Long before the Bechdel Test codified and implicitly critiqued the failure of films to make female interaction the focal point of narrative activity, Fred Zinnemann’s 1977 Julia and Claudia Weill’s 1978 Girlfriends both described the difficulty of conceptualizing female affiliation in narrative as well as visual sequences. Within widely different industrial and political contexts, they each narrated the ways in which explicit interdiction and other forms of “sororophobia” arise as forms of plot advancement and affective dislocation in the lives of paired female friends. In Julia, the adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s memoir foreshadows as public historical and political allegory this separation or dislocation. In Girlfriends, the focus is personal and intimate, although the premise of the plot is also that this interdiction is a political and aesthetic matter. In both, an endeavor to separate affection from desire is gestured at as a condition of affection. This lecture will explore the ways in which women, in historical fact or imaginative revision, can be brought together as girlfriends.
Melissa Hardie is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Sydney. Much of her work considers “novel objects,” bridging modernist to contemporary textual practices to find unexpected areas of connection between what are usually thought of as discrete periods, practices or genres. Her recent essays have turned to Marielle Heller’s 2018 film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, about writer Lee Israel; texts by filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar and novelist Djuna Barnes; and George Cukor’s last film, Rich and Famous, which narrates the friendship of two women writers. Her current book investigates how the closet is a critical vector in the remediation of forms of confession and disclosure, focusing on television, cinema, memoir and the starlet. She is also co-editing a book on Paul Verhoeven's Showgirls with Meaghan Morris and Kane Race. Hardie is driven by an ethos of inclusivity, which means she focuses on the underexplored and underrepresented edges of canons and how fields are transformed when inclusion and diversity are made central concerns.
A reception will follow.