Wednesday, June 01, 2011

CFP: Animals and/in Romance

The Journal of Popular Romance Studies (JPRS) seeks essay submissions for a special forum examining the role of animals in popular romance media (fiction, film, TV, music video, etc.) from around the world.

How and why do animals mediate, complicate, or facilitate romance narratives? What role do animals—both real and imagined--play in courtship rituals or the articulation of sexual desire? In fiction and film, the romance genre abounds with creatures of all kinds, from the leopard in Bringing Up Baby and the dogs in Jennifer Crusie’s novels to the werewolves and dragons and undefined “Beasts” in fairy tale and paranormal love stories. Why does romance need animals, and what does this say about the relationship between love, desire, animals and human beings? How do invocations of the “animal” in romance differ from culture to culture, era to era?

Essays might explore a variety of questions and concerns, such as:
  • If animals have traditionally been aligned with the oppressed (women, slaves, the lower classes), how might the representation of animals shed light on issues of gender, race and class?

  • Conversely, since animal metaphors are often deployed to construct masculinity (the “alpha male”) as well as femininity (woman as horse to be broken, or falcon to be tamed), how might the representation of animals shed light on those same issues?

  • Are there similarities in the representations of love for an animal and romantic love between humans?

  • How might recent Animal Studies theory be brought to bear upon popular romance media?

  • Conversely, what do theories of popular romance have to contribute to Animal Studies?

  • How are historical changes in petkeeping or animal rights activism reflected in romance media?

  • How might recent scientific discoveries about the nature of animal sexual behavior (the flourishing of homosexuality among animals, for example, or new research into the non-monogamous behavior of species previously believed to mate for life) influence contemporary romance narratives?

  • What does it mean to be human in a narrative world filled with animals? How does the representation of animals relate to the representation of human desire, emotion, and subjectivity?

  • What role do Bestiality and Zoophilia, broadly defined, play in the genre of paranormal romance, or in romantic deployments of animals more generally?

Essays of up to 10,000 words (MLA citation style; Word documents preferred) should be submitted to An Goris, Managing Editor of JPRS, at by December 1, 2011. Please note in your subject line that your submission is for the Forum on Animals in Romance Media. Suggestions of potential peer reviewers are welcome.
[Edited: "Due to an error in the original submissions email address, submissions to the special forum on Animals and / in Romance have been getting bounced back to their authors as undeliverable!" To avoid confusion, I have now amended the address included in this post. The deadline has been extended to January 6, 2012.]

All eye images were downloaded from Flickr where they were made available under Creative Commons licences. They were taken by mikebaird,, TheHideaway (Simon), mcamcamca, Vicki DeLoach, voyageAnatolia, Paul Wellner Bou, and Yamanaka Tamaki.


  1. Animals in fiction have varied uses, such as metaphors for dictatorships (Orwell) or existential social constructs. Not sure about romance novels.

  2. This gives me an idea ...

  3. As soon as I saw the heading (as usual, I have come along rather late), I felt immediate enthusiasm. Possibly even a subject on which I could contribute a paper! But alas, no. Although I can see the potential in many of the suggested themes, I am disappointed by the total absence of the most basic and obvious one of all, the role of pets, or 'companion animals', as we must now call them, simply as major characters in stories, characters whose actions affect and direct the plot or whose personalities contribute in a central way to the development of central human characters.
    Roles like that of the stray bitch Katie in Crusie's Crazy for you, who kick-starts the whole process of emancipation of the heroine, not to mention the building jealousy and insanity of her partner, or the irrepressible mongrel hound Luffra in Heyer's Frederica, who is instrumental in establishing and changing the initially unpromising relationship between Frederica, her brothers and Alverstoke.
    There are many other examples in Crusie's books, of course, and also in Jayne Ann Krentz's work. JAK is not as well known for important animal characters as Crusie is, but there are a lot of them. Though dogs and cats are the usual species in question, because they are the species most likely to have close relationships with humans, in Jayne's 1985 category romance Legacy, a horse plays a pivotal role in the changing relationship of the hero and heroine and the character arcs of both.
    I could almost contemplate writing a paper on this topic, but it looks as though it would be seen as sadly mundane and lacking in symbolic and social significance. :-(

  4. @AgTigress,

    I'm sorry you felt disappointed! You're right that "pets / companion animals as characters" would be a "basic and obvious" topic, which is probably why we didn't think to list it outright.

    Still, I have a feeling that a good essay on one or more of these characters would end up exploring things that aren't at all basic or obvious, by the time it was through!

    An essay that tells us "here's how pet / companion animal X affects and directs the plot of novel Y" might be mundane, or it might be fascinating, depending on how the argument was developed.

    'Tain't what you do, it's the way that you do it, as the old song says.

  5. I take your point, Eric. :)

    I think there is quite a lot to be said about the general attitude to companion animals in Western society. There has been a genuine, if subtle, change in perceptions over the last 50 years or so, and I am sure it is reflected in some romance novels, which normally give us a much better picture of changing mores than we find in 'literary' fiction.

    For example, besotted dog-lovers have always asserted, 'he understands everything I say', and non-dog-lovers have always replied, 'rubbish'. But the dog-lovers can now smugly cite scientific studies that prove that many dogs actually do command an understanding vocabulary in human verbal language (not 'tones of voice': words) that is equivalent to that of a 2- or even 3-year-old human child. More generally, the traditional Christian view that all other animals are fundamentally different in kind from us, sort of animated tools rather than 'people', has been totally undermined by scientific work, including advances in genetics.

    I am also intrigued by all the shape-shifter stuff, though I don't read it: my literal mind can't cope well with fantasy at the best of times (except when it is part of ancient mythology). I am just glad to see those blunt words 'bestiality' and 'zoophilia' used in the list of themes. Having thought quite a lot about this topic a few decades ago in connection with my work on with Graeco-Roman erotic art, I would find it interesting to explore it in modern fiction, if only I could bring myself to read the modern novels!

  6. Well, it sounds to me like you have a number of ideas here that would make for interesting papers. I can't take credit for the blunt words--they come from a wonderful talk at PCA this year that was all about modern shape-shifter romance--but I hope they'll shake loose some lively commentary!

  7. I have used the word 'bestiality' in connection with shape-shifter erotica on other forums occasionally, and fans of the genre sometimes get a bit upset... :D

  8. I'm not surprised--and we may get some flack for it at the journal, come to think of it!