Bowling Green State University Libraries announced that Elizabeth Brownlow, a Ph.D. student in American Culture Studies, has been named as the 2019 recipient of The Roberta Gellis Memorial Paper Award. Brownlow’s paper “Distinguishing Feminist Readerships and Shaping Genre in the Online Community Romance Novels for Feminists” explores the ways in which “community members resist the image of the “typical” romance reader and the stigma attached to it by engaging with the genre through feminist critique and the sharing of personal experience to “save face” in a world that tells them one cannot be both feminist and a romance reader.” The Roberta Gellis Memorial Award honors the best graduate and undergraduate papers written using the resources of the Ray & Pat Browne Library for Popular Culture Studies and pertaining to the fields of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or romance fiction.Brownlow gave a paper at last year's BGSU conference on researching the romance. It was on a related topic, and here's the abstract:
How do online spaces allow feminist romance readers to define and negotiate feminism for themselves? How do these readers define which romance novels are feminist, and which are not? In this case study, I will look at the popular romance review blog, Romance Novels for Feminists (RNFF). In 2009, Jackie C. Horne, a romance novelist, former children’s book editor, and literary scholar, established RNFF to review and comment on romance novels in all subgenres. RNFF does not explicitly state criteria for book selection, only stating that it “strives to review only books that in its opinion espouse and/or encourage feminist value.” RNFF’s reviews of feminist romance novels are based on a no-grading system intended to open up conversations about feminism and fiction. The reviews on RNFF allow for dialogue amongst readers, responding to both the books themselves and to Horne’s reading of them. This paper will explore the traits that Horne homes in on for her selection of “feminist romance” criteria as well as the traits that blog responders find most important. I will focus particularly on claims of sexist and feminist contradictions in these reviews. Moments of agreement and disagreement between reviewer and responders suggest romance readers are using online spaces such as RNFF to determine what feminism means to them as well as to form and articulate opinions on what does and does not count as feminist in the genre.