The Popular Romance in the New Millennium conference is taking place at McDaniel College from November 10-11 as a direct result of the Nora Roberts Foundation's decision to give
McDaniel College a $100,000 grant to help advance research and study of romance literature, establish an academic minor in the genre fiction and launch an online creative writing course in romance fiction.It had been stated that "Pedagogy, the teaching of romance, will be an important focus of the conference" but all the same, when reading the abstracts of the papers to be presented, I was struck by how many are about the teaching of romance fiction and left feeling very hopeful about the future of popular romance studies.
Jung Choi - “‘The Romance’ at Harvard”
Jung Choi "is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and a teaching fellow in the Department of Women’s Studies at Harvard University":
As a graduate teaching fellow at Harvard, I have taught sections of a course called “The Romance,” which examines women’s genre fiction such as the Harlequin and “chick lit,” along with works by Austen, the Brontë sisters, and DuMaurier. Based on my teaching experiences, I would like to explore why teaching romance fiction matters; what we can learn from students’ responses; and how we can address the issues of women, gender, and sexuality while studying the romance.William Gleason - “Teaching Romance in the Popular American Literature Survey”
Bill Gleason "is Professor of English and Acting Director of American Studies at Princeton University [...], he was also co–convener, with Eric Murphy Selinger, of Love as the Practice of Freedom? Romance Fiction and American Culture, a two–day interdisciplinary conference on romance fiction held at Princeton in April 2009":
I have been teaching “American Best Sellers,” an upper–level undergraduate survey course on American popular writing, since the mid–1990s. Moving from the colonial period to the present, the course examines roughly one text and historical period per week while simultaneously introducing students to a broad range of genres, including the tale of seduction, the sentimental novel, children’s fiction, the western, the detective novel, the adventure series, and (with increasing emphasis in recent syllabi) contemporary romance fiction. In this talk I will discuss the challenges of (and opportunities for) teaching romance as one among many genres in the popular lit survey.Glinda F. Hall - “Teaching Romance/Teaching Sex: Classroom Challenges and Pedagogical Pursuits”
Glinda Hall "has returned to Arkansas State University as an Instructor in First Year Studies after holding an assistant professor position at the University of Arkansas–Fort Smith":
In spring 2010, I taught a senior–level English course titled “Beyond Heaving Bosoms: Women’s Popular Romance Fiction.” My plan was to focus on the history and heritage of popular romance fiction, with particular attention paid to gender dynamics and power structures at work in both the content and the reception of this genre of popular fiction. However, I soon learned that another topic was inescapable, and apparently more relevant to my students: sex. It then became clear that a significant portion of the course needed to address issues of sexuality, especially our culture’s view of women’s sexuality and how these are related to other issues: gender representation, power dynamics, political contexts, and economic realities for our contemporary society. In this presentation, I will discuss the practical exigencies of “teaching sex” in the context of popular romance fiction, as well as the intellectual questions that such pedagogy raises about how we teach and study literature.Jayashree Kamble - “Romancing the Canon: Teaching ‘Literary’ Texts with Romance”
Jayashree Kamble "earned her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota’s English department":
Classic literature and genre fiction intersect more often than literary critics and students might realize. Therefore, even though popular romance is unarguably a distinct genre with its own parameters, it can also be taught alongside canonical texts. While courses that focus exclusively on romance fiction can subject the genre to a scrutiny that it both merits and can withstand, courses that combine romance and high literature make a different case for including the genre in the field of literary studies. For instance, pairing Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with Linda Howard’s Heart of Fire creates room to discuss issues of exoticism in both, while also affording a chance to examine the aesthetics of the Victorian novella and popular romance. Similarly, a course that contains Henry James's The Turn of the Screw and Jennifer Crusie’s adaptation of it in Maybe This Time, allows for a discussion on authorial style as well as the signifiers of the horror and romance genres.Antonia Losano - “Sneaking it in at the end: Introducing Popular Romance into the Small College Classroom”
Antonio Losano "teaches literature and gender studies at Middlebury College in Vermont":
Mounting innovative new courses on popular culture is always challenging, but the endeavor has particular tensions in a small English department at a small Liberal Arts college. If I were to offer a course solely on popular romance, either one of the gateway courses, or a seminal survey, or the Victorian literature course wouldn’t get taught that year (and if English majors can’t get the courses they need to graduate, parents who are spending over $50,000 a year on this education start complaining). My contention, however, is that this constraint can be intensely productive for the study and teaching of popular romance, which need not be lost–it must simply be incorporated.Eric Selinger - “You Teach a Whole Course on Popular Romance? Who? How? Why? Now What?”
Instead of being taught in a stand–alone course, romances can and should, I argue, be folded into the fabric of the academic canon. A course just on popular romance runs the risk of isolating and marginalizing the popular romance–as if we were trying to keep it from infecting the Beowulf to Virginia Woolf survey, for example. It has been my strategy to include at least one popular romance novel into the syllabus of each course I teach, encouraging students to realize that the boundaries between romance fiction and “canonical” fiction are more permeable than critics of the former would like. In this conference paper I hope to offer suggestions on ways to engage with the popular romance in academic courses within the context of literary history.
Eric Murphy Selinger "is Associate Professor of English at DePaul University":
In the fall of 2005 I taught DePaul University’s first course exclusively devoted to popular romance fiction: a gen–ed survey that ran from E.M. Hull’s The Sheik to the then–new Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie. I have since taught over 25 popular romance courses, from undergraduate surveys to graduate seminars, including a 10–week class on Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm; the novels range from inspirational to LGBTQ and erotic romances, and include both category and single–title texts. My talk will discuss the practicalities of classes devoted exclusively to popular romance fiction (course design, assignments and helpful secondary readings, issues in classroom dynamics), as well as the aesthetic and literary–historical questions raised by introducing such courses into a fairly conservative English department, one in which popular romance remains the abjected Other of “literature.”
More details about the presenters, and abstracts of the other papers being presented at the conference, can be found here.