Presenting SEQUENCE 2.2: Pam Cook on Todd Haynes’ MILDRED PIERCE as maternal melodrama

Screenshot from MILDRED PIERCE (Todd Haynes/HBO: © 2011 Home Box Office Inc)

In her inaugural essay on maternal melodrama for SEQUENCE Two, Sue Thornham discusses Lynne Ramsay’s critical reappraisal of mother-love in WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, analysing in detail the film’s exploration of issues of female identity, agency and control. She illuminates the importance of feminist theory and filmmaking in interrogating social and psychic structures of motherhood. [In my work on Todd Haynes’ adaptation of MILDRED PIERCE (2011) for SEQUENCE,] I take this enquiry in a different direction to argue that feminist scholarship has largely defined the group of films we call maternal melodrama, and has determined the parameters of debate. It is not unusual for critical discourse to retrospectively construct generic movements and cycles: film noir is an obvious example. However, the operations of textual interaction and mediation involved in the processes of genre configuration are not widely discussed. I suggest that the textual fluidity characteristic of maternal melodrama presents a challenge to the ways in which we conceptualise the objects we choose to study and to accepted analytical methods. [Pam Cook, ‘Text, Paratext and Subtext: Reading MILDRED PIERCE as Maternal Melodrama’, SEQUENCE: Serial Studies in Media, Film and Music, 2.2, 2015. Online at:]

We are very happy to announce that the second contribution to Issue Two of SEQUENCE Serial Studies in Media, Film and Music We Need to Talk about Maternal Melodrama has been published. It is by Pam Cook, Professor Emerita in Film at the University of Southampton, and is one of a number of follow up pieces of research, in recent years, to her foundational, 1978 article on feminist film theory and maternal melodrama (/ film noir) ‘Duplicity in Mildred Pierce‘, which is known to have influenced Todd Haynes in adapting James M. Cain’s novel for his HBO television miniseries (see also Cook’s 2013 Screen article ‘Beyond Adaptation: Mirrors, Memory and Melodrama in Todd Haynes’s Mildred Pierce’).

Cook’s article follows feminist film and media scholar and theorist Sue Thornham’s essay ‘”A HATRED SO INTENSE…”: We Need to Talk about Kevin, Postfeminism and Women’s Cinema’ (2.1 [2013])

We are continuing to invite sequential responses to the first two entries in this iteration of SEQUENCE. If you’re inspired to respond, especially if you have related research work in progress on any of the topics raised by the first two essays, and/or the SEQUENCE title, in relation to any relevant cultural or communications medium (not just cinema), please get in touch with us at SEQUENCEserial[at]gmail[dot]com. Multimedia responses of all kinds are also very much encouraged. But it would be worthwhile to discuss any substantial response with us at an early stage in your planning. All contributions need to comply with UK copyright law and the current understanding of fair dealing.

If you’d like to offer a shorter response, there is also the option of leaving a comment in the moderated stream at the foot of each SEQUENCE Two entry. SEQUENCES may be long and short in all sorts of ways.

SEQUENCE Two is being edited and produced by Catherine Grant and Katherine Farrimond, co-editors of the SEQUENCE: SERIAL STUDIES IN MEDIA, FILM AND MUSIC project (with Russell Pearce).

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