Author Archives: simon_dickson

An Unseen Portrait of a Female Grotesque: Carol Morley’s The Alcohol Years (2000)

Update: This event has now been cancelled.


“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.” — Frances Hatherley, Middlesex University

Wednesday, 16 November, 5:15 pm. ArtsOne, Hitchcock Cinema (G19).

Refreshments to follow.


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Maren Thom presents ‘The Transgressive Nature of Chris Morris’ Satire in the post-political’


Wednesday 30th March, 5:15pm. Arts One, Room G34.

This paper addresses the way comedy works as a method to transgress what Slavoj Žižek describes as the post-political; that is the current state of denial of alternatives within global politics and a directionlessness within cultural theory, which set in after the apparent defeat of the possibility of a radical alternative to capitalism.

For comedy to be truly transgressive Marcus Pound says it requires ‘a politics of the impossible’: By highlighting a world of unreason, rather than condemning it outright, humour arises from the experience of this world of unreason. For this to happen, in Pound’s understanding, transgressive comedy has to approach its subject not on a material but on metaphysical level; not point out the inconsistencies of concrete claims of truth and expose them to ridicule, but to assume their universalist truth and revelling in the contradiction between their idealist form and materialists execution. Referring to the work on comedy by Alenka Zupančič, Pound says, the transgressive comic mode is not found, ‘in the usual materialist critique of idealism; but the very point at which the ideal appears directly as the material, and it is this paradox – this incongruity – which generates the truly subversive comic mode of comedy.’ In short, comedy has the ability to tap into the subtle questions of the human condition concerned with how it is rather than pointing out the way things are. This paper presumes that, by looking at the way Morris’ satire can be used as a way to transcend the stalemate of the post-political. Most of Morris’ comedy works in this fashion, in that his satire does not aim at exposing the materialist discrepancies of society, but accepts these incongruities and takes them as the basis to ridicule their very existence – what the audience is alienated from is not the absurdity of concrete claims but the fact that the mundane is also part of this very absurdity.



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