Turned Back: Mad Men as Intermedial Melodrama

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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.

Article Details

On Mad Men (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Monique Rooney, Australian National University

Monique Rooney is a lecturer in the English program, School of Cultural Inquiry, Australian National University. She has published on melodrama in American literature and film and is currently researching in the areas of late twentieth-century Australian film and television melodrama and contemporary film and cable television melodrama.