Friday, December 02, 2011

More Romance in the New Millennium

Continuing on from the tweeted summary of the keynote speech given to the McDaniel College Popular Romance in the New Millennium conference, and Jonathan's discussion of the ideas contained in his paper, here are some links about the conference. I suspect many of you will have read some or all of them already, but I wanted to provide them for those who haven't, and to create an archive of links.

There's a description posted on the McDaniel College website of a pre-conference talk given by Lisa Dale (author of Slow Dancing on Price’s Pier) and of a workshop run by Amy Burge. Jessica, of Read React Review, summarises Amy's presentation (in which she discussed this and a previous workshop) and also gives a summary of the presentation by Glinda Hall. Amy's own reflections on her McDaniel workshop can be found at her personal blog.

Jessica has also written a summary of Eloisa James's keynote speech.

Smart Bitch Sarah's summary of the entire conference makes particular mention of Mary Bly/Eloisa James's keynote address, Glinda Hall's "discussion of what including romance in courses does to the classroom community," An Goris's plenary address on the works of Nora Roberts, Samantha Sabalis's "Lacanian analysis of Courtney Milan’s Proof by Seduction and Unveiled," and Maryan Wherry's "feminist literary critical examination of the sex in romance."

Jessica has a fairly full discussion of her own paper: she
presented on authorship with a colleague. We have project going that traces a Romantic conception of authorship in women’s writing about authorship from the Minerva Press era (late 18th-early 19th century) through today’s popular romances.
Angela Toscano's paper on "The Liturgy of Cliché: Ritual Speech and Genre Convention in Popular Romance" is up here. The throbbing core of her argument is that:
It is an oft repeated criticism of popular romance that the genre is formulaic. The cliché use of language is indicative of this formula; it seems to expose the romance as the very “mass–produced fantasies for women” that Tania Modleski accused them of being. But let us assume that authors know what they are doing. That they are using cliché not because they are unable or unwilling to come up with better metaphors, more original similes, but rather because the cliché is doing something within the text that another phrase may fail to do.
Toscano proposes that "repetition is only problematic if one takes the view that to repeat oneself or to repeat someone else is to fail to properly use language. It presumes that originality is the highest form of narrative. That to say what has never been said and to say it in way that has never been said before is the supreme expression of language." She suggests that repetition, in certain areas of life, can in fact be considered a sign of success because there are "actions that need, want, and are desired to be done again. They are the appetites: sex, sleep, food, love. Love is not final. It is never done. The fulfillment of love, like sex, like food, is in its repetition" and she argues that "Story, like sex, incites the desire for more stories." In addition, she considers that in romance cliché can be considered
liturgical. It is a type of magical speech, as in the language of the Christian mass which transforms the substance of the wafer into the body of Jesus Christ. In the mass this is not metaphor but an actual substantive and physical change. In the world of the narrative, the cliché comprises a series of speeches that, like the mass, become the means by which a substantive transformation occurs in the persons and the bodies of the hero and heroine.

To fill some of the gaps, I'm also including some of the tweets from the conference (these may have been very slightly edited, to remove typos or fill out more obscure abbreviations). They were written by Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell (in purple), Jessica from Read React Review (in blue), and Sarah Frantz (in black). Since both Jessica and Sarah Frantz were giving papers, this impeded their ability to report on some of the panels, so even with these tweets to fill the gaps, not all the papers are covered.


Third panelist is Jung Choi at Program for General Ed at Harvard titled "On Teaching the Romance Novel." Choi, quoting Derrida: "The center is not the center." Change one word, change center, relationship between center and margin. What is marginalized will come to center - for example, romance studied at Harvard. Behind images of emotional coldness, intellectuality, there have been constant image of love at Harvard: Love Story, Legally Blonde Inside ivory towers/ivy walls, Choi believes has been steady fascination with sex and romance. Choi did same assignment she gave students: shop for romance at Harvard bookstore. "Where are the Harlequin novels displayed?" Horrified reaction. "We don't carry trade books." Clerk couldn't say "Harlequin." "Romance has power to threaten what is a center." Quote from Northanger Abbey from Choi: "seems a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist." "Let us be united and let us celebrate."

jung choi, from harvard, on teaching the romance novel, is next. choi wondered whether she should attend this con, because she teaches the romance, not popular romance. choi starts with derrida quote, the center is not the center. choi's point is that the center we consider stable may be shaken up. relation bt center and margin is fluid. choi's romance course is dominated by women students. all female writers and topics such as marriage may explain that. for choi, issue is not just topics or gender, but location at margins, that prevents more male students from taking romance course. choi notes increase of students' interest in and desire to read strong female characters in romance course. choi assigns students to go out and find mass market romances in the community. look at display, marketing, etc. students are assigned to do an in depth study of one romance novel. part of the assignment is to read the romance in a public place and note reactions of peers. in 2008 choi went to harvard book store to ask for a harlequin novel. salesperson was dumbstruck. unable to repeat word "harlequin", clerk said, "we dont carry trade books." which is false. choi, "the happiest delineations of the varieties of human nature are celebrated in romance."

Up now is Jayashree Kamble on teaching literary canon alongside romance. For ex: Governess Novel: Jayne Eyre, Midnight Angel @lisakleypas, Turn of the Screw, Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie. Kamble encouraged students to use subjects that apply to their lives, i.e. using 1st person shooter Halo to discuss 1st person POV. "Eat Pray Love: appallingly bad movie, amazing in its exoticization of Italians, Indians and Indonesians." I have syllabi here. Section on "Love & communication" has Austen P&P, Flowers/Storm - Kinsale, Your Wicked Ways, Naked in Death. Secondary texts include Love Actually, Lady Hawke, Episode of Bones. Naked in Death included bc Eve Dallas has real problems with communication & emotional idioms. Kamble has students cite other students' papers, partly to teach citation, plagiarism, and what academic peer review is like.

j kamble shares syllabi. ex. the governess novel. incl j eyre, turn of screw, mistress mellyn, midnite angel, maybe this time j kamble's course on the exotic: wuthering, heart darkness, heart of fire, heart of the seas, seduce me at sunrise. kamble also uses variety of 2ndary texts in media theory, criticism. ex. levine's highbrow/lowbrow, belsey's a future for criticism

Now: Bill Gleason, “Teaching Romance in the Popular American Literature Survey” from Princeton U. Gleason: early version of course did not include romance fiction, but thought it did. Current version: A LOT of romance fiction. Course begins with Wigglesworth's Day of Doom (1662) as examination of books that were popular and some that still are, thru 20thC. Romance: Bet Me (2004) Students pick last book of the reading list, they decide. Nominate text, then class votes. Two years ago: Harry Potter, Sorcerer's Stone. Then Gossip Girl. Course is set up in "genres" and what that means: Seduction, Adventure, Mystery, Romance. Course focuses on the idea that the historical context of what is popular and WHEN it is popular is crucial to study. In 1993, Gleason thought was inc romance b/c he had GONE WITH THE WIND on the syllabus, w/ Krentz's DANGEROUS MEN. Offers covers to camouflage Bet Me: Cover for Beowulf, The History of Otero and Crowley Counties Colorado for embarrassed students. Comprehensive final exam, progression of class texts "makes romance fiction seem part of continuum, not outlier." Course presently is 2/3rds female, 1/3 male. One thing Gleason can't do is real sense of breadth and range of romance fiction. Students have asked for course just on romance fic.

bill gleason of princeton says in 1993 he taught GWTW thinking it was romance. gleason says he teaches bet me by jenny crusie. this is a topics in am lit course at princeton. Many Princeton students deeply embarrassed to read romance novels. Offer them camouflage book covers: Tarzan, Beowulf. ...gleason says having romance arrive at end means he can start talking about romance on first day of class. gleason emphasizes romance themes in earlier texts like last of mohicans. gleason tries to help students see romance as part of a continuum, not an outlier. 

"Sneaking it in at the End: Introducing Popular Romance into the Small College Classroom” by Antonia Losano, who was unable to come. Eric Selinger is reading paper for scholar in absentia. Small colleges can be troubling for instructors because required courses take up time of small faculty, not room for flexibility. Lack of flexibility can marginalize romance, for example, because requirements for established canon classes for major students. Losano: Every time I tried to sneak a romance in at the end, it was a pedagogical failure. Students disliked inclusion of P&P and Frederica. "Frederica" has no redeeming values, said one student in eval. Course included Pamela and Welcome to Temptation. Students liked Pamela, didn't like Temptation. Losano was baffled. Losano presented Roberts' The Search as contemporary fiction featuring dogs for dogs in literature course. Was accepted w/o problems. Didn't reveal it was a "romance" so it was discussed without rejection. Losano asks: in what framing methods can we introduce romances into our courses? Concl: most successful method Middlebury College is hide romance completely in courses by not saying it's romance.

Now Selinger talking about his own experience teaching romance fiction at DePaul. Has done so for years. @angoris pointed out that Selinger's syllabi of romance text lacked, among other things, Carpathians and tycoons. Selinger had student who refused to buy romances because they were so embarrassing Selinger assigned her to think about that refusal. "What are you a sucker for?" These novels will teach you that. Students have written to say romances have taught them to leave bad relationships, challenge professors who dismiss romance. Selinger says one prof at DePaul would query on 1st day which students had read @harlequinbooks, then say they should be ashamed. Selinger: "He doesn't do that anymore."

EricSelinger says two rewards of teaching romance fiction are 1. they illuminate complexities of both emotional and textual desire and, says @EricSelinger, this turns student into readers, into scholars. second, romance teaches students about beautiful circuits and subterfuges of their own desires. 

"The wired world of romance scholarship," Kat Schroder, student in Masters of Commm in Digital Media at U of Washington. "Online communities offer what James Gee calls an 'affinity space.'" online spaces encourage active sharing of knowledge. Romance communities are comprised of blogs, bboards, podcasts, social communities. Romance author websites being used for examples: Jennifer Crusie, Eloisa James. Jenny Crusie uses her blog to solicit help for plot points, names, titles, and allow audience to have role in shaping text. Reading is an active process in which readers construct textual meaning. In Crusie example, readers construct text and meaning. James' Facebook community allows readers equal access to text and "day in life of bestselling author" with video Q&A. Online community "changes what book is, shows how elastic parameters of a book are now." Boundaries between reader author friend and fan are blurry now. [Also, I point out, definition of "Friend" is varied as well. People who come to my home, eat w me not = FB friends, online friends.] Trying to link how internet has allowed academic study of romance to flourish. I am learning that there are terms for things like how many links, directions of links. Eigenvector Centrality: influence! All of the people who are part of IASPR network on twitter: in graphic. @sarahfrantz is center.

Now I'm listening to *business* professor Chryssa Sharp talk about "using cross-cultural frameworks to examine American attitudes. Sharp is proposing that we use international management models to examine affect of emotion in romance novels. How do values contained w/in popular romance line up w/ US cultural norms? What would cross-cultural comparisons show?

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