CuSPP Literary Studies Seminar Series 2019: Monique Rooney, Mediating Sovereignty: The Crown as 'Interbrow'

CuSPP Literary Studies Seminar Series 2019: Monique Rooney, Mediating Sovereignty: The Crown as 'Interbrow'

Mediating Sovereignty: The Crown as 'Interbrow'

This paper reads The Crown as an example of narrative ‘interbrow’—my coinage for middlebrow stories produced in the time of the internet. The Crown depicts British royalty as susceptible to middlebrow culture pervading late-twentieth century life, with its enmeshment of mass media networks. In its first two seasons at least, The Crown’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II positions her as a figure whose performance of detachment, and upholding of ideals of monarchical impartiality, are in tension with the commoditising effects of mass media. Billed as a ‘Netflix Original’, although written by respected playwright Peter Morgan, the series formally enacts and thematically explores the limitations and possibilities of the sovereign subject’s autonomous judgement from within a culture conditioned by deeply mediatised desires and consumer-based drives. This paper looks at the series’ entanglement of middlebrow perspectives with twentieth- and twenty-first century media, revealing not only the way in which royalty fail to escape culture-industrial intermediation but also drawing attention to The Crown’s representation of tenuous yet tenacious bonds between women. It does so by focusing on two episodes that read together juxtapose the publication of a ‘nude’ photograph of Princess Margaret with her sister Elizabeth’s embodiment of the crown.

Monique Rooney is a Senior Lecturer in the English Program, School of Literatures, Languages and Linguistics at The Australian National University. She is the author of Living Screens: Melodrama and Plasticity in Contemporary Film and Television (2015) and the co-editor, with Guy Davidson, of Queer Objects (Routledge, 2019). Her essays on contemporary intermedia have recently been published in Angelaki and New Review of Film and Television Studies. Her current project investigates the role of ‘interbrow’ in a range of contemporary media.

Date & time

Thu 16 May 2019, 1–2pm


Milgate Room, AD Hope Building, ANU


Monique Rooney, Senior Lecturer, English, SLLL


Dr Russell Smith


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