Andrea Barra is
a PhD student in Sociology at Rutgers University [...] writing my dissertation on the romance novel industry. While I’m thrilled at the increase in academic work on romance that exists, a good amount of it is focused in English lit and Communications, and tends to focus on the books themselves. Not as much is analyzing from a social perspective. Hopefully that’s where I will help fill a gap.Of course, from my perspective as someone who thinks there's been hardly any proper literary criticism done on romance novels, I'd suggest that there's really not been very much "academic work on romance that [...] is focused in English lit" but I think it's typical of academics that we all think our own area is (a) the most interesting and (b) the one that needs the most work done on it. I suspect we have to think that, or we'd start to feel our work was relatively uninteresting and added nothing much that was new to the sum of human knowledge. However, I'm willing to admit that, although I think there's been quite a lot written about romance readers, much of the work with this focus concludes that we read because we're looking for "nurturance" or "porn for women," that romance-reading is addictive (like a drug) and/or damages our ability to form healthy relationships and/or makes us "cultural dupes." Some of the academics who reached these conclusions did actually interview romance readers first. I should add that of course there have also been some academics who interviewed romance readers and reached rather more positive assessments of our psychological states and mental abilities.
Barra is wanting to interview romance readers in the "NJ, metro NYC, and Philly area" and at "this year’s RT Convention."
Smart Bitch Sarah "asked for more information about her project, and here are the details":
I am analyzing the relationships between four key sectors of the romance novel industry: 1. Readers (Consumers) 2. Authors (Producers) 3. Books (literally the novels themselves) 4. Social World (US society and its culture)For more details, see the post at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
The dissertation will look at the interactions between all of these different segments and how they create an entire picture of an industry. To get a better idea of what that means, I’ll give you a main theme in some key relationships:
Relationship between Reader and Book: What are the major emotions/reactions elicited from reading a romance novel? What of themselves do readers bring to the act of interpreting and accepting (or rejecting) a book?
—Relationship between Book and Social World: How do prevailing ideas of gender and relationship equality come to bear on the content of novels?
—Relationship between Author and Reader: How has the increase in technology altered the way authors understand and respond to their readers?
—Relationship between Social World and Author: How does an author’s particular demographic situation (age, race, geography, gender, etc) affect what they produce?