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Of love and longing: Queer nostalgia in Carol

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This article discusses nostalgia and sensation in Carol (Haynes, 2015), a contemporary melodrama about a lesbian romance in the 1950s. While Carol returns its romance to a closeted past, it presents a nostalgic view of queer desire that is neither wistful nor tragic. Drawing on Tamara de Szegheo Lang’s theory of critical nostalgia and Elizabeth Freeman’s theory of longing, this article argues that Carol’s nostalgic form, particularly its use of framing, texture and colour, unsettles linear experiences of time associated with looking at the past. Carol’s conspicuous formalism intertwines the phenomena and immediacy of temporal experience with the multiple experiences of historical desire, and the film’s aesthetics productively complicate its compliance with a larger narrative of linear progress. The interaction of framing, texture and colour in Carol engage ways of seeing that are critically full, rather than indulgently melancholic, of female desire in the 1950s.
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Keywords: Carol; aesthetics; formalism; history; melodrama; nostalgia; the 1950s

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Publication date: June 1, 2017

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  • Queer Studies in Media & Popular Culture (QSMPC) is a refereed academic journal devoted to the study of representations and expressions of queerness in its various forms. International in scope and representing a wide variety of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, it publishes scholarship on topics at the intersection of media/popular culture and queerness in gender/sexuality. QSMPC invites articles and artwork pertaining to queerness in media and popular culture, as well as reviews pertaining to recently released queer media artifacts.
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