Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 8:00am - 9:30am
“The Person Behind the Curtain”: Evolving Roles of Author and Audience in Paranormal Romance
Esther Guenat - Temple College
When considering reader response criticism and its focus on examining literature and its readers in such a way that explores the diversity of readers’ responses to literary works, one might not immediately consider audiences of popular fiction, let alone audiences of romance novels. Readers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance are becoming much more diverse—both regarding who does the reading and those readers’ expectations—and the writing of each has evolved along with the audiences. While the use of supernatural aspects, sexual exploration, and urban locale were different standards of the two sub-genres, the conventional romance remained the same, as did reader expectation—heterosexual women sought out tales of supernaturally enhanced heterosexual relationships that ended in happily ever after. Recent reader-oriented critics have focused on how a given type of fiction audience’s expectations change over time; feminist and gender critics ask whether there is such a thing as “reading like a woman,” just as gay and lesbian critics ask whether there is a homosexual way of reading. Audience expectation of urban fantasy and paranormal romance has become much more diverse in its response—to gender roles, homosexual relationships, and even heterosexual relationships—and the formulas of these two sub-genres are no longer exact. Various authors have been able to somewhat adapt and evolve their writing so that it encompasses and allows for a more diverse following. Through this examination of works of various urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors, I explore the way the conventional romance novel formula is changing, how the readership of the genre is changing, and how authors of the genre are responding to and adapting to this change, thus creating a sub-genre of popular fiction that defies conventional ideas of romance and matches its audience in diversity.
"I am so over the whole vampires and werewolves and demons, oh my": How a Series of Steampunk "Romances" Offered This Romance Reader an Alternative to Paranormals
Glinda Hall - Arkansas State University
It is not difficult to acknowledge the popularity and role that the paranormal plays and has played within our culture, and especially throughout our literature. For romance fiction, it is easy to understand the appeal because the paranormal allows for sexual expression and experimentation that readers may not dare fantasize about within mainstream and/or contemporary romance. However, when I began my journey as a romance reader and scholar some 8 years ago, I also found paranormals appealing for this very reason; but now I have become disillusioned with the illusion. Not to overplay a feminist approach to romance fiction, but (thanks to the saturation of the Twilight series) it seems the paranormal has outlived its usefulness in terms of its once used format for sexual exploration.
In my paper presentation, I will show how Gail Carriger’s steampunk series – Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless – gives us a heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, that represents a strong, intelligent female, but also one literally immune to the supernatural that is a very real part of her alternative Victorian reality. Alexia is an anti-paranormal protagonist, and this anti-paranormal plot schematic and characterization exposes devises used by romance paranormals and counters them.
Re-imagining the Heroine as a 'Slave to Desire': Power Games and (Hetero) Sexual Rhetoric in Labyrinth and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanfiction
Danielle Lawson - Edinboro University
This paper explores the sexual rhetoric of power games, specifically representations of erotic power exchange in fanfiction written for the Labyrinth (Jim Henson) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Joss Whedon) fandoms. In particular, this research is concerned with the erotic power dynamic represented between the primary ‘romantic’ relationships in both original stories: Jareth/Sarah (Labyrinth) and Spike/Buffy (BtVS). Although the genres and intended audiences of the movie/tv show differ greatly, there are many similarities in the way the relationship dynamic between the characters is developed by authors of fanfiction. Using a combination of rhetorical analysis and critical discourse analysis, this study demonstrates how authors of hetero-oriented fanfiction re-claim the ‘dominant male/submissive female’ construct as an acceptable relationship dynamic. Moreover, the research presented shows that this re-claiming serves to build a subtext of feminine power, wherein the heroine is empowered (rather than oppressed) by accepting that they have the freedom to submit to their desires – even if that desire is to be dominated. In reaching this point, the male antagonists engage in a three phase power game: 1) Setting the Bait, 2) The Chase and 3) The Surrender. Other themes discussed include the disconnect between romance, power and ‘happily ever after’.