Just in time for the season six debut of "Mad Men," a trio of University of Illinois professors will discuss Don Draper and other topics related to AMC's drama Tuesday evening at the Chicago Humanities Festival.
WBEZ reporter Alison Cuddy will moderate the "Mad Men, Mad World" panel, featuring Lauren Goodlad, Lilya Kaganovsky and Robert Rushing. The three profs recently edited "Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style and the 1960s" (Duke University Press, $27.95), the first academic study of the cable series published by a university press.
"We believe that the show is really about the present day," Goodlad said Monday from the snowy Champaign-Urbana campus. Matthew Weiner's critically-acclaimed series set in the 1960s resonates with viewers because "it's about a kind of crisis that we are all going through about our identities."
Goodlad, an associate professor of English and Criticism and Interpretive Theory, said "Mad Men" is the rare television show that merits a higher level of literary discussion. In fact, ad man Don Draper -- a loner in perpetual crisis, consumed with self-invention -- has a lot in common with female protagonists in 19th century literature. It's not a stretch, she argues in the book, to compare the show to Gustave Flaubert's "Madame Bovary," for example.
"Would I say that about 'Homeland?' Not if someone paid me to," said Goodlad, nonetheless a fan of Showtime's spy drama. "As a literary critic, I don't feel compelled to discuss 'Homeland.'"
Just as well, because this panel will be about all things "Mad Men." It runs from 6 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Northwestern University School of Law, Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago Ave. Tickets cost $10 ($5 for CHF members and students).
Season six of "Mad Men" bows with a two-hour premiere April 7 on AMC. Goodlad and others will be weighing in on the episode -- and those following it -- on their blog.