Friday, July 04, 2014

New PhD Thesis: Roles, Representations of Age, and the Non-traditional Romance Heroine


Sandra Barletta (who writes romance as Sandra Antonelli) recently completed her PhD and the thesis is now available free online. In it she issues a "call to arms to other authors, besides me, to speak out, to rally and write romance novels about older heroines" (62).

In one chapter she states that
romance publishing is profit-focused and wary of undertaking anything that challenges its revenue. The chapter reveals through interviews conducted with various romance publishing editors [...] that there is an inherent conservatism at work in the industry that makes it less willing to take risks with publications valorising older women in the role of romance heroine. These editors consider Women’s Fiction as the ‘proper’ home for female protagonists of a certain age. While publishing profits play a large role in limiting the role and story for older women, there is also an industry resistance to the idea of a sexually active older women [sic] who is beyond childbearing age. (53)
Therefore,
For the author who wants to take risks in presenting older women as worthy participants in the romance paradigm, there are considerable obstacles to negotiate in a largely risk-averse industry. (57)
Sandra would, however, appear to have negotiated them successfully as
during the course of my research, I had two romance novels accepted for publication by Harlequin Escape. In no way does this suggest this outcome was not a long and frustrating enterprise. In the four years it took me to be offered a publishing contract, vast changes occurred within the publishing industry. The demise of brick and mortar book stores, the ongoing rise of Amazon, and the explosion of e-books, are all indications of a shift away from traditional models of publishing, and an accompanying shift in thinking among readers, authors and publishers. (57)
Her A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only were published in 2013 as e-books by Escape Publishing (an imprint of Harlequin Enterprises Australia).
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Barletta, Sandra A. Cougars, Grannies, Evil Stepmothers, and Menopausal Hot Flashers: Roles, Representations of Age, and the Non-traditional Romance Heroine. PhD thesis in Creative Writing and Literary Studies, Queensland University of Technology, 2014.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Past & Present: Greek Romance


Since it's the last day of the IASPR conference, being held in Thessaloniki, here's a Greek-themed link to a recent article by Kirsten Day on the relevance of one of the oldest surviving romance novels, Longus' Daphnis and Chloe. The article argues that,
Despite a chronological gulf of nearly two thousand years, the second century C.E. Greek romance writer Longus and the early twentieth century Irish novelist Henry de Vere Stacpoole were prompted to produce their best works by a similar motive: an urge to explore the world, and particularly the phenomenon of love and desire, from a standpoint of complete innocence. Although the resulting novels, Daphnis & Chloe and The Blue Lagoon respectively, have no evident direct connection, they exhibit surprising similarities not only in plot, setting, and characterization, but also in the values, perspectives, and worldviews they advance. The striking intersections between these two chronologically and geographically diverse works offer us a lens for examining persistent notions of “natural” versus learned masculinity and femininity, for exploring the dynamics behind patriarchal power structures, and for scrutinizing how these issues relate to ideas about the value and merits of civilization. [...] this comparison helps to drive home the persistence of ideologies and power structures that initially seem remote.
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Day, Kirsten. "Experiments in Love: Longus' Daphnis & Chloe and Henry de Vere Stacpoole's The Blue Lagoon." Dialogue 1.1 (2014).

Friday, June 20, 2014

Update from the 2014 IASPR Conference

Jodi McAlister's written up a report on the first day of the conference. Here's a taster:
Angela Toscano looked at ancient Greek romance (appropriate, given the conference’s setting!) The Ethiopian Story and read it against twentieth century romance The Windflower, painting a fascinating picture of the way the romance has evolved from being what she called a “romance of adventure” to a “romance of courtship”, the two texts featuring similar tropes but entirely different story arcs. One point she made that I really liked was that romance is in many senses the opposite of epic – while epic is largely concerned with the death of heroes, romance is in many ways about rebirth.

Lesley Ann Smith discussed the theories that many romance writers are familiar with and draw upon when constructing their novels, including Kim Hudson’s notion of the 13-beat virgin’s archetypal journey [...]. This led to a very interesting discussion about the way academic attempts to codify or define the romance are sometimes appropriated as guidelines – for instance, Pamela Regis’ eight elements of the romance novel (from A Natural History of the Romance Novel) being drawn upon by writers in order to better structure their novel. This was a crossover between academia and creative practice that I hadn’t really thought about before – I’d love to know how/if/to what extent authors use scholarly work when they write!

One paper that might be particularly ripe for this kind of mobilisation in the future is Catherine Roach’s, who proposed another alternative (but not incompatible) nine elements for understanding the romance novel, concerned with deep structural priorities – that is, the core claims romance makes about love – rather than formal plot features. This was fascinating and nuanced and I don’t have time to reproduce her argument here (especially because it’s part of a book she has coming out next year which I will definitely be reading), but one claim she made that really resonated with me is that romance is essentially about the word “love” as a verb – that the romance story can be summed up as “find your true love and live happily ever after”.
You can read the rest here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Review of New Approaches


I was pleased to see a review of New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction in the June issue of the Journal of American Culture and the contents were even more gratifying. Carrie Marjorie Peirce concludes with the following statement:
All scholars of popular culture should read this sophisticated and rigorous volume even if they never intend to pick up Fifty Shades of Grey or a romance trilogy by Nora Roberts. The essays in the volume are refreshing: they offer a variety of feminist critique, explore the many subgenres within romance fiction, and, most importantly, demonstrate a genuine appreciation for the fans and writers of the genre. New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction — Critical Essays are model studies of popular culture and should interest all scholars of fiction and literature — popular or otherwise.
Peirce praises the introduction, for offering "a fascinating, comprehensive, and surprisingly concise history of scholarship on popular romance fiction," and gives a brief outline of the contents of the "Seventeen remarkably erudite and instructive essays."

----
Peirce, Carrie Marjorie. Review of New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays. Ed. Sarah S. G. Frantz and Eric Murphy Selinger.  Journal of American Culture 37.2 (2014): 237-38.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Updates to the Romance Wiki Bibliography


I'd been adding new entries to the Romance Wiki Bibliography, watching as Christina Martinez adds some, and only mentioning a few of them here, on Twitter or at my blog because I couldn't write up responses to them all. I've decided that, in future, every so often I'll post updates at Teach Me Tonight. Some of the items may not be easily available but, if nothing else, it's good to be able to see the quantity and range of the work being produced on popular romance. Occasionally there will be older items which had slipped through unnoticed until recently or which have recently been put online.

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Cawelti, John. "Romance: The Once and Future Queen." The Wilson Quarterly 2.3 (1978): 102-109. [Here are a couple of excerpts at my blog. An excerpt of the first page is available via JSTOR here.]

Frederick, Rhonda. "Making Jamaican Love: Colin Channer's Waiting in Vain and Romance-ified Diaspora Identities." Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal Of Criticism 17.3 (2013): 63-84. [This "essay asks, What can a romance novel teach us about being in a Caribbean diaspora?" and here's the full abstract.]
Kania, Richard R. E. "Pirates and Piracy in American Popular Culture." Romanian Journal of English Studies 11.1 (2014): 183–194.  [Includes a section on "Daphné du Maurier and the Romance Novel Pirate." Abstract and full Pdf available here.
Nilson, Maria. "From The Flame and the Flower to Fifty Shades of Grey: Sex, Power and Desire in the Romance Novel," Akademisk Kvarter/Academic Quarter 7 (2013): 119-131. [Available in full.]
Novak, Julia. "Nell Gwyn in Contemporary Romance Novels: Biography and the Dictates of 'Genre Literature'." Contemporary Women's Writing.





Roach, Catherine. " 'Going Native': Aca-Fandom and Deep Participant Observation in Popular Romance Studies." Mosaic 47.2 (2014): 33-49. [Roach discusses how she combines being an academic, a fan of romance, and a romance author. Abstract and excerpt]

Selinger, Eric Murphy. "My Metatextual Romance: Thinking With (and About) Jaane Tu Ya Janne Na." Mosaic 47.2: 51-66. ["Scholars of popular romance fiction have begun to credit the genre with political and aesthetic self-consciousness, a “metatextual turn” that parallels changes in the academic reception of Hindi popular cinema." Abstract and excerpt]
Sonnet, Esther. " 'Erotic Fiction by Women for Women': The Pleasures of Post-Feminist Heterosexuality." Sexualities 2.2 (1999):167-187. ["This article addresses the material construction of female heterosexuality through examination of the mass marketing of women’s pornography - ‘erotic fiction for women by women’ as exemplified by Virgin Publishing’s Black Lace imprint." It's available in full.]
Sonnet, Esther. "What the Woman Reads: Categorising Contemporary Popular Erotica for Women." Consuming for Pleasure: Selected Essays on Popular Fiction. Ed. Julia Hallam and Nickianne Moody. Liverpool: Liverpool John Moores UP and the Association for Research in Popular Fictions, 2000. 246-267. [This article is also available in full and it could be considered an expanded version of the previous one. It puts the Black Lace erotica in the context of other fiction for women with sexual content, including romance "bodice-rippers," and discusses the ways in which these texts are classified/assigned to particular genres/subgenres.]

Sonnet, Esther. "'"Just a book", she said ...': Refiguring Ethnography for the Female Readers of Sexual Fiction." The Audience Studies Reader. Ed. Will Brooker & Deborah Jermyn. London: Routledge, 2002. 254-273. [Available in full]
 
Tang, Yang. "Between Fantasy and Reality: Time-Travel Romance and Media Fandom in Chinese Cyberspace." MA Thesis, Simon Fraser University, 2014. [Available in full]
Tapper, Olivia. "Romance and Innovation in Twenty-First Century Publishing." Publishing Research Quarterly 30.2 (2014): 249-59. [I discussed this at my blog. Abstract here.]

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hell Hath No Inventiveness Like a Romance-Reader Scorned


When Gabby Maait, Kat Mayo and Jennifer Wu discovered that the Sydney Writers' Festival was ignoring popular romance fiction, its writers and readers, they were angry - and then they got inventive.

They made a range of postcards which could be left at the festival to challenge perceptions of the genre. Bearing in mind that romance novels are often judged by their covers:


This "cover remix [...] features an Australian classic, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, re-imagined as a chicklit romance."

This "cover remix [...] features The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde re-imagined as a paranormal romance" because, as Kat points out
Today The Picture of Dorian Gray a classic work of literature, and no critic would dismiss it because they think it will raise men’s expectations of debauched lifestyles. Contrast this to romance fiction, which is blamed for women having unrealistic expectations in relationships, of being porn for women (nothing more than a masturbatory aid rather than an expression of art or a form of literary entertainment), or of being escapist and therefore too light for serious review or analysis.
 

This one gives a clinch cover to Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles ("A classic bodice-ripper ... without the happy ending") to make the point that "in our books women always win."

The covers were designed by Jennifer Wu, who's written about the project here. You can see more of her work on her website. She also has prints/iPhone and iPod cases/skins of the original artwork for these covers available for sale. Here's Tess, The Picture and My Brilliant Career.

There are also two postcards featuring quotes from romance novels (one from Patricia Brigg's Fair Game and the other from Untamed by Anna Cowan). On the reverse, all of the cards carry a quote from Judith Arnold:
To belittle romance fiction is to belittle women. To read romance fiction is to confront the strength of women, the variety of their experience, and the validity of their aspirations and accomplishments
I think Jennifer, Kat and Gabby have given us a very impressive taste of their "aspirations and accomplishments."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Call for Magazine Articles (for a general readership) About Love and Romance

http://images.patronmail.com/pmailemailimages/2979/526412/footer_image_1.jpg?salt=408a37de038b41ca
Call for ArticlesOklahoma Humanities Magazine

The Oklahoma Humanities Council is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This call for article proposals is for the Winter/January 2015 issue of our magazine, which will feature the topic of “love and romance.” Inclusion is honorary; compensation consists of 5 copies of the issue in which your article appears.

You can view the magazine online at:

http://www.okhumanities.org/publications [current issue]          

BE MY VALENTINE

Romantic love is a central theme in our human story. The practices and traditions of courtship are rooted in history and culture—with outcomes that are often funny, sometimes tragic, but always hopeful for a “happy ever after.” In this issue, we’ll explore aspects of the search for passion and intimacy. This is your opportunity to step outside academe and share your knowledge with the public at large [you can skip the bibliography and notes!]. We offer the following prompts to stimulate your thinking, and we welcome other ideas.

      Gifts/Gestures/Traditions of Love:
Love Songs – Love Letters – Flowers – Food – Chocolate – Perfume – Jewelry – Valentines

      Poetry and Literature:
Poets and Love Poems – History of the Romance Novel and its Place in Popular Culture Romantic Themes in Young Adult Fiction – The Personal Romances [or lack thereof] of Romance Authors

      Star-crossed Lovers/Classic Couples:


Adam & Eve
Mark Antony & Cleopatra
Tristan & Isolde
Eloise & Abelard
Romeo & Juliet
Jane Eyre & Rochester
Elizabeth & Darcy
Scarlett & Rhett
      Bonnie & Clyde
      Clark Kent & Lois Lane
      Ricky & Lucy, I Love Lucy
      Ross & Rachel, Friends



      Love at the Movies: Romantic movies as genre [content] and as courtship [date night].

      Dating in the 21st Century: Has social media and the Internet changed courtship? What are the problems—and freedoms—of dating in the information age?

      History and World Cultures: What does history and anthropology reveal about the role of romance in human experience? What are the gifts, rites, and romantic traditions of cultures around the world?

      And don’t forget the male perspective! Maybe John Wayne as romantic hero? Or male authors/filmmakers behind romantic stories?

About our publication: Print readership is approximately 11,500 statewide [donors, universities, public schools, public and prison libraries, cultural organizations, state and national legislators, etc.] with additional distribution via events, bookstores, etc. The publication is distributed free of charge as a part of our public programming.

Previous authors have included: Anita Hill [Reimagining Equality]; Naomi Benaron [Running the Rift]; Michael Sandel [What Money Can’t Buy]; Mickey Edwards [The Parties Versus The People], Krista Tippet [host of NPR’s “On Being”]; Mark Slouka [Harper’s Magazine]; and Kim Stafford [100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do].

Click here for Author Guidelines on the style and tone of articles we publish. We’re looking for a feature article length of 2000-2250 words. Please respond June 4th. If we accept your proposal, the deadline for your text will be Sept. 15th. Please send the following:

·        Short synopsis of your proposed article
·        Brief resume of your experience
·        Samples of your writing that reflect the tone and style of our magazine

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I look forward to hearing from you. ~ Carla Walker, Editor

Carla D. Walker
Editor, Oklahoma HUMANITIES Magazine
Director of Publications
Oklahoma Humanities Council
428 W. California, Ste. 270
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
(405) 235-0280 | Fax (405) 235-0289
carla@okhumanities.org

IASPR 2014 Conference Programme


The programme is now available for the 2014 IASPR Conference in Greece. It opens with two papers I wish I could be there to hear as I've done a bit of (as yet unpublished work) on the topic myself:

Eirini Arvanitaki (University of Hull, UK): Greek Lover or Simply a Hero? Oriental and Occidental Attitudes and Behaviours in Romance Fiction.

Artemis Lamprinou (independent scholar): What Does it Take to Be a Greek Protagonist within a British Popular Romance?

And of course there are many more fascinating papers. The list below is long, but I've tried to make it a bit shorter by focusing on the ones about romance novels. The full list is available here.

Renee Bennett-Kapusniak & Adriana McCleer (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA): Love in the Digital Library: A Search for Racial Heterogeneity in E-Books.

Vassiliki Veros (University of Technology, Australia): A Meta of Romance in Libraries: The impact of the under-representation of romance fiction in metadata and metatexts.

Maria Ramos-Garcia (South Dakota State University, USA): From Contemporary to Dystopian Fiction: The Changing Realities in Paranormal Romance.

Sandra Barletta (Queensland University of Technology, Australia): Old Broads Need Love Too: ‘Women of a Certain Age’ and Romance Fiction.

Catherine Roach (Alabama University, USA): (Another) Eight Essential Elements of the Romance Novel.

Angela Toscano (Kingsborough Community College, USA), Rendering the Romance: image and storytelling in The Ethiopian Story and The Windflower.

Lesley Smith (author): Deep structures of popular romance fiction.

Pamela Regis (McDaniel College, USA): Child’s Play? An American Philosopher’s Historical Romance Novel.

Stacy Holden (Purdue University, USA): Reconcilable Differences: Post-9/11 American Captivity Fantasies in Sheikh Romance.

Hsu-Ming Teo (Macquarie University, Australia): Beyond Desert Passions: Rethinking Orientalist Love, Rereading Sheikh Romance Novels.

Fang-Mei Lin (National Taiwan Normal University): When the East Encounters the Orient.

Su-hsen Liu (National Quemoy University, Taiwan): The Transmutation of Harem Imagination from Translated Desert Romances to Contemporary Chinese Popular Romance in Taiwan.

Maria Nilson (Linnaeus University, Sweden): Love in a Cold Climate? Romance, Power and Desire in the Scandinavian Romance Tradition.

Helene Ehriander (Linnaeus University, Sweden): Simona Ahrnstedt and New Swedish Romance.

Chryssa Sharp: Lindenwood U, St Charles, Missouri : Author as Producer, Brand and Friend: Considering the Structure of the Romance Novel Marketplace.

An Goris (Leuven University, Belgium): Triumphs in the Marketplace: An Updated Look at Romance’s Institutional Matrix.

Jayashree Kamble (LaGuardia Community College, USA): Studying (the) Romance (Novels): Negotiating the Journey from Doctoral Research to Book Publication.

Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud (Brunei University): How Indonesian Religious Romance engages with Popular Romance Tropes in the West.

Eric Selinger (DePaul University, USA): I Want to be Your Husband, Not Your God: the Allusive Art of Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love.

Jodi McAlister (Macquarie University, Australia): Falling in love with virginity: the changing relationship between romantic love and virginity loss in the Harlequin Mills & Boon romance.

Sarah Ficke (Marymount University, USA): Tinkering: Physical construction and emotional connection in the Iron Seas world.

Mallory Jagodzinski (Bowling Green State University, USA): “He Didn’t Seem Indian”: Exploring and Analyzing the Construction of Race in Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows.

Friday, May 02, 2014

CFP: Emergence of Popular Genres


I've just been made aware of the following call for papers. Since romance is one of the best-selling popular genres, I think it would be a shame if there weren't something about it in this volume.


The Making of Popular Culture

Call for contributions to a collection of essays, edited by Professor John Storey

This is a request for chapter proposals for a book I will edit with the working title The Making of Popular Culture. The aim of the book is to present a critical examination of the popular culture that emerged with the changes that transformed Britain in the nineteenth century from a rural to an urban society and from an agrarian to an industrial mode of production. I am looking for work on all aspects of the development of popular culture in this period, but would particularly welcome chapters on the following:

Advertising;
Music hall;
Newspapers and magazines;
Popular fiction (especially in relation to the emergence of popular genres);
Popular photography;
Popular theatre (especially stage melodrama);
Pornography;
Seaside holiday;
Sport (covering its development as a whole or focusing on particular sports); Transition from rural to urban popular culture.

It is also hoped that the topics covered will involve analysis that increases our understanding of the relations between culture and power. This might be in terms of ‘race’, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender, or any other marker of social difference.

Chapters should be 6,000 words, contain an overview of a particular type of popular culture, make an argument for its significance, and be written in a style that is accessible to undergraduate students studying cultural studies or other related disciplines.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a brief biographical note to me at john.storey@sunderland.ac.uk. The closing date for proposals is 15th May 2014.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Teaching Romance: Duke Will Certainly Do


Early last month Laura Florand announced that she and Katharine Ashe (Katharine Dubois) were
very excited to announce our Fall 2014 course at Duke on The Romance Novel. We’re delighted to be engaging in this discussion in such a dynamic intellectual environment and excited about the opportunities we’ll have to extend the discussion beyond the university walls, as well.
It took me a while to find the details on Duke's website but now I have, so here's a link and the full details given there:
Fall 2014

The Romance Novel: History, Culture And Form

HISTORY 248S - 01

Explores the history, development and form of the modern romance novel and its role in popular American culture. Birth of the novel; reception and criticism of early romance novels; historical and literary contexts. Britain and the U.S. Authorship: women-authored vs. men-authored, and legitimacy. Standardization of the form of the romance novel and the genre; expectations and innovation. Gender roles: models of femininity and masculinity. Female agency, sexuality, class and race in romance novels and their readership. Late twentieth-century/early twenty-first century boom in the romance industry: Why and to what end? There is a significant writing component to this course.

[Edited to add: Katharine Ashe and Laura Florand let me know via Twitter that the course was likely to be postponed until Spring 2015.]

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Whose Affair Is It, Anyway? (Part 3 in an increasingly painful series)

So who is this set of posts about, anyway?

I've gotten some comments on post #2 and on Twitter that suggest it's pretty much all about me, here.  So let's put Berlatsky aside for a while, and think about that.

I haven't blogged here much in quite some time.  In that time, let's be honest, I haven't kept up with the romance blogosphere.  So maybe what's going on here is that Berlatsky's piece, or at least my email in it, made public my own diminishing engagement with the field--not in academic circles, but where it lives most lively, in posts and discussions on line?

Read most critically, those email exchanges (and maybe these posts as well) reveal that I've lost sight of two goals I had when I got into this business:  to give credit where credit was due, and to resist the temptation (and outside pressure) to set myself up as an expert, when I wasn't.

Has the JPRS editorship, and the PRP work, and the teaching, made me forget those goals?

I'm going to shut up for a while, and think about all this.