The program for "Iconoclasm: The Breaking and Making of Images," a conference taking place from the 17th to the 19th of March at the University of Toronto includes a paper by Angela Toscano (English, University of Utah): “Form and the Formulaic: The Iconoclasm of Happily Ever After in Popular Romance.”
Readers who prefer chick lit to romance might well argue that it is chick lit which is iconoclastic in its breaking of the conventions of the romance genre. According to Ferriss and Young
Supporters claim that, unlike traditional, convention-bound romance, chick lit jettisons the heterosexual hero to offer a more realistic portrait of single life, dating, and the dissolution of romantic ideals.Stephanie Harzewski, who received the Romance Writers of America’s 2006-2007 Academic Research Grant to assist her in completing her recently published Chick Lit and Postfeminism (2011) is apparently one of those who think that “Chick lit is [...] a more realistic version of the popular romance" (Newswise).
Both fans and authors of chick lit contend that the difference lies in the genre’s realism. Chicklit.us explains that it reflects “the lives of everyday working young women and men” and appeals to readers who “want to see their own lives in all the messy detail, reflected in fiction today.” (3)
I wonder how much people's evaluations of what constitutes "realism" are shaped by their own experiences and beliefs. What little chick lit I've read has not depicted anything like my life, but then, by the time I finished my undergraduate degree I was already engaged to be married, so I've never experienced life as a young, working, single person.
I'll readily admit that many things in the romance genre are unrealistic; how many vampires do you know? All the same, I find romance's central belief in the possibility of "happily ever afters" quite realistic, and perhaps that's because my "romantic ideals" remain undissolved after more than a decade of marriage.
So what do you think? Are happy endings iconoclastic, realistic, or both?
- Ferriss, Suzanne and Mallory Young. Introduction. Chick Lit: The New Woman’s Fiction. Ed. Suzanne Ferriss and Mallory Young. New York: Routledge, 2006. 1-13.
- Newswise. "Instructor’s Book Analyzes ‘Chick Lit’ Genre." 31 Jan. 2011.