Turned Back: Mad Men as Intermedial Melodrama

Monique Rooney


This essay draws on definitions of gesture (Giorgio Agamben and Peter Brooks) and catachresis (Peter Brooks, Jacques Derrida) to examine the primacy of non-verbal signifiers as communicators of meaning in AMC’s Mad Men. Beginning with an analysis of Mad Men’s credit sequence, it draws attention to Mad Men’s use of gesture and catachresis in relation to melodrama’s privileging of non-verbal and naturalistic expression and its persistence as an intermedial mode that has moved back and forth between various media (theatre, novel, cinema, television and now digital formats). It argues that Mad Men’s melodramatic aesthetic is one that obliquely, and via a gestural and rhetorical ‘turned back’, communicates its relation to the past and the present.


melodrama; catachresis; Peter Brooks; Giorgio Agamben

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/csr.v18i2.2763