Monday, March 19, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (2)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 4:45pm - 6:15pm

A Rake’s Progress: Examining the Archetype of the Rake in Popular Romance
Angela Toscano - Independent Scholar

The rake or the rakehell is a stock character first appearing in Restoration era dramas. The English equivalent of the French libertine, the rake’s function in novels of the 18th century was primarily to serve as the antagonist or moral counterpoint to the more worthy hero or heroine. For example, in Richardson’s Clarissa, Lovelace’s rape of Clarissa and his eventual death highlight Clarissa’s virtue while revealing his own moral outlook as deficient and ultimately vacuous. Thus the rake also functions to expose the corruption of the aristocracy and the ideologies of which he is a proponent. Because of this, canonical literature features a rake’s progress that nearly always results in an early death preceded by an act of contrition or penance.

While the rake in popular romance shares certain qualities with his Restoration and 18th-century counterparts, he deviates from the type in one significant way: he is redeemed and he lives. By giving to the rake a happily-ever-after, popular romance both retains and reforms the structure of the rake’s story. More curiously, the redemption of the rake doesn’t necessarily result in a total shift in the character’s morality. In many novels, the rake’s redemption is not dependent upon moral rectitude but only on sexual fidelity to the heroine. It is by admitting that he loves the heroine that the rake is reformed. By tracing his literary genealogy down to his more contemporary characterizations, I wish to explore what it is about the rake that is so appealing to romance narrative that he has become one of the most oft repeated types of character.

Meet Paperback Michelangelo and the Queen of Gothic Romance
Brigita Jeraj - LMU Munich

My paper deals with Phyllis A. Whitney and Michael Avallone who were among the most popular writers in the 1960s, when Gothic romance boomed in the paperback market. For marketing reasons, Avallone pretended to be a female writer by using pseudonyms like Dorothea Nile, Edwina Noone, and Priscilla Dalton for his “Gothics”. Avallone picks up the genre’s convention of playing with the reader’s expectations. But is there a notable difference in writing between a male writer, who passes for female, and a female writer, when both of them address their fiction primarily to a female audience? Not only because of its popularity, but also because of the particular handling of gender and emotion in and apart from the text, Avallone’s and Whitney’s work surely is worth exploring in the Gothic context.

Both writers published in various fields of literature and thought a lot about the process of writing itself. Avallone once said: “A professional writer should be able to write anything from a garden seed catalogue to the Bible and everything that lies in between” (The Little Times, Jan 27, 1982). Manuscripts were discussed regularly and the self-crowned “Fastest Typewriter in the East” and Phyllis Whitney were closest friends most of their life-time, which is documented by various letters and notes. The correspondence and literary remains of both writers are accessible in an archive in Boston and provide an interesting insight into (Gothic) romance writing.

Trends in Queer Romance Publishing: 2004-2012
Len Barot - Bold Strokes Books, Inc

The early models for queer publishing were formed during the feminist and gay movements of the 1970s and early 1980s. Dozens of small independent presses sprang up to supply the hundreds of independent feminist and gay bookstores throughout the US and abroad. Publishers generally supplied vendors directly, without using distributors as the “middle-men.” While libraries carried many queer titles, most non-feminist/non-gay bookstores did not. Sales of popular titles (by historical report) were 20,000 or more. In the last decade of the 20th century, most of the small presses disappeared commensurate with the closure of the majority of independent queer/feminist bookstores (last report suggests there are less than fifty such bookstores remaining). These small presses were eventually replaced with POD publishing companies, issuing limited numbers of titles via narrow distribution channels. The bulk of the titles published by these presses were lesbian romances.

Bold Strokes Books, established in 2004, is a midsized publisher with an active catalog of 300-plus titles and a front list of 75 to 100 new titles per year. We utilize mainstream distribution channels employing traditional, non-POD print runs of 1500-8000 copies/title. 75% of our titles are gay and lesbian romance titles (the remainder being queer general fiction, mysteries, spec fic, and erotica). This paper analyzes eight years of sales data in the romance market looking at overall sales trends, comparative sales based on sub-genre and format (print versus digital), and variations in genre popularity in print versus digital format. This data allows us to analyze the trends in the queer romance market in terms of sub-genre preference, to extrapolate future markets, and to guide acquisitions.

Harlequins at the Browne:  What Shall We Do With Them?
Stefanie Hunker - Bowling Green State University

The Browne Popular Culture Library’s (BPCL) collection of over 9000 category romances, such as those from Harlequin and Silhouette, holds a treasure trove of material for anyone wanting to study these sometimes misunderstood pieces of literature.  To enable researchers to find these items more effectively, the BPCL is preparing to launch a retrospective cataloging project to update the bibliographic records of hundreds of category romances.  Previous cataloging practices did not require the use of subject and/or genre headings, the lack of which decreases the findability of these resources. Typically when category romances are cataloged, Library of Congress (LC) subject headings are assigned that represent the subject matter or theme as well as occupations of the main characters and location of the story.

Unfortunately, themes in older Harlequins can differ greatly from themes of more current Harlequins and many times subject headings simply do not exist or do not fit the subject matter adequately.  Inadequate LC subject headings make more difficulty for the cataloger to accurately describe an item, which, in turn, makes difficulty for the researcher to find items for study, especially if their needs are fairly specific.

Using the thousands of Harlequin Romances at the BPCL (which begin in the 1950’s and end in the 2000’s) as a starting place, a survey of themes, occupations, and locations has begun and will offer a more thorough understanding of the collection and enable better description of these items within the LC classification.  If appropriate LC subject headings cannot be found, should local subject headings be used or should LC be petitioned to create more descriptive or more appropriate subject headings to better serve researchers’ needs?  Would tagging be more appropriate for these items?  Should summaries of each book be added?  What would make these items more findable in general?  What kinds of tools are researchers using to find resources with which to study?

In an effort to enlist the assistance of dedicated romance researchers, I would like to administer a questionnaire and, possibly, lead a discussion that would answer many of the questions I have about how romance researchers find their resources.  Their responses coupled with our survey of themes, occupations, and locations should give a more complete picture and will enable us to make a more informed decision about what our next steps should be with the project.

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