Monday, March 25, 2019

Race and the RITAs


The announcement of the finalists for the Romance Writers' of America's 2019 RITA awards has caused dismay and led to calls for change. Earlier this year, there were similar sentiments expressed after the publication of the Ripped Bodice's report on the state of racial diversity in romance publishing in 2018. The authors of that report had
hoped that providing clear data would contribute to the work that authors of color had been doing for decades to prove that there is widespread systemic racism within romance publishing [...but] there has been zero progress in the last 3 years. [...] For every 100 books published by the leading romance publishers in 2018, only 7.7 were written by people of color. That compares to 6.2% in 2017 and 7.8 in 2016.
The figures for this year's RITA finalists are, if anything, even worse:
US Census data on race/ethnicity (2016)
White: 61.3%
POC: 40.9%

2018 RITA Finalists by race/ethnicity
White: 97.3%
POC: 4%
Bronwen Fleetwood analysed the data for the RITAs over a 20-year period: "There were 397 data points in total, including winners and finalists. Of these only 17 were BIPOC. That’s 4.28%" while "Out of all the winners (241), only ten were BIPOC. That’s 4.1%".

As Esi Sogah, Senior Editor at Kensington Books, has said "This is an industry-wide problem and readers/consumers are a part of the industry, not separate from it. It is very hard to root out biases in those who refuse to acknowledge they have them".


What the analysis of the RITA results and the Ripped Bodice report findings provide is evidence of institutional racism. Institutional racism is
“the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin”. It is seen in “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantages minority ethnic people”.
As Sogah observed, biases are often unacknowledged. It is important to note that
Empirical psychology of the past few decades has again and again shown that the workings of our minds are not transparent to us, and that many of us harbour and are influenced by implicit biases. [...] This sort of bias means that people who – sincerely – report that they are not racist, and that they are committed to fair and non-discriminatory treatment, might nonetheless harbour implicit race biases, and be influenced by these biases in the way they behave. These biases are described as ‘implicit' because they are not easy to detect (we cannot easily check whether we have them or are influenced by them), and because they operate automatically, and outside the reach of direct control.
Implicit racial biases are likely to vary, with different stereotypes being associated with different racial/ethnic groups. As LaQuette and others have pointed out, the lack of winners and finalists is particularly glaring with respect to black authors:
there have been no black Rita winners [...] the issue at hand is black women who are being discriminated against (both authors & characters).
As a result of the long-standing institutionalised racism in the RITAs, some black authors no longer enter, or have never entered, their works in the competition. Beverly Jenkins, the 2017 RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, is one of them:

In other contexts
There are various strategies that have been tested as ways of tackling implicit racial biases. They range from trying to change the biases themselves – a sort of cognitive training that should overturn traces of negative stereotypes in our minds – to putting in place structural measures and checks to try to stop biases from impacting on decisions and actions. Such measures might involve new ways operating – such as considering whether to exclude information about race from a decision-procedure in order to avoid potential biases - or new ways of checking each other's decisions and holding each other accountable.
In the context of romance publishing it would not be at all desirable to alter published novels in order to "exclude information about race" with respect to the protagonists. In addition, it appears that some authors would strongly resist the suggestion that they have any biases, and would therefore probably not be open to some "sort of cognitive training" prior to judging the contest. However, some other strategies could perhaps be implemented. Cat Sebastian, for example, has proposed the following:
While the peer-judging process is a traditional part of the RITAs, the core problem with the current state of the awards is that the pool of judges (largely other RITA entrants) is operating with inherent biases. Any solution needs to start by addressing the fact that a biased judging pool selects which books will final. I propose that we end peer-judging and instead put this process into the hands of a diverse committee. Instead of requiring authors to nominate their own books, nominations could come from demographically diverse committees organized according to subgenre; these could consist of authors who are not entering the RITAs as well as a diverse group of librarians and reviewers.
The full proposal is here and discussion about it can be found here. I include it not to endorse it (since I'm not a member of the RWA, and moreover I know nothing about the complexities of how to run a competition of this kind) but to demonstrate that there may be measures which could be implemented which would counter the impact of the biases afflicting the current process.

Edited to add: the issue is being discussed in various locations, including the private PAN forums (for published authors who are members of the RWA). I do not have access to those but I got a flavour of the discussions via Twitter.

Here's African American author Piper Huguley's response to comments made elsewhere by Jennifer Beckstrand, one of the finalists, rebutting the "implication that I don't work on my craft and that must be [why] I haven't finaled in the RITA yet. Your statement about there being no racism in RWA is flat out wrong."

Cherry Adair, the 2019 RWA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient thought criticism should wait in order to allow award recipients to enjoy their achievements.


But Joanna Shupe (another of the finalists) argued that it was right to have debate now:


Susanna Kearsley, another finalist, withdrew her nomination, saying that her novel "is dedicated, by name, to the people my own ancestors held in slavery, and I can't properly honour their lives and memory, nor pay respect to the diversity of characters in my book by participating in an award that doesn't fully represent that same diversity"

Ann Aguirre withdrew hers too

Among other things, she stated on her website that "At this point, the RITA is broken, and the award judging process needs to be completely reconsidered."

Courtney Milan (who won a RITA in 2017 and is also a lawyer) noted that

The point of the RITAs—and I mean this legally—is to raise industry awareness of excellence in romance fiction. RWA is a trade organization. Legally, it cannot engage in activities with the purpose of benefiting individual members. [...] The legal purpose of the RITA contest is to promote excellence in the romance industry. It is NOT to make authors feel good. [...] At this point, between the “uh nominations mean no organizational endorsement” shuffle that we had about Nazi romance and this, it’s pretty clear that the organization does not, and CAN not endorse this award as having any relation to industry excellence. What is RWA’s non-profit justification for engaging in this activity, then? Because if this is not accomplishing a legitimate purpose related to our non-profit status, than shouldn’t the contest be considered and accounted for as a for-profit activity?
Edited again to add that later on 25 March the RWA President, HelenKay Dimon, issued a statement which says, among other things, that:
The 2019 RITA finalists were announced late last week. While we are happy for our finalists, we cannot ignore the lack of representation on the finalist list or the shadow this lack of representation casts on RWA. The Board apologizes to our members of color and LGBTQ+ members for putting them in a position where they feel unwanted and unheard. While the Board cannot undo the harm inflicted this year, it does make the following points and commitments: The Board affirmatively states that there is a serious problem with reader bias in the judging of the RITAs. This is most evident in the preliminary round of the RITAs. [...] The Board is currently investigating options and reviewing member feedback to change the scoring and judging of the RITAs.

Saturday, March 09, 2019

New to the Romance Wiki Bibliography: African Love Stories, Masculinity, Pirates, Pregnancy, Virginity and Some Romance History

Here's what's new to the Romance Wiki Bibliography:

Clasen, Tricia. 2017. 
“Masculinity and Romantic Myth in Contemporary YA Romance.” In Gender(ed) Identities: Critical Rereadings of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, edited by Tricia Clasen and Holly Hassel. New York: Routledge, pp. 228–241.
Gehrmann, Susanne, 2018. 
“Remediating Romance: Forms and Functions of New Media in Contemporary Love Stories from Togo and South Africa”. Africa Today 65.1: 65-84.
Harris, Racheal, 2018. 
“Really Romantic? Pirates in Romantic Fiction.” Pirates in History and Popular Culture, edited by Antonio Sanna (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company Publishing), pp. 109–119. Excerpt
McAlister, Jodi Ann, 2015. 
"Romancing the Virgin: Female Virginity Loss and Love in Popular Literature in the West". PhD thesis, Macquarie University, 2015. [Abstract and link to pdf]
 
Rosanowski, Annika, 2019. 
"Can She Have It All? Pregnancy Narratives in Contemporary Category Romance", Journal of Popular Romance Studies 8 (2019).
Waller, Philip, 2006. 
Writers, Readers, and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [See chapters "In Cupid's Chains: Charles Garvice" (681-701) and "Hymns and Heroines: Florence Barclay" (702-728).]

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Ghostwriting of Romance: An Issue for Romance Scholarship?


Courtney Milan gives details on her blog of why she was obliged to conclude "that Christiane Serruya has copied, word-for-word, multiple passages from my book The Duchess War" and it then emerged that more authors had had their works plagiarised too. This latest plagiarism scandal has, however, also led to revelations concerning ghostwriting in the genre.

Shiloh Walker has explained that:
there are any number of reasons why some works are written by ghosts.

#1 Well-known names like V.C. Andrews, who…well, kind of died just a few books into the successful series. The works & rights reverted to her family. The choice to use a GW here is pretty obvious. The Sweet Valley books about the Wakefield twins were largely written by ghosts.

But the worlds, characters, etc for both of these huge series wouldn’t have existed without the original author & creator. Ghosts made the worlds bigger and kept them going after death in Andrews’ case, and expanded them even more for the SV world, taking the girls down to junior high, onto college, etc in Pascal’s situation. The world is huge and has been widely enjoyed by so many and it wouldn’t have been possible without ghosts.

So…simply keeping a world going or expanding on an existing world or series is one reason to use a GW.

#2 One project I took early on was from an author who had the bare bones of a project already done, and I don’t just mean the outline. It was a solid piece and well done, but this client couldn’t quite finish it and wanted help fleshing it out so it could be published. The basic work, characters, world-building, story arc, character growth, resolution was done, but the client knew it needed more. I was hired to provide that and did so. My words helped fill in the story, but the story itself wasn’t mine. It belongs to that author.

#3 Other projects I’ve taken from a semi-regular client were series-based from a popular series that did well for a particular author but this author wanted to move on from that series and focus on a new one that was taking up a great deal of time.  Readers wanted the initial series to continue. Author wanted to write newer one which was also gaining traction. Author didn’t write fast enough to do both, plus some authors don’t shift gears well, going from one genre to the next, as easily as others and these were two vastly different genres. I was hired to GW the primary series. The series, the characters, the ideas were never mine. I wrote from rough outlines, using plot lines and already defined character profiles, providing stories that wouldn’t have existed without the author’s previously established work. Those worlds belong to that author.

#4 Majority of my projects come from one primary client, an already established author who had a presence long before I was hired. I’m given very thorough, chapter by chapter outlines, very thorough character backgrounds & profiles. I’ve written short stories that aren’t as long as the initial material provided to me by my main client.

I’ve also had several other projects from clients similar to this, people who have the ideas, even the character and storyline they want, but they want a GW to finish the book itself.  I’m paid by the hour, I research, and provide original content. When done, I return the project, knowing it’s not mine. It never was, because the ideas, the characters, the plotline, weren’t mine to begin with.
Like Kaetrin, I can't help wonder who the authors are who use ghostwriters:


It seems to me that this has implications for the study of popular romance, at very least when the focus is on an individual author and trying to understand the trajectory of their life's work. It could potentially affect other types of scholarship. For example, computer analysis of some romance novels suggested that "vocabulary decay is a result of progressive amounts of linguistic chunking—due to author fatigue or a desire to produce a more readable narrative" (Elliott). If one author starts a novel, writes an outline for the rest, and it is completed by a second author, that would obviously have implications for this kind of analysis.

More broadly, suspicions about ghostwriting in the genre aren't likely to help dispel widely-held beliefs that all romances are just mass-produced products rather than individual works of literature.

Edited to add: Nora Roberts has now written about her experiences of being plagiarised and she puts this case into a wider context:
So this plagiarist lifted lines, bits, chunks big and small, from a slew of authors and books, mashed them together then hired ghosts off a cheap labor site to cobble them into a book.
This was her MO.

She did this for–I think my information is–29 books, put them up on Amazon, used Kindle Unlimited for some. KU pays by the page read. The freaking page read.

This culture, this ugly underbelly of legitimate self-publishing is all about content. More, more, more, fast, fast, fast. Because that’s how it pays. Amazon’s–imo–deeply flawed system incentivizes the fast and more. It doesn’t have to be good, doesn’t have to be yours–as I’m learning hiring ghosts is not really rare. Those who live and work in this underbelly don’t care about the work, the creativity, the talent and effort and time it takes to craft a story. [...]

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, all of this. I’m not nearly done. Because the culture that fosters this ugly behavior has to be pulled out into the light and burned to cinders.
I hope things do indeed start to change. Another point which Robert makes also gives me hope: she observes that "it’s always a reader" who spots the plagiarism. That readers do spot it is an indication of readers' engagement with, and love for, individual books in the genre.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Summer Archive Exploration Opportunity

Popular Culture Summer Research Institute at Bowling Green State University

June 23-June 28, 2019 
“Topics in Popular Culture: Researching, Writing,and Workshopping Your Ideas”  

"The institute will introduce 20-25 scholars from across the country and abroad to the research and pedagogical treasures of BGSU’s very special collections." These include the Romance Writers of America's archives, an extensive collection of romance novels and more papers and objects related to popular romance.

Some participants may receive travel grants. "If a grant is awarded, the registrant is still required to pay the $125 registration fee. It is also expected that the grant recipient present their research at a regional or national PCA/ACA conference within two years of the institute." Participants would also have to pay for accommodation.

More details here: https://pcaaca.org/news-events/popular-culture-summer-institute. The deadline for applications is 26 April 2019.

Friday, January 04, 2019

HEAs and "A Righted Universe"

Jennifer Porter's written a long thread on Twitter which examines a particular element of the Happy Ever After in more detail. The whole thread can be found here (via threadreaderapp) or here (at Twitter, but you'll have to scroll to the top). That element is what Porter (drawing on a post by Super Wendy) calls "a righted universe", and Porter states that "If the universe isn’t right, many of use reject the HEA/FN even if it exists".


I don't want to repeat the implications which Jennifer Porter draws out. They're in her thread, so there's no need to repeat them all here. But I do think that this insight into how readers feel about "a righted universe" enhances Pamela Regis's analysis of the essential elements of romance. Regis does, in fact, allude to the "righted universe". First of all, she offers "society defined" (31) as one of the essential elements of romance:

As she says, "This society is in some way flawed". Later, Regis returns to the issue of the flawed society:

The "accidental element" is the scene which demonstrates that "Society has reconstituted itself" (38) but, Regis says, "this scene is promised in every romance, even if it is not dramatized" (38). One could, then, argue that "Society reconstituted" (i.e. "a righted universe") is, for many readers, a ninth essential element.

---
Regis, Pamela. A Natural History of the Romance Novel. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.

Monday, December 31, 2018

New to the Wiki: Final List of 2018

I probably shouldn't have let this post grow for so long as it's rather long now.
Abdullah-Poulos, Layla, 2016. 
“Muslim Love American Style: Islamic-American Hybrid Culture and Native-Born American Black Muslim Romance.” MA thesis, SUNY Empire State College, 2016. Excerpt
Abdullah-Poulos, Layla, 2018. 
"The Stable Muslim Love Triangle - Triangular Desire in African American Muslim Romance Fiction." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 7.
Bhasin, Neeta, 2018. 
"Romancing the 'Illegal' Immigrant", Journal of Literature and Art Studies 8.10: 1459-1474. [Focuses on Serena Bell's Yours to Keep.]
 
Driscoll, Beth, Lisa Fletcher, Kim Wilkins and David Carter, 2018. 
"The Publishing Ecosystems of Contemporary Australian Genre Fiction." Creative Industries Journal 11.2: 203-221. Abstract
Fernández Rodríguez, Carolina, 2018. 
"Del cuento de hadas a la novela romántica: Una visión de la sub/literatura como gimnasio mental y laboratorio de sub/versión cultural", Repercusión de la lectura y otras formas de arte en nuestra vida y nuestra obra: Memorias del VII coloquio de LART, Centro Español de Manhattan, Nueva York, 26-28 de octubre de 2016. Ed. Paquita Suárez Coalla, Sonia Rivera Valdés, Ainoa Íñigo. West Hurley, NY: Editorial Campana, 2018. 69-95.
 
Fong, Katrina, Justin B. Mullin and Raymond A. Mar, 2013. 
"What You Read Matters: The Role of Fiction Genre in Predicting Interpersonal Sensitivity". Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 7.4 (2013): 370-376.
 
Gillis, Stacy, 2018. 
“Manners, Money, and Marriage: Austen, Heyer, and the Literary Genealogy of the Regency Romance”. After Austen: Reinventions, Rewritings, Revisitings. Ed. Lisa Hopkins. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 81-101. [This focuses on the "social and sexual precarity" of female characters, in particular in Heyer's Regency Buck.]
 
Glennemeier, Jaelyn, 2018. 
“And he was an Arab!:” Imperial Femininity and Pleasure in E. M. Hull's 1919 Desert Romance, The Sheik', Honors thesis, University of Kansas. Abstract and link to pdf [Bonnie Loshbaugh reports that this contains details of "a 1922 interview with [E. M.] Hull in Nash’s and Pall Mall Magazine, and implies that it includes a photograph of Hull in front of her home." With the centenary of the publication of The Sheik coming up, it might be nice if someone could put this online.]
Gunne, Sorcha. 
Gender, Genre and Modernity: Popular Romance Fiction in Ireland’, Handbook of Modern Irish Fiction, Ed. L Harte. Oxford: Oxford University Press [in press]. [I've added this to the section about chick lit, because that's what the content mostly seems to discuss.]
 
Hopkins, Lisa, 2018. 
"Georgette Heyer: What Austen Left Out". After Austen: Reinventions, Rewritings, Revisitings. Ed. Lisa Hopkins. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 61-79. [This chapter looks in detail at military metaphors/language used by Heyer, as well as her allusions to Austen.]
 
McAlister, Jodi, 2015. 
Breaking the Hard Limits: Romance, Pornography, and the Question of Genre in the Fifty Shades Trilogy.’ Analyses/Rereadings/Theories 3.2: 23-33.
 
McAlister, Jodi, 2018. 
Defining and Redefining Popular Genres: The Evolution of ‘New Adult’ Fiction.’ Australian Literary Studies 33.4 (2018).
 
Parnell, Claire, 2018. 
Models of Publishing and Opportunities for Change: Representations in Harlequin, Montlake and Self-Published Romance Novels.’ Australian Literary Studies 33.4.
 
Sanders, Lise Shapiro, 2018. 
"Making the Modern Girl: Fantasy, Consumption, and Desire in Romance Weeklies of the 1920s". Women's Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain, 1918-1939: The Interwar Period. Ed. Catherine Clay, Maria DiCenzo, Barbara Green, and Fiona Hackney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 
Sewell Matter, Laura, 2007. 
“Pursuing the Great Bad Novelist”, The Georgia Review 61.3 (2007): 444-459.
 
Turner, Ellen, 2014. 
'The Sheik Returns: Imitations and Parodies of the Desert Romance', in Hype: Bestsellers and Literary Cultures, ed. Jon Helgason, Sara Kärrholm, and Ann Steiner (Lund, Sweden: Nordic Academic Press), pp. 185-202.
Vani, Christina, 2018. 
Immortal Words: The Language and Style of the Contemporary Italian Undead-Romance Novel. Ph.D. thesis. University of Toronto, 2018.
 
Williams, Elizabeth W., 2019. 
"Queering Settler Romance: The Reparative Eugenic Landscape in Nora Strange's Kenyan Novels", Archiving Settler Colonialism: Culture, Space and Race. Ed. Yu-ting Huang and Rebecca Weaver-Hightower. Abingdon: Routledge, 2019. 190-204 ??. ["Williams reads Nora Strange’s interwar romance novels as they archive settler preoccupation with white sexuality in a settled space. In Strange’s novels, a repressed and declining Britain needs the “Edenic paradise” of Kenya to let loose British sexual vitality. The Kenyan environment tests would-​be parents for their moral and physical fitness in producing good settler children and awakens healthy heterosexual desires to ready parents for reproductive duty."]
Happy reading and happy 2019!

Monday, December 10, 2018

2019 Recipients of the RWA Academic Research Grant

These have now been announced:

E.E. Lawrence
“She didn’t really look like a librarian to him”: An Analysis of Professional Stereotype Reaffirmation and Resistance in Popular Romance Novels Authored by Librarians

RWA awarded funding to E.E. Lawrence to explore depictions of librarians in romance novels authored by librarians.

Dr. Jodi McAlister and Claire Parnell
#RomanceClass: Mapping the Genre World of English-Language Romance in the Philippines

RWA awarded funding to Dr. Jodi McAlister and Claire Parnel to conduct research on English-Language romance fiction in the Philippines through author interviews and other fieldwork.

Anna Michelson
Redefining the Romance: Classification and Social Change in Romance Genre Fiction
RWA awarded funding to Anna Michelson to conduct source and field research on classification and social change in romance fiction.


Congratulations!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

CFP: Special JPRS issue on The Sheik

Special Issue Call for Papers  


100 Years of The Sheik

Since its publication in 1919, E. M. Hull’s The Sheik has been a sensation. Beloved by its contemporary readers, the novel’s cultural impact in Britain and North America has been significant and enduring. Considered “the ur-romance novel of the twentieth century” (Regis, 2003, p. 115), The Sheik has been extensively studied by academics and students alike, who have written on the novel’s treatment of gender, sexuality, and race as well as its position in literary modernism.

This special issue and connected symposium will mark the centenary of the original publication of The Sheik. We are seeking submissions for original research articles and short reflective pieces on a number of topics relating to The Sheik and its legacy. The symposium will take place in Birmingham, UK in September 2019 with the publication of the special issue also happening that month. A CFP for the symposium will be circulated separately.

For the special issue, we welcome proposals for original research articles (5000-10,000 words) on any aspect of The Sheik including, but not limited to:
  • The Sheik and masculinity (post-war crisis of masculinity, masculinity and race, hegemonic masculinities)
  • Adaptations of The Sheik (including the 1921 film)
  • Audience and reception studies (of the book and its adaptations)
  • The legacy of The Sheik (including its sequel)
  • The Sheik and gender and sexuality
  • The Sheik and literary modernism
We also invite proposals for short pieces (1000-2000 words) on teaching and learning The Sheik from teachers and students.

The deadline for 250-word abstracts is 1 December 2018 with full drafts due by 1 March 2019. Please send abstracts and direct any enquiries to Dr Amy Burge at a.burge@bham.ac.uk.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

CFP: EUPOP 2019

Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, July 16th – 18th, 2019

Deadline: 28th February, 2019

EUPOP 2018 will explore European popular culture in all its various forms. This includes, but is by no means limited to, the following topics: European Film (past and present), Television, Music, Costume and Performance, Celebrity, The Body, Fashion, New Media, Popular Literature and Graphic Novels, Queer Studies, Sport, Curation, and Digital Culture. We also welcome abstracts which reflect the various ways of how the idea of relationship between Europe and popular culture could be formed and how the current turmoil in European identity, union, its borders and divisions are portrayed in popular cultural themes and contents.

More details here.

Monday, October 08, 2018

New to the Romance Wiki Bibliography: Gothic Romances, Heyer, Medical Women, Pakistan, Sexuality, Spain, The Sheik

Ali, Abu-Bakar, 2018. 
"Agency, Gender, Nationalism, and the Romantic Imaginary in Pakistan", Routledge Companion to Pakistani Anglophone Writing. Ed. Aroosa Kanwal and Saiyma Aslam. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. 225-235. Abstract
Arnold-Forster, Agnes and Alison Moulds. 
"Medical women in popular fiction", The BMJ Opinion, September 26, 2018. [Includes details about Mona Maclean, Medical Student (1892), a medical romance written by one of the earliest "registered female practitioners"]
Drakulić-Ilić, Slavenka. 1984. 
“Zašto žene vole bajke?” [“Why do women like fairy tales?”], Smrtni grijesi feminizma. Ogledi u mudologiji [Mortal Sins of Feminism. Essays on Testicology]. Zagreb: Znanje, 1984. 33-45. The article was first published on the pages of Start, no. 299. 3 July 1980. [Details from Lóránd Zsófia's dissertation, "“Learning a Feminist Language”: The Intellectual History of Feminism in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s", Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, 2014, in which it is stated that "In the essay “Why do women like fairy tales?” Drakulić argues that despite their simplicity, trivial romance novels mean an escape from the everyday reality of state socialism." (208-209) and "examines the popularity of trivial romances (in Serbo-Croatian: herz-roman) available at the newsstands and also published in women’s magazines as a series. She sees “erotic” men’s magazines as a counterpart to the cheap romantic stories, as both started to flourish on the market as a result of the “sexual revolution” [...] and both use traditional and stereotypical images of women, which do not exclude, but complement each other (36). It shows both the double-faced nature of the sexual revolution and the consistency in the logic of patriarchy. Drakulić describes the basic plot of the romance novels and how they present clichés of femininity and masculinity, romantic love and happy marriage (35). Despite their triviality, Drakulić emphasises their social relevance: only one title, Život [Life] was sold in 3.600.000 copies in 1978 (34). There is a demand for the genre, what cannot be left out of consideration, even if there was not domestic, Yugoslav production of these, those available were mostly imported from Western, English-speaking countries. Besides the presentation of traditional gender roles, a regular objection against the trivial romances is their low literary quality: the media should inform and educate, and one’s free time should be used creatively [...]. Drakulić analyses an unpublished survey by the publisher Vjesnik on the readers’ habits and remarks of reading trivial romances. All in all, the conclusion is that the majority of the readers are overburdened women who do not have either time or strength to read anything more complexly written, whereas they do notice the poor literary quality of the novels. These readers, adds Drakulić, lack real relationships and love – exactly the dream, the “fairy tale” offered by these booklets. Drakulić claims that simply “by abolishing and stigmatising this kind of a press, we do not abolish the demand/need” of women in Yugoslavia (44)." (232-33)]
 
Paige, Lori A., 2018. 
The Gothic Romance Wave: A Critical History of the Mass Market Novels, 1960-1993. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2018. Excerpt
 
Pérez-Gil, María del Mar, 2018. 
"Representations of Nation and Spanish Masculinity in Popular Romance Novels: The Alpha Male as “Other”", The Journal of Men’s Studies. Online First September 23, 2018. Abstract
Suwanban, Pauline, 2018. 
"From Exhalation to Transformation: The Female Body in the Orientalist Romance". Dandelion: Postgraduate Arts Journal & Research Network 9.1 Abstract and link to pdf
 
Wei, Po-Yu, Rick, 2018. 
“She is a Jade”: A Georgian Gaming Woman Re-imagined in Georgette Heyer’s Faro’s Daughter’, Crossings 9: 122-131.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

News Round-up and Calls for Papers


On 29 August the Journal of Popular Romance Studies was added to the European Reference Index for the Humanities and Social Sciences (ERIH PLUS). This is an indicator of the quality of the journal and increases its visibility:
The main aim of ERIH has been from its very beginnings to enhance global visibility of high quality research in the humanities published in academic journals in various European languages all over Europe. The index enables researchers to better understand and promote the national and international importance of their research. (About)
Entertainment Weekly report that
Bea and Leah Koch, the sister duo who founded and own Los Angeles’ romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice, have signed an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television [...]. The Koch sisters will partner with Sony to develop romance-focused projects for television based on their unique connection to romance readers and authors.
A symposium is being held at the University of Warwick on 28th September, on the topic of "Imagining ‘We’ in the Age of ‘I’: Romance and Social Bonding in Contemporary Culture". Speakers include:
  • Abhija Ghosh (Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) on ‘Orchestrating Romance: Nineties Romance Genre, Film Song and Bollywood’
  • Diana Holmes (University of Leeds), on ‘Plaisirs d’amour: love and popular fiction in contemporary France’ 
  • Lucy Sheerman (independent researcher) on ‘Reader I Mirrored Him: the recasting of romance tropes in Jane Eyre fanfiction'
If that makes you want to write a paper about love, then the call for papers for "Love, etc", A conference sponsored by the “Uses of Literature” Research Project at the University of Southern Denmark, October 3-4, 2019 might be of interest. The closing date for submissions is November 15 2018.

Alternatively, there are still a few days left before the closing date for submissions to the ACLA Book Lovers seminar: "Book Lovers welcomes abstracts that touch on any aspect of love". Abstracts must be received by Thursday, September 20, 2018 at 9 a.m. EST. The American Comparative Literature Association's 2019 Annual Meeting will take place at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, March 7th-10th, 2019.

There's also been a call for papers for a panel on Muslim Popular Culture in Asia: Aesthetics and Politics at the German Association for Asian Studies’ (DGA)'s biannual Conference on Contemporary Asia, which will be held in April 3–5, 2019 in Würzburg, Germany. The deadline for all paper proposal submissions is October 7, 2018, 6:00pm (CET).


Kate Cuthbert's keynote address to the 2018 Romance Writers of Australia conference, on "the romance novel and representations of sexuality after #MeToo" is now available online. It discusses hope, and how romance has a history of growing and changing.

In August a team from the Surgery and Emotion project introduced visitors to the Science Museum to Mills & Boon romances:
One participant said it was ‘such a fun station’ and that they’d ‘learnt a lot about Mills & Boon books’. Another commented it was ‘so fun’, ‘a good idea for an activity’, and that it encouraged her to think about ‘the cultural impact of medical fiction’. One attendee described it as an ‘awesome stall’, explaining that they ‘didn’t know anything about Mills & Boon before, it’s really made me think’. Finally, one visitor remarked that it was a ‘super enjoyable’ activity, and that they’d ‘learnt a lot about how the novels were ahead of their time, regarding females’ roles in a medical setting’.
More details here.

Sourcebooks is releasing new editions "of 11 of Heyer’s Regency romances as part of the Georgette Heyer Signature Collection" (Keira Soleore). The books in the "Georgette Heyer Signature Collection" include
praise from scores of bestselling authors, sharing their love of Heyer and why she’s such a gem. Each book includes a fun glossary of Regency slang, plus an Afterword by Heyer’s official biographer Jennifer Kloester, with fascinating insights about what Heyer thought about her own books and what was going on in her life at the time she was writing them. A Reading Group Guide helps readers delve into discussion of Heyer’s time and ours, and why the more things change, the more they stay the same (human nature for sure!).
Keira Soleore has interviewed Jennifer Kloester.


Saturday, September 01, 2018

New to the Romance Wiki: Emotions, Ethnocentrism, Evangelicals, Parody, Readers, Robin Hood, Translations

This is a long list: I should have posted an update earlier.

Capps, Stephanie Carol, 2017. 
"What You Read and What You Believe: Genre Exposure and Beliefs about Relationships". Master of Science thesis. University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma, 2017. Pdf [This seems similar to the article below by Stern et al. I wonder if Capps changed surname between 2017 and 2018, as the first name and second initial are identical, as is the title of the paper.]
Jackson, Cia, 2017. 
"Harlequin Romance: The Power of Parody and Subversion." The Ascendance of Harley Quinn: Essays on DC's Enigmatic Villain. Ed. Shelley E. Barba and Joy M. Perrin. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2017. 16-??. Excerpt [This is about how the DC comics parody romance novel conventions via the figure of Harley Quinn.]
 
Johnson, Valerie B., 2018. 
"What a Canon Wants: Robin Hood, Romance Novels, and Carrie Lofty’s What a Scoundrel Wants", Robin Hood and the Outlaw/ed Literary Canon, ed. Lesley Coote and Alexander L. Kaufman. ???: Routledge, 2018. 184-??? Excerpt
Lee, Zi-Ying and Min-Hsiu Liao, 2018. 
'The “Second” Bride: The Retranslation of Romance Novels'. Babel. Published online first 27 August 2018. Abstract and full pre-publication version
 
McAlister, Jodi, 2018. 
‘ “Feelings Like the Women in Books”: Declarations of Love in Australian Romance Novels, 1859–1891’, Emotions: History, Culture, Society 2.1: 91-112. Abstract
 
Neal, Lynn S., 2013.
‘Evangelical Love Stories: The Triumphs and Temptations of Romantic Fiction,’ in Evangelical Christians and Popular Culture: Pop Goes the Gospel, ed. Robert H. Woods, Jr, vol. 2 (Santa Barbara: Praeger): 1–20. Excerpt.
Olivarez, Omar, Ryan Hardie, and Kate G. Blackburn, 2018.
“The Language of Romance: An Open Vocabulary Analysis of the Highest Rated Words Used in Romance Novels.” Journal of Language and Social Psychology. First Published August 18, 2018. Abstract
Pérez‐Gil, María del Mar, 2018. 
"Exoticism, Ethnocentrism, and Englishness in Popular Romance Fiction: Constructing the European Other". Journal of Popular Culture. Published online first 19 July 2018. [Focuses on the Spanish "Other" in the English imagination.] Excerpt
Popova, Milena, 2018.
"Rewriting the Romance: Emotion Work and Consent in Arranged Marriage Fanfiction". Journal of Popular Romance Studies 7.
Stern, Stephanie C., Brianne Robbins, Jessica E. Black and Jennifer L. Barnes, 2018. 
"What You Read and What You Believe: Genre Exposure and Beliefs About Relationships." Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts. Advance online publication. Abstract and a short summary I posted at my personal blog, focused on the findings about romance readers.

In other sections I've added:

Hall, Cailey. 
"The Consolation of Genre: On Reading Romance Novels", Los Angeles Review of Books, 27 August 2018.
Liu, S.-h, 2012. 
"The Translation/Mutation of Romantic Love: An Exploration of the Translation History of Modern Romances in Taiwan after 1960". PhD Thesis, National Taiwan Normal University. Abstract
 
Sebastian, Cat.
"Romance, Compassion, and Inclusivity (Or: How Romance Will Save the World)", Los Angeles Review of Books, 29 August 2018. [This also appeared in the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. 19,  Romance]