Well. So, not so much on the live blogging. I apologize for that. The main issue was time. What with the panels and needing to eat three times a day (someone needs to change that!) and spending time with my colleagues and with my mother and son, the blogging didn't get done. But the other reason is because I wanted to do the papers justice. The bare-bones notes that I took at the panels needed fleshing out (and I somehow actually found it more difficult to take notes on the computer rather than with pen and ink and I'm still trying to figure out why that is—although the computer notes allow for quicker editing rather than transcription into blog posts, so that's good), and that editing process is taking considerable time, actually. The straight text below each title is a summary of the panel. I hope I did a decent job, but the presenters and other attendees should PLEASE feel free to correct me. The text in italics are my comments about the presentations, the presenters, and how the paper might fit into the larger scheme of scholarship of popular romance fiction, if and when applicable.
I'll post panels individually and create a master post when I'm done, linking everything together, as Laura did for the Virgin Slave, Barbarian King extravaganza. So without further ado:
Romance Fiction I: Thursday, 8:00-9:30am
The Romance Industry: Authors, Editors, Translators, Readers
Chair: Eric Selinger,
"Romance Novels in
Severine is a graduate student in Brussels and a quiet, wonderful person who kept apologizing for her English. While her accent was strong, she was completely understandable and amazingly articulate, and as Darcy said, "Sorry about our French!"
Any novel too removed from French experience is not chosen to be translated. Additionally, English-language novels are culturally adapted. The quality of the adaptation depends on individual translators and editors because there are no explicit guidelines. The main modifications made to the originals when translated are to cultural representations of love and sexuality, which are the nodal areas of cultural expression. In the French translations, the heroine's thoughts are emphasized in love scenes. Heroes are made colder and more mysterious than in the original novels. In the French translations, the heroines are more naïve, less combative. The French translations of the original romance novels have to be a little bit more conventional, especially those that target older readers. Irony, insults, and swearing are not kept or are sanitized. The way to write about sex is codified in French, much less explicit than in English. Love scenes in the original are seen as much pornographic than erotic when represented exactly in French. In order to make them acceptable in French, translators add much more cliché, making the reading process easier. French translations of romance novels are more utopian, less pragmatic than English-language romances. The function of French-language romance novels are primarily to encourage dreaming. Overall, concepts of escapism and fantasy depends on national imagery, as is shown in comparisons between English-language and French-translated romances.
This paper was amazing. Last year, An Goris told us informally about translated romances in Europe and how they did not match up the original novels, but to have Severine analyze the differences so astutely and draw conclusions about the cause and effects of cultural constructs around notions of love, romance, and sexuality was incredible to hear. One thing that is so heartening about the current state of romance scholarship is the truly international nature of our community. Having Severine and An and the Australian contingent (Glen Thomas, Hsu-Ming Teo, Toni Johnson-Woods, Joanna Fedson) there added to the Romance Area of PCA immeasurably."A Genre of One's Own: Popular Romance Writers Create Community and Heritage"
It was wonderful to see Glinda again. She and Eric were two of the original three who were put on a PCA panel together in 2006 (just two years ago!) because there was no Popular Romance Fiction Area. We can blame them for everything that happened since then, because they were the ones who decided that This Shall Not Do. Glinda is very close to defending her dissertation and will be venturing out onto the market after that. Good luck!
Glinda claimed that her paper was almost in opposition to what Severine argued. It is a condensed version of the last chapter of her dissertation. For her dissertation on Heritage Studies, she was originally planning to focus on very traditional stories and memoirs of Southern women. A theorist of her field claims that a sense of place creates identity and that is what she wanted to analyze. One day she picked up a novel by Jennifer Crusie and discovered in it a voice, narrative, and community that called to her. She also could see connections between Crusie's fiction and Raymond Williams' ideology. As a result, she ended up deciding to write instead an ethnographic study of romance writers in the South.
There is an intrinsic search for meaning in a community. In order to understand the shared and coded language, ideologies, and symbols one needs to be part of the group, rather than merely a dispassionate observer. Glinda had found herself becoming part of the romance reader community, which is what precipitated her dissertation topic, and she started contacting the RWA writing communities in her area. There were groups willing to speak with her, but one group was extremely resistant to her and wary and skeptical of her academic perspective, assuming she was going to be negative about romances. Her pass into all the groups was admitting that she was a reader and fan of romances, just like them. She participated in one group in particular (River City Romance Writers of Memphis) both as an academic, but also as a friend of most of the writers, who accepted her into their homes and lives. She was trying to discover intentionalities in the romance novels the authors produced that would support her own research agenda, but interviews and interactions went in different and fruitful directions. For example, the writers specifically wanted to talk about the publishing world. Additionally, she was interviewing Southern writers and wanted to know how they were Southern in their writing, but many of the writers were resistant to that label—they wanted to be universal.
Romance is an all inclusive group and its heritage has created common ground and communities that accept and celebrate differences. The writers she interviewed expressed the compulsion to tell stories, but were also concerned about dealing with trends (for example, some author hate writing sex scenes and resist the need to be more graphic). Writers claim that RWA is a very feminist and supportive community, which is all about mentoring and sharing and a lack of hierarchy, even within the hierarchy. Glinda titled her paper "A Genre of One's Own" after Virginia Woolf's room because her research has shown her that the genre is a private and safe space to create a female community, and a fiction where women become the subject, the actors. "History" becomes "Her-story."
"Romance Unbound: Comparisons in E-Publishing and Print Publishing by Erotica and Erotic Romance Authors" Crystal Goldman,
In her The Natural History of the Romance, Pamela Regis defines the romance as focusing on a single relationship between a hero and a heroine. This is no longer true in the erotic romance industry, with m/m romances and ménage novels. Erotic romance started online at the e-publishing houses and has since moved to
This was an interesting paper because there are so many rumors, especially on the internet boards, about the differences between print and e-publishing, and it was wonderful to have
Technologies have always changed the way communities can be formed, and contemporary technologies, especially the internet, are no exception. The internet and its systems of networks have created communities that could never have been available even ten years ago. Authors are increasingly using personal websites to foster relationships with readers, which allows readers to get a sense of engagement with authors as well as with their work. The online presence of authors seems to create a "personal insight" for the reader on the world and life of the authors. Authors have become very market-oriented with publishers cutting back on marketing, and now see an internet presence and close connection with readers as part of what it means to be an author, although some authors do it with a sense of "well, I supposed I've got to," rather than with a real desire to create that connection. Janet Evanovich's website is a master of marketing that includes competitions that increases traffic to site hugely. She claims a million hits a week. Increasingly authors are willing to discuss the creative process with readers in order to keep material at the site current and regularly updated, which means that readers can now track a book from inception till they hold it in their hands, which changes the relationship between producer and consumer considerably. As a result, readers' relationship to consumption has changed: you can read what you like, when, where and how you like in ways like never before. Technology enables readers to go beyond simply and only consuming printed book. However, most author promotion is largely self-funded, especially with Harlequin. There is authorial recognition that romance market is a crowded place and they have to generate their own name recognition, a situation that seems to be unique for romance authors. They can't simply wait for market to come to them, they have to go out and find market. This new entrepreneurial spirit is good for authors, but of course fabulous for publishers, because they don't have to pay for promotion any more. New technologies have created new field for creative entrepreneurs which changes the capital-R Romantic idea of the reclusive author genius who is misunderstood. The Web, according to Stephen Fry, creates "reciprocity" and "interactivity" in a two-way process, which allows the readers to have an increased investment in the final product. The Dogs and Goddesses site by Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich, and Anne Stuart includes a blog that actually posts scenes for instant reader feedback, creating a broadened collaborative creative process, between both authors and authors, and authors and readers, allowing readers an insight into production of work itself. Writing, then, has become a public practice and the engagement with new technology changes the idea of what it means to be a writer. However, everyone is still very much attached to the physical book. There are two major issues that arise with an online presence. The first is the time that it takes to keep material current (an author Glen knows calls it feeding the blog monster). The second is the potential for attracting the crazy people. Anna Campbell's Claiming the Courtesan, with its discussion of rape, culminated for her in death threats through her posted email address on her website. Without the technology, that immediate contact would not have been possible. New technology can foster anger that can be vented right away—the loss of the buffer that is so attractive normally goes both ways. Readers also get angry when an author's work goes in different directions than expected. Over all, the bottom-up movement of author-driven marketing made possible by the new technology of the Internet is very different from publisher-paid book tours, indicating how publishing is changing in this new world of ours.
Taken together, these four papers that made up the panel discuss ways in which romance publishing changes and is changed by novels, authors, readers, and new technology. It indicates how romance publishing is an international industry, even when local concerns are important too. It also indicates how romance is at the cutting edge of innovations in technology, reader interaction, and change.