Lynne Hapgood, in her Margins of Desire: The Suburbs in Fiction and Culture 1880-1925, writes that
Popular fiction and in particular romance, were seen as the locus of suburban culture and as indicative of a range of social ills. As with so many controversial topics at the turn of the twentieth century, social anxieties about popular fiction can be traced to questions of scale and gender. Popular fiction in magazines and books seemed to indicate the failure of universal education to deliver discrimination as well as skills. It signalled the commodification of culture, and was proof of women's intellectual weakness. (115)and
the consensus among the literary classes was that romance fiction was the 'froth of the moment', 'day-dreaming fiction', a morbid 'feeding of the imagination' liable to take workers from their duties and turn women into 'fiction-vampires'. (117)"Romance" in this period didn't, of course, refer solely to works with "a central love story and an emotionally-satisfying and optimistic ending" (RWA) but it's clearly a very important period in the formation of the modern romance genre and attitudes towards it.
The next Middlebrow Network conference, which will also be the 13th annual Space Between Society conference, focuses on
The Battle of the Brows: Cultural Distinctions in the Space Between, 1914-1945The conference is being held at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, June 16-18, 2011. Among the many topics listed in the call for papers is "Genres and modes: melodrama, social realism, adventure fiction, spy thrillers, romances." The deadline is 15 January 2011 and more details can be found here.
With the massive growth in the production and consumption of literature, music and art in the period 1914-1945 came powerful anxieties about cultural authority and transmission. As audiences and artists increasingly came from middle or lower classes, critics tried to distinguish between the “serious” and the “popular.” Cultural distinctions that relied, directly or indirectly, on attitudes toward hierarchies of gender, class, and race came under increasing scrutiny. It was a time of debate and radical change: new media and materials (radio, film, jazz, paperback novels) gained ground over traditional forms and venues (classical music, poetry, theatre); many arts became professionalized, rather than relying on inherited incomes; institutions such as the Book of the Month Club and the BBC formed new communities of cultural consumption.
In other news, An Goris reports that
A few months ago the journal Mosaic launched a CFP for a special issue they are planning on Romance. The deadline for submission, which originally was October 30 2010, has been pushed back to May 2011. The issue focuses on romance in the broad sense, but Mosaic has indicated to me they are interested in including articles on popular romance.Here's the text of the
Call for SubmissionsMore details can be found here.
Special Issue: Romance
The OED has to give some three pages to defining the word ROMANCE that, with all of its rich history, is at the center of this Mosaic Call for Papers. We invite innovative interdisciplinary literary and critical submissions for a special issue we are planning on this theme. For this issue, our interests include, but are not limited to, the following: ‘the Romantics,’ who have undergone a renascence of late; the French novel, the roman; romantic fiction; Romanticism; the state of the love story in literature and/or film; and the figure of the “romantic.”