body image issues and Belgian novelist Amelie Nothomb on Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. He discussed how the themes in some of Nothomb’s books address body shaming. / photo by Kaylie Ennis
Gerard Lavatori, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, lectures about body image issues and Belgian novelist Amelie Nothomb on Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Board Room. He discussed how the themes in some of Nothomb’s books address body shaming. / photo by Kaylie Ennis

Jasmine Soria
Staff Writer

Gerard Lavatori, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented his essay “Body Shaming and Redemption in the Fiction of Amélie Nothomb” Tuesday in the Quay Davis Executive Boardroom. 

The lecture offered a glimpse into the world of French literature, exploring the similarities between Nothomb’s works and the themes of body shaming and human interaction. Leaving students interested to peek into contemporary French literature.

Amélie Nothomb, born in 1966, is a Belgian writer who has been consistently producing one novel a year since 1992 is known for her unique sense of style, often seen wearing fun hats, and studied Romance Philology at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

 Her works have been translated into many languages, but she is particularly popular in Spanish where her writing has a larger following than in English. Nothomb speaks fluent Japanese and lived in China, adding an extra layer of cultural diversity to her work. Her works are often characters representing a fictionalized version of herself. 

One of Nothomb’s most notable works is her autobiography “Fear and Trembling,” where she reflects on her struggle with anorexia. At 13, Nothomb became concerned about her growth, which led to her developing an eating disorder.

Caroline Guzman, a freshman child development major, expressed the relatability to Nothomb’s work with Generation Z.

“We always struggle with the imagery of how a body should be seen. Greek gods and goddesses always enjoyed their bodies,” Guzman said. “When we see sculptures in a museum, they are more comfortable in their bodies, and nowadays, people can change their bodies physically and have the dream body they want from social media.”

Nothomb explores the sexuality of literary characters who challenge traditional expectations. Many of her characters identify as lesbian. Lavatori shared that Nothomb touched on the theme of self-perception and incorporated the “Critical Disability Study” by Mike Davis in her literature. 

This refers to the different perspectives the public has on those with disabilities. It includes the charity model where a disability was to be taken care of by religion, and only sin and prayer could make a change. The medical model in which doctors are needed to see if there is a scientific issue. In contrast, the social model, where there should be access to all individuals, regardless of ability. 

Johanna Vargas, freshman criminology major said that there is a lack of acceptance within when it comes to the body. 

“There are problems with obesity and anorexia; you cannot meet in a middle ground because there is no middle ground,” Vargas said. “There is a lot of contradiction between what is ideal and what is not.” 

Lavatori discussed Garland Thomson’s “The Rules of Engagement” the concept of staring and its various components, including the notion that one should not stare aimlessly, for it can be seen as inner turmoil and a failure of connection. In comparison to historical aspects where cultures believe it communicates power, such as the evil eye. 

“Think about how we experience our body and how it affects our interactions with people and how it affects our interactions with them and that we should be aware of all the differences in humanity,” Lavatori said. “I wanted to share some of her ideas and passages that students could be interested in reading.” 

It is important to see how social constructs have changed or if they are still embedded within us. 

The seminar on Nothomb stirred up discussion on the translation of her works from French to English, how she explored sexuality, and curiosity in reading her other works. 

Nothomb’s latest book “First Blood,” was released in 2021, but the English translation is scheduled to be released later this year. It is a fictionalized story of her father, who died of COVID in 2020. 

Jasmine Soria can be reached at jasmine.soria@laverne.edu.

Jasmine Soria, a junior broadcast journalism major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times.

Kaylie Ennis is a senior photography major and a staff photographer for the Campus Times and La Verne Magazine. Originally from Washington state, she enjoys cars and nature photography.

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