Friday, April 08, 2011

It's Conference Season!

As Sarah is saying over at Romance University today, this is conference season for romance scholars as well as for romance authors and fans. Eric was the organiser of a session on "Foreign Affairs: Romance at the Boundaries" at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)'s World Literature, Comparative Literature conference, held from March 31 – April 3, 2011. Among the papers on offer were:
  • Eric Selinger, DePaul U: “Shards of Lyric, Tales of Love: The Poetry of Popular Romance”
  • Pamela Regis, McDaniel College: “Pamela Crosses the Atlantic”
  • An Goris, U of Leuven: “Otherness and Self: Body, Mind and Romantic Love in Nora Roberts’ Popular Romance Novels”
  • Guy Foster, Bowdoin College: “What to Read When Your Inner Tomboy is a Homo: Exploring Feminine Pleasure in M/M Gay Romance Fictions”
Still to come, there's the joint 2011 Popular Culture Association (PCA) and American Culture Association (ACA) conference, being held in San Antonio from April 20-23, 2011. There will be a number of sessions on romance. Where there is no summary for the whole session, I have included a very short summary of each paper and linked to the full synopsis.

Alternative Historicals: Sheikh Romance
Session Chair: Amy Burge
  • Dr Hsu-Ming Teo, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia: "Middle Eastern Realities and Orientalist Romances: History, Imperialism, and Regional Crises in Late Twentieth-Century Sheik Romance Novels."
  • Emily A. Haddad, University of South Dakota: "Harlequin ‘Presents’ Anglo-American Involvement in the Middle East at the End of the George W. Bush Administration."
  • Amy Burge, University of York, UK: "Dangerous Desire: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Miscegenation in Contemporary Sheikh Mills & Boon Romance and The King of Tars"
The title of the panel, ‘Alternative Historicals: Sheikh Romance’ is intended to indicate the unique ways in which sheikh romance deals in and with history and is suggestive of the idea that sheikh romances might be considered as a kind of ‘alternative’ historical, precisely because of its use of ‘history’. Furthermore the three papers each consider historical aspects of sheikh romance: Hsu-Ming Teo is looking at the relationship between conflict in the Middle East and the growth of the sheikh genre; Emily Haddad is considering the sheikh novel in a post-9/11 historical context; and Amy Burge's paper compares sheikh romance with a Middle English romance,The King of Tars.
Romance From the Past: Genre, Race, Rape, and Narrative Structure
Session Chair: Sarah Frantz
  • Christine Bolus-Reichert, Associate Professor, University of Toronto: “Knight-Errantry for Women: Du Maurier’s Romances Reconsidered.” Bolus-Reichert will be reassessing "the popular romances that kept Du Maurier’s name alive and her books on the shelves of public libraries: Jamaica Inn (1936), Rebecca (1938), and Frenchman’s Creek (1941)."
  • Katherine H. Lee, Indiana State University: “Love, 'Oriental'-Style: Reconsiderations of the Romance Novel and Early Asian American Literature.” Lee focuses on the work of Winnifred Eaton, a Canadian-born author "Of biracial descent (Chinese-British)" who published under the pseudonym "Onoto Watanna" and whose novel, "A Japanese Nightingale, [...] sold 200,000 copies, was published in France, England, and Spain, and adapted for the Broadway stage. It was the second in what would be a total of seven similarly-themed novels, published between 1898 and 1922."
  • Angela Toscano, University of Utah: “To Suffer a Sea-change: shipwrecks, pirates and the precondition of adventure in romance.” Toscano looks "at three examples of shipwreck and piracy as instances of the relationship between seascape and adventure [...]: Heliodorus’ Aethiopika, Laura London’s The Windflower, and Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows."
  • Sarah Frantz, Fayetteville State University: “The Rapist Hero and the Female Imagination.” Sarah Frantz begins "the process of examining the construction, history, contexts, transformations, power, and appeal of the hero of modern popular romance novels" and will "posit the rapist hero as a historically-specific, nationally-situated response to the social upheaval in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s."
Formula and Conventions: Cover Art, Nora Roberts, Translations and Happy Ending
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
Genre and Romance: Young Adult Literature, Westerns, Urban Fantasy, and Gaming
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
Beauty and the Beasts of Romance, Real and Imagined: Animal Studies, Bestiality, and Fairytales
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
  • Linda J. Lee, University of Pennsylvania: "Shifting Codes of Difference: Stigmatizing the Beautiful and the Monstrous in Popular Romance." Lee will "examine the way that monstrosity and beauty are recontextualized in romance novels where monstrosity is overtly cast as disfigurement."
  • Taylor Moorman, Montana State University: "The Pleasures of Tension: The Erotic Attraction of the Beauty and Beast Dichotomy in Popular Romance Novels." Moorman will "focus on Linda Jones’ DeButy and the Beast from the Lovespell’s Faerie Tale series, Silhouette’s Nighttime Sweethearts by Cara Colter and Teresa Medeiros’s, The Bride and the Beast. These texts center around notions of compromise, healing, and the breaking down of perceived barriers, concepts nearly as central to the romance genre as an emotionally fulfilling ending."
  • Nadine Farghaly, University of Salzburg, Austria: "Claiming the Human: Bestiality and Zoophilia in Romance Novels." Farghaly states that "it needs to be acknowledged that there is one trait that seems to belong dominantly to paranormal romance fiction, zoophilia. Using Katie MacAllister’s Silver Dragon and Aisling Grey series and J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series this paper analyzes how these authors reshape and reinterpret the aspects about bestiality in their stories."
  • Antonia Losano, Middlebury College: "Must Love Dogs: Animals in Romance and Romance in Animal Studies." Losano "wish[es] to [...] explore here the representation of love of companion animals (mainly dogs, although this is part of a larger project which thus far looks at dogs, cats, some horses, and one marten) in 20th century mainstream heterosexual romance fiction, using Heyer, Roberts and Crusie as exemplars."
Nudity, Infidelity, Celibacy, and Kink in Popular Romance Media
Session Chair: Sarah Frantz
  • Patrycja Wawryka, University of Ottawa: "Making Ripples: Women and Infidelity in Sex and the City 2." Wawryka will be asking "how important is fidelity in achieving a successful relationship? As a highly accessible and popular source of entertainment, what general messages can be discerned from the film about “making ripples” in a relationship?"
  • Amber Botts, Neodesha High School: "It IS Just Like Riding a Bike: Showalter and Cole’s Sexy & Celibate Immortal Heroes." Botts wonders why heroes who "are celibate for centuries (sometimes up to thousands of years). A few are even thousand-year-old virgins" are so popular: "Feminist role reversal serves as one answer. Jung’s connections between fairy tales and the collective unconscious offer another, and sociological study of constructed meanings of romantic love and virginity offer a third reason why these immortal heroes can be both celibate and sexy."
  • Claire Dalmyn, York University: "The Gimp in the Relationship: The Troubled Romance of Kink and Popular Culture." Dalmyn "will focus in particular on ways representations of kink in mainstream media both stigmatize and celebrate the experiences and values of kink people as deviations from a “vanilla” norm, and ways that kink communities in turn embrace or refute particular representations."
The Study of Romance: Aesthetics, Aca-Fandom, Theories, and the Structure of Romance
Session Chair: Eric Selinger
  • Catherine Roach, The University of Alabama: "Aca-Fandom and Deep Participant-Observation: Negotiating the Insider-Outsider Tension in Popular Romance Studies." Roach "identifies and analyses tensions among various subsets of the romance fiction community (as constituted primarily around the organizations Romance Writers of America and the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance), in order to explore the question of how an academic interested in popular romance fiction may best study the genre."
  • Eric Selinger, DePaul University: "Dead Women are Not Romantic: When Popular Romance Meets Literary Tradition." Selinger thinks it is "time to attend to the self-conscious engagements with literary and artistic tradition in popular romance fiction—not just as the sites of socio-political resistance, but as instances of a heretofore underappreciated aesthetic complexity" and will therefore "detail the metatextual pleasures to be found in [...] Welcome to Temptation, by Jennifer Crusie, and Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips."
  • Theresa Stevens, Romance Professional: "Lost in Austen: When a Romance is Not a Romance." Stevens believes that Lost in Austen is "a useful tool for examining the competing theories of romance" because "No matter which of the several romance structure models we apply to Lost in Austen (including those proposed by Pamela Regis, Leslie Wainger, and Billy Mernit, among others), ultimately, the story can’t be held to conform to any of them."
  • Barbara Cicardo, University of Louisiana at Lafayette: "Infrastructure Reversed: Extratextuality in Kasey Michaels’s St. Just Series." Cicardo examines Kasey Michaels’s Maggie Kelly series, in which "one modern literary theory on textuality is turned outward from itself. The omniscient narrator sets the plotline first, cognizant of him/herself? as writer. Then Maggie Kelly, fictional author and protagonist of the novel, begins the actual story."
Identity Crises: Heteronormativity, Social Conventions, and Gender
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
  • Meredith Faust, DePaul University: "A 'strange, primitive feeling of lust': Heteronormative Rigidity in Herendeen's Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander." Faust "plan[s] to demonstrate that within the confines of Herendeen’s novel, and more specifically within the sex scenes of the novel, that the gender portrayals are not entirely subversive, but that they are more complicated than a representative / subversive binary."
  • Jayashree Kamble, University of Minnesota: " 'I Don't Know What That Means': Temperance Brennan as uncomprehending romance heroine in TV's Bones." Kamble argues that Temperance Brennan's "incomprehension of the demands of romance narrative is portrayed as evidence of clinical dissociation, i.e., as a symptom of a behavioral personality disorder related to childhood trauma. This move allows the imperative of eros interruptus that is vital to television drama to stave off the pressure to make Brennan a romance heroine."
  • Ashley Festa, Our Lady of the Lake University: "Selling That Loving Feeling: Who Are Romantic Advertisements Really Targeting?" Festa observes that "Some advertisements [...] appear to use romance to sell products to men, either speaking directly to men or promoting products only men can use. In my research, I will analyze whom these ads are effectively targeting and whether advertisers are aware of whom their ads are hitting. I believe women are the audience these types of commercials are affecting, whether or not they were intended for women."
Queering the Romantic Heroine: Past, Present, and Future
Session Chair: Katherine Lynch
  • Katherine Lynch, SUNY Rockland: "One Small Step for Romance: The Evolution of the Queer Female Hero."
  • Ruth Sternglantz, Editor, Bold Strokes Books: "Where the Wild Things Are: Contemporary Lesbian Romance and the Undomesticated Queer Hero."
  • Lynda Sandoval, Romance Author: "The Queer Heroine as a Reimagined Reflection."
  • Len Barot, Founder/President - Bold Strokes Books: "Queering the Alpha."
Dr. Katherine E. Lynch will trace the evolution of the queer romantic heroine in print, television, and film. Within the past decade, the rise of the queer female hero as a viable love interest reflects the rapidly changing landscape of sexual identity politics in early twenty-first century America. In “Where the Wild Things Are: Contemporary Lesbian Romance and the Undomesticated Queer Hero,” Dr. Ruth Sternglantz and Carsen Taite will argue that while the domestication of dangerous women in traditional romance (going back to the medieval period) was designed to diminish their queerness and bring them in line with societal expectations, in contemporary lesbian romance love enables queer women to embrace every aspect of their queerness. In “The Queer Heroine as a Re-imagined Reflection,” Lynda Sandoval will explore the ways in which queer heroines both converge with and diverge from their heterosexual counterparts within the genre of traditional romance. And in “Queering the Alpha,” Len Barot will map the ways in which contemporary female heroes in the sub-genres of lesbian intrigue and paranormal romances have adapted the characteristics of the alpha male of the traditional heterosexual romance.
There will also be an

Open Forum: The State of Popular Romance Scholarship
Open discussion about the current state of romance studies, including: the progress of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, the past and future publication of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, IASPR's conference in New York City in July 2011, in Toronto in October 2012, and in Istanbul in 2013, the planned Popular Romance Studies Special Issue of the Journal of American Culture in 2013, and current Call For Papers for popular romance-themed anthologies or academic monographs.
and a

Special Session: Authors and Performers
Romance professionals -- both authors and performers -- discuss their careers, their motivations, the highs and lows of their experiences in their industries, and why they wouldn't do anything else.
After that there's the annual IASPR conference. This year it's taking place in New York from the 26th-28th of June.


  1. I will be at PCA, though I don't know how many romance sessions I can make. At least my area is small this year so there can't be *too* much overlap. As an author, of course I'd really like to attend the Authors and Performers session. Do you know when it scheduled for? With luck not Friday night, as I have to pick up an award (and I think it would be very bad form not to appear!).

  2. The romance area's "Authors and Performers" session is on Friday, but it's from 4:45pm - 6:15pm.

    Congratulations on the award! What's it for?

  3. It's fascinating to see the range of topics that have been/will be addressed in these various gatherings.
    I was particularly struck by the title and synopsis of the paper by Nadine Farghaly ("Claiming the Human: Bestiality and Zoophilia in Romance Novels"). I had begun to wonder whether I was the only person who calls the relationships in romances and erotica featuring werewolves and other fantasy creatures by their right name. Of course, I haven't actually read any of the shape-shifter stories, so I am in no position to discuss them. I haven't read any of them because I am squeamish about cross-species copulation in any story written down later than Classical antiquity. Pasiphaë and the Cretan Bull, for example, I can contemplate with equanimity (though I suppose few could have contemplated the resultant Minotaur without some qualms), but modern fantasies with similar themes seem to me merely creepy.

  4. I am squeamish about cross-species copulation in any story written down later than Classical antiquity

    Is the squeamishness about lack of consent on the part of the animal i.e. apart from the practical difficulties, would you object to the concept of human/centaur relationships? And do you count gods as a different species from humans?

  5. Those are searching and well-aimed questions, Laura!

    But I am going to sidestep them, not out of deviousness, but because they are not directly relevant to my attitudes and the reasons for those attitudes. I apply totally different tests to modern fantasy and ancient myth: I regard modern fantasy/mythology as a synthetic, imitation construction compared with ancient mythology, which has its roots in prehistoric consciousness and religious and spiritual beliefs that we no longer hold. I accept the impossibilities and unpleasantnesses of ancient tales because they were ways of symbolising, explaining and interpreting concepts that were mysterious to our remote ancestors, and they help us understand past cultures. Supernatural explanations for the wonders of nature were normal because they were the only choice. But modern fantasy is created in the service of art, not belief, and to me, this means that it can and should be subjected to the cold light of literal interpretation.

    If any of us still actually believed that a man can change into a wolf or a stag, then the situation would be different. We simply don't believe that any more, and innocence once lost cannot be retrieved. In alluding, briefly, to the stories of the Haida people (specifically concerning wolves) I was warned by a curator who knows about these things never to use the word 'myth', because this is perceived as patronising, a white person's dismissal of their history as 'not true'.

    I know that my strong dislike of modern fairy-tales for adults is a recurring refrain of mine, but I genuinely see very little resemblance between these self-conscious fantasies and the ancient stories of myth and magic. And I become infuriated with light-hearted, flippant treatment of ancient myth, just as I am annoyed by the modern attempts to emulate it. Consequently, when considering modern fantasy, I cannot make the mental change of gear into a pre-Enlightenment mindset that is appropriate for real myth.

    I'm not sure if that is clear. :-)

  6. If any of us still actually believed that a man can change into a wolf or a stag, then the situation would be different. We simply don't believe that any more, and innocence once lost cannot be retrieved.

    I find it very easy to suspend disbelief when reading fiction, so in a sense I think I do, temporarily, retrieve the "innocence" you're referring to. That said, I won't accept any depiction of mythological beings. Just as I don't like fan-fiction/derivative works in which the personalities of the original characters are changed, I dislike books which take significant liberties with mythological beings.

    And getting back to "innocence," I'm fairly sure that some of the people who believe in angels and devils are rather annoyed/upset/angered by depictions of these beings which ignore/distort the theology and traditions surrounding those beings.

  7. I'm not sure how clear this sentence was:

    "That said, I won't accept any depiction of mythological beings."

    I meant it in the sense of "I won't accept just any" depiction"/ "won't accept any and all depictions."