Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Announcing More Media Attention for Romance Scholars

Thanks to the Smart Bitches, I've just come across an article in USA Today which mentions the Princeton conference and quotes two Teach Me Tonight contributors:
In April, Princeton University [...] hosted a scholarly conference titled "Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture." The event brought together romance writers such as James/Bly and Jennifer Crusie, academics including Pamela Regis and Stephanie Coontz, and Smart Bitch blogger Wendell.

"When I saw the invitation to speak at Princeton, I said, 'Holy crap, we have arrived,' " says Regis, 56, an English professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md., and author of the seminal text, A Natural History of the Romance Novel.

The conference organizer was DePaul University English professor Eric Selinger, 45. An expert in contemporary American poetry, Selinger's career turned upside down in the late 1990s after he borrowed his wife's copy of Bridget Jones's Diary, the chick-lit classic by Helen Fielding.

"I read it and I loved it," Selinger says. For fun, he started reading the novels on a list compiled by his local library called "If you liked Bridget Jones's Diary, try these ..."

He was amazed. Here he was, an English professor with a Ph.D. from UCLA who had been teaching books for decades and reading even longer. "Yet it never entered my mind to read a romance novel," he says.

Today, in addition to his poetry classes, Selinger teaches courses on the romance genre.

Is it awkward to be a man doing so?

Oh no, Selinger says. His gender makes his life much easier. "Nobody thinks I'm a spinster or trapped in a bad marriage, or I'm betraying feminism," he says. "People don't judge me as much."
The article, by Deirdre Donahue, is available online. It's titled "Scholarly writers empower the romance genre" and focuses on Eloisa James and Julia Quinn. The Smart Bitches have a link to a photo of the article as it appears in a paper copy of USA Today.

The rabbit was originally drawn by John Tenniel for Alice in Wonderland, has been modified by GeeAlice, and came from Wikimedia Commons.


  1. You have the best quote in the whole article. I love it!

  2. Great article! I just read it on the USA Today site and googled my way over here. I didn't even know there was a romance fiction class at DePaul! I taught tech writing there (adjunct) for six years (up to summer of 2007 if I'm remembering the year correctly) and now I'm writing young adult fiction (romantic comedy) books. I don't think I ever met you though Eric-- I taught at night in the loop so I didn't meet much of the faculty. Anyway, just stopping by to say hi.

  3. "You have the best quote in the whole article"

    "Great article!"

    Eric did do well, didn't he. He seems to be being rather modest, though, since he hasn't turned up here yet to acknowledge the praise being offered to him. ;-)

  4. Who, me? I thought she meant Pam Regis!

    Seriously, though, I'm thrilled with the piece and doubly pleased to see it getting so much attention. My secret life as a poetry professor has been filling my days of late; I'm teaching a summer seminar for grade-school teachers, sponsored by the National Endowment for the (non-romance) Humanities. Maybe a few of the grant committee members will read the piece and decide that romance projects could be eligible for support--although, to be fair, I think the logic is simply that popular culture is, well, popular, and doesn't need government funding, even at the scholarly end of things.

    Thanks for the nudge & wink, Laura!