Two quick thoughts about Romance and Race, neither substantive.
First, does anyone know what happened to Stephanie Burley? She wrote a Ph.D. dissertation in 2003 on "Hearts of Darkness: The Racial Politics of Popular Romance"; her degree is from the University of Maryland at College Park. I haven't read the thesis, but I know her essay "What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Book Like This? Homoerotic Reading and Popular Romance," from the Doubled Plots: Romance and History collection, and it's a real treat. My usual Googling hasn't turned her up anywhere, alas.
If you see her, say hello--and then send her our way!
Second, I just ran across the syllabus for an American Studies course called "The Racial Politics of 'Escapist Rot': Women's Popular Fiction and Representations of Race, 1946-2003." The woman who taught it was kind enough to post the full text for download (you can find the link here); briefly, here's the course description and set of primary readings:
“Too often,” Edward Said has admonished, “literature and culture are presumed to be politically and historically innocent.” This is especially evident in common conceptions of popular fiction written by, about, and for women, which is variously dismissed as escapist, essentially unrealistic, silly, and thereby meaningless. This course is designed to contest these constructions by examining the racial ideologies perpetuated by popular genres between 1946 and 2003. The texts we will focus on exemplify various generic forms: the gothic novel, popular melodrama, historical romance or “bodice-rippers,” science fiction, suspense, contemporary romance fiction, comedy, and drama. These readings will be supplemented by theoretical works on race and genre that will allow us to read the race as integral to these texts, which often obliquely represent race. We will move chronologically, locating each text in the specific historical context in which it was produced and consumed, enabling us to understand how and why representations of race have or have not changed over the past sixty years. As we move between genres, we will discuss how generic conventions and the requirements of publishers affect how texts articulate ideas around race. Because these texts were written by women, and many were directed towards a predominantly female audience, we will also consider the relationship between race and gender as understood in these novels and films.
Suzanne Brockmann, The Unsung Hero (
: Ivy Books, 2000). New York
Octavia E. Butler, Kindred (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988).
Daphne Du Maurier, My Cousin Rachel (New York: Random House, 1992).
Richard Dyer, White (London: Routledge, 1997).
Katherine Greyle, Karen Harbaugh, Sabeeha Johnson, and Cathy Yardley, Playing with Matches: Four Tales of Modern Matchmaking (New York: Signet, 1993).
Peyton Place(Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999).
Toni Morrison, Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (New York: Vintage Books, 1993).
Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower (New York: Avon, 1995).
An interesting collection, no? The Morrison would be particularly useful in getting students to think about African American characters on the margins of white texts, like the ones that show up in the Woodiwiss.
I'm also struck by some of the secondary readings she included in her course packet:
This must have been a wonderful course--one I hope to learn from vicariously as I prepare my own next romance offering.
All About Romance, “At the Back Fence,” Issues #97, # 150, and #158 and “Is This Censorship at Wal-Mart?” http://www.likesbooks.com.
Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Illuminations: Essays and Reflections.
: Schocken Books, 1968. New York
Stephanie Burley, “Shadows and Silhouettes: The Racial Politics of Category Romance.” Paradoxa 5 (2000): 324-341.
Ruth Frankenberg, “Whiteness and Americanness: Examining Constructions of Race, Culture, and Nation in White Women’s Life Narratives.” Race. Eds. Steven Gregory and Roger Sanjek.
New Brunswick, NJ: Press, 1994. Rutgers University
George Lipsitz, “History, Myth, and Counter-Memory: Narrative and Desire in Popular Novels.” Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture.
Minneapolis, MN: Press, 1990. Universityof Minnesota
Pamela Perry, “White Means Never Having to Say You’re Ethnic: White Youth and the Construction of ‘Cultureless’ Identities.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 30 (2001): 56-91.
(In which, I've just learned, a third of the students are male! "Where the boys are...")