‘Graphophagia’ is a new word (or neologism if you prefer) coined by Janet Beizer who is Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. It’s derived from Greek, [literally ‘writing-eating’] and refers to a type of ‘Pica‘ – specifically a subset of ‘Xylophagia’ (i.e. eating wood or paper) but whereby practitioners not only eat the paper, but also the words written on it.
The professor will present an essay on the subject at the Dublin Gastronomic Symposium, June 3rd & 4th, 2014. It’s entitled : ‘Lust for Leaves’. What are the implications for/of those who eat pages of books?
“In the first part of my paper I will discuss the medical literature on pica with its diagnostic emphasis on the craving for substances deemed to have ‘insignificant nutritive values’ and on the ‘false or defective appetites’ of the patients so diagnosed. I’ll then go on to reconsider the meaning of ‘significant/insignificant nutritive value’ in the context of writing and writers, for whom paper may have alimentary properties of symbolic if not biological nature, and will consider graphophagia as a mode of writing and reading excess that may better be understood in the light of anthropological, literary, and psychoanalytic theories of orality, inner/outer dichotomies and their breakdown, matter in and out of place, and the unmaking and making of the wor(l)d.“
The full abstract may be read here, in the symposium’s Book of Abstracts and Speakers [pp. 7 & 8]
BONUS: Improbable Serving Suggestion (best with a pinch of salt)
If one printed, say, Claudine à l’école on a folio of rice paper using edible ink, could one become an ouroboric graphophagist – in the sense that you’d not only be eating words, but the very words that Honoré de Balzac used to describe the practice of paper eating?
“Driven by example, I take a book of cigarette paper from my pocket (I only eat ‘Nile’ brand) and chew with enthusiasm.”