Romance Fiction IV: Friday, 8:00-9:30am
The Romance as Transformation (Special Session/Author Conversation)
"Romance as a Practice of Freedom" Lynn Coddington
This presentation was a chapter of
"Transformation and Resistance" Kate Moore
Kate is coming at romance analysis from three different practices: teaching, reading romance, and writing romance. She has always seen romance as part of a much larger body and tradition of literature and believes that romance is connected to marriage plot (Chaucer and Homer would recognize this plot) rather than connected to fairy tales. Kate works with adolescents and from the outside one can see the potentiality for change between an 11 year old who enters her school and the 18 year old who leaves it, but the kids themselves are very suspicious of the process of change. Heroic teacher stories depend for their narrative success on the transformation of the resistance of the child who doesn't want to be educated. The narrative usually follows the path of the advantaged teacher delivering to the disadvantaged student access to the power that they hold in trust for the students. Critics say that the romance narrative does this, with the powerful, advantaged hero tutoring the disadvantaged heroine, but it's usually the opposite, with the hero being the resistant individual who doesn't want the power of love and the narrative following the transformation of the resistance to acceptance. Sophie Jordan's One Night With You had a very resistant hero and a heroine who is completely devalued and restricted in every possible way, although she has female friends who give her a ball dress to attend a masked ball, defying convention to seek her own pleasure. The heroine has tried to unite the two selves she is, trying to effect her own transformation, but it puts her back in an abject position of marriage without love. The hero makes very clear his rejection of the heroine's self, the person she is. He says over and over that he'll lose control and identity if he falls in love. When he continues to refuse to change, the heroine leaves him, refusing to be with him without transformation. He tries to fall back on the convention of the marriage of convenience, but finally has to admit, "I will cease to exist without you," claiming that the heroine has saved him. Liberation has to be mutual. In Laura Kinsale's The Dream Hunter, the heroine gains a certain amount of freedom she wouldn't have otherwise because of her disguise. She is more valued as a Bedouin boy than as a virgin aristocrat, but she wants to be Victorian lady. Her outward transformation doesn't effect an inner transformation and the hero ends up searching for her under her Victiorian lady trappings. She thinks he just sees the Bedouin boy and can't see the woman she has become. They connect in dream states. The biggest barrier between them is the contract negotiations over their marriage. The thing that gets them together is her realization that she is the only one who knows what he is and if she abandons him, he'll be lost to humanity.
I completely failed to do justice here to Kate's very nuanced interpretations of these two books, and to her discussion of transformation and resistance in the hero and heroine of romance and the power behind it. So please know that the almost telegraphic nature of this summary is all my fault, and by no means a problem in Kate's original paper.
"Parallel Scenes and Transformation: Scene Structure in Austen and Kinsale" Alicia Rasley
Alicia is very interested in how romance novels are structured and examines here parallel scenes that bracket a situation or issue in a novel; the parallel structure demonstrates the change that the characters have undergone from one scene to the parallel scene later in the book. The parallel scene doubles the issues and themes in the scenes, which is so right for romances as the genre that meshes two people into one. Parallel scenes are very similar to foils as a character device. Again, romance comes out of the same traditions as classical literature, all the way back to the Odyssey. The heroine is hugely important, obviously, but there are two protagonists, and we give the guy his time in the sun, too. Why are all the examples of male transformation? Because we're women and want the guys to change. The first example Alicia chose was the two proposal scenes in Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In the first scene, love has overcome him Darcy, an invasion of who he is. The love is presented as symbolic rape, both of him and his assault on
Overall, it was great to see three such smart women--romance writers, romance readers, and recovering academics or analytically inclined--who loved the genre they were analyzing. And they had such smart, interesting things to say about how romances were constructed.