Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Popular but Ridiculed?

Lately it's been popular and analysed. Conferences coming up include
  • The Southwest/Texas Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association's Annual Regional Conference(February 14-17, 2007, Albuquerque, New Mexico). The call for papers on romance is here and, in an updated version, here, and according to the conference's main page the deadline for submissions has been extended to 1 December.
  • Eric Selinger and Darcy Martin will be chairing a session on romance at the National Popular Culture & American Culture Associations 2007 Joint Conference (April 4-7, 2007, in Boston, Massachusetts).
  • And, as mentioned earlier on this blog, there's a Feminism and Popular Culture conference coming up in the UK in June 2007.
If anyone knows of any other conferences at which papers on romance are being encouraged (and on which the calls for papers aren't quite so imminent or already past), please add details in the comments.

It's not that long since Eloisa James 'came out' and revealed that she's both an academic and a romance author (you can listen to her discuss why she made that decision here). In 2003 Dr Lee Tobin McClain wrote that:
Even though popular fiction has become more academically respectable in recent years, focusing on it can still seem hazardous to a professor's career. Studying a genre as devalued as romance is particularly fraught with difficulty, and writing romance has a reputation even below analyzing it.
As we can see, though, at the moment there are plenty of conferences and lots of academic interest in popular culture, including the romance genre, and over at the Romance Wiki there's a list of academics who write romance, including McClain herself (under her pseudonym) and Eloisa James. In her article McClain urges other academics to follow in their footsteps:
if popular fiction is your passion, working with it can be both productive and playful. In fact, popular fiction can provide a useful window into the scholarly world. As a romance-writing academic, I offer the following lessons for those who want to follow this treacherous path.
So perhaps things are slowly improving, but in the meantime some prejudices still linger. Here's a link to a short romance story by Linda Sole (who writes for Mills & Boon as Anne Herries) which touches on the issue. Avril, the heroine of For Those Who Believe is a fan of fantasy fiction and 'It wasn't unusual for friends to mock her about her choice of fiction. Not many of them shared her love of fantasy books and films'. Of course, it might be that her friends have some valid concerns about quite how seriously she believes in the fantasy world. But my sympathies are with Avril, and I think it'll be the same for most of us who know how to suspend our disbelief, so that (for a short time) the world of romance novel feels real.


  1. I got the confirmation that my paper proposal for Feminism & Popular Culture has been accepted. Yay! :) Who else is going to be in Newcastle in June?

  2. I'll be there and I know of someone else who'll also be presenting a paper on romance, so that makes at least 3 of us!

    I'm looking forward to this. And I'd better get reading/writing.