Frances Hatherley (Middlesex) presents “An Unseen Portrait of a Female Grotesque: Carol Morley’s ‘The Alcohol Years (2000)'”


“I will explore the ways in which working-class femininities and sexualities have been negatively constructed as “grotesque”. Carol Morley’s film explores her teenage years and experimentation with sex, drinking and participation in the music scene in the Manchester of the late 1980s. I argue that her representation in the film both conforms to and challenges the classist and misogynistic constructions of a working-class female grotesque. The image of the female grotesque in the film is one that is unseen: the representation comes solely from the oral recollections of friends and acquaintances of Morley’s who knew her during her teenage years in Manchester during that period. The descriptions given of her by others, who themselves are often unreliable narrators, create a portrait of a young female grotesque – a woman who rejected modest, lady-like, respectable behaviour in favour of the excessive, uncontrollable and carnivalesque.

This talk also considers the experiences of growing up a working-class girl, of rebellion in the form of music, clothing and sexuality as an outlet for expression and self-determination. I will also introduce a discussion of space and place, of the experience of growing up on council estates and their potential for adventure. I will counter accusations of deviant misbehaviour by instead arguing that much of the behaviour Morley is judged so harshly for, constitutes positive forms of knowledge gathering and limits-testing, all vital aspect of growing up.”

Thursday, 13 April, 5:15pm, ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema (G19).

Refreshments to follow.


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