Dr Monique Rooney

Senior Lecturer In English Literature
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • North American Literature 200506
  • Screen And Media Culture 200212
  • Literary Theory 200525

Research interests

Intermediality of contemporary screen culture; melodrama, 'passing-for-white' and US literature, film and television.

Researcher's projects

My book Living Screens: Melodrama and Plasticity in Contemporary Film and Television (Rowman and Littlefield International 2015) is the culmination of research which draws on thinkers ranging from Jean Jacques Rousseau to Marshall McLuhan and Catherine Malabou in order to explore melodrama as a highly adaptable and durable mode that mutates as it crosses modalities and media. Rousseau's ur-melodrama, Pygmalion: scene lyrique, is a touchstone for my argument that melodrama recreates itself through the melding of old with new technologies. This book includes chapters on the television series Mad Men (2007 - present), Todd Haynes's mini-series Mildred Pierce (2011) and Lars von Trier's Melancholia (2011).

Praise for Living Screens:

“Think of metamophoses that cannot consent to be apprehended only as reformations of the same shape, but as sudden ruptures. Think of ruptures that reveal the radical overturning of the logic of reformation itself. Think of unstable essences. Think of an ontological versatility. You will then discover the melodramatic power of transposition. Between Rousseau and McLuhan, Rooney presents here a series of brilliant readings that explore the surprising capacity of all media to transpose "old into new form". Her book is a stunningly beautiful speaking sculpture.” (Catherine Malabou, Professor of Modern European Philosophy, Kingston University, UK)

“Living Screens is a bold, exciting book. Through meticulous close readings of Weiner’s Mad Men, Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, and Todd Haynes’s Mildred Pierce, Rooney aligns the living screens of the twenty-first century – cinematic, televisual, and digital – with Rousseau’s invention of melodrama in the late eighteenth century, another period of rapid and far-reaching media change. Offering radically new perspectives on melodrama’s history and its revitalisation in long form television shows such as Mad Men, Living Screens is memorably evocative, showing how, in certain hands, interdisciplinarity can sculpt, speak, and sing.” (Gillian Russell, Gerry Higgins Professor of Irish Studies, University of Melbourne)

“In a series of incisive readings, Monique Rooney does wonders with and for the genre of melodrama. Her formidable articulation of formal matters on the scene and historical forces behind the scenes is altogether exemplary. The focus on music—putting the ‘melo’ back in melodrama—is nothing short of revelatory and worth the price of admission. On the far side of her informed analyses we are in a much better position to understand the texture even of works not necessarily thought of as melodrama, such as the now legendary Mad Men. We also understand how and why these works move us, with or in excess of our wishes. Highly recommended for any student of the genre or any of her blockbuster examples.” (Ian Balfour, Professor of English, York University)

I am currently working on two research projects. The first is about ‘interbrow’—a term I’ve coined for my analysis of the concept of the middle central to both middlebrow (a class-based or socialised perspective) and intermedia (the mixed aesthetic forms pervading the contemporary mediasphere). My focus is on the emergence of middlebrow as both a category and a perspective that emerges ‘in the middle’ of mass, multi-media forms and platforms that encourage and facilitate connectivitycompelling a will to mediation. The second project extends my research on Rousseau’s Pygmalion aesthetics to investigate melodramatic renderings of watery elements, scenes and performances in a range of media.  



Return to top

Updated:  23 May 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers