Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm
The “Noble Savage” and “Happy Darky”: Race and the American Popular Romance
Maryan Wherry - Black Hawk College
This paper examines the use race in the American popular romance. Rather than focusing on “the Black Romance,” I’m interested specifically at the presence and treatment of Blacks and American Indians as secondary characters and in subplots and how this racial tension confronts (or not) the American cultural narrative.
“He Didn’t Seem Indian”: Exploring and Analyzing the Construction of Race in Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows
Mallory Jagodzinski - Bowling Green State University
Historical romance novels, as a whole, tend to be overwhelmingly white, especially those set in England. There are few characters of color in these novels and often are not privileged to be either the hero or heroine in the central love story of the novel. Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows, however, subverts this tendency by making her hero a native of India “whose blood [is] one-quarter native” (16). This paper explores the ways in which Duran’s English heroine encounters and experiences race under the British colonial regime in India and during the rebellion of 1857. Throughout the novel, the heroine’s views on race and what is moral are challenged by the hero and his status as an individual with double consciousness. In this paper, I will use textual analysis to analyze Duran’s portrayals of race and colonialism in order to suggest that the way she represents colonialism demonstrates that she is interested not only in depicting the reality of colonial violence, but also in making the reader uncomfortable with hierarchical systems of reality by depicting the reality of its effects. I will be utilizing the theories of Frantz Fanon and Lola Young, each of whom discusses the process of colonization and what it does to both to the white colonizers and the colonized individuals; Young’s work in “Imperial Culture: The Primitive, the Savage and White Civilization” will be of utmost importance to my essay as she engages with issues of history and representation. In addition to these theorists, I will make use of works that address issues of creating racial progressives such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism Without Racists to argue that Duran constructs her heroine as a woman who becomes aware of her white privilege through the understanding of her inferior position in the colonial system due to her gender.
Protest Like an Egyptian: Tracing Erotic Investments in the Middle East through Desert Romances
Amira Jarmakani - Georgia State University
The spring 2011 Arab uprisings provoked an interesting set of engagements in the U.S., such as the placards at the Wisconsin rallies to save unions from demolition, which read “Protest like an Egyptian.” One particular engagement, the blog “Gay Girl in Damascus,” received substantial media attention for its brazen deceitfulness – many readers had been following the story of a Syrian lesbian facing persecution by the secret police only to find out that the blogger behind the story was a heterosexual white man from Georgia (USA). Though it may be tempting to understand these kinds of investments in the Middle East as a new phenomenon, they have been clearly prefigured by the steady rise in popularity of desert romances since 2001, and, indeed, by their longstanding position within the genre as a whole. Particularly given the ongoing “war on terror,” how can one account for the rise in desert romances as viable fantasy narratives? Groping toward an answer to this question, I focus on the roles of fantasy and violence in both the film Sex and the City 2 (a type of desert romance, I argue, though it lacks some of the elements) and contemporary desert romances. Through mimicry, which tends to enact a kind of violence to the other (in its desire to subsume the other) and menace, which tends to play on the fear of violence from the other, I argue that the two together underscore a potential reason for the salience of the Middle East in the contemporary context: both represent actual and phantasmatic violences that perhaps psychically or subliminally connect to the violence inherent to the process of identification.
Saving China: The Transformative Power of Whiteness in the Interracial Romance
Erin Young - SUNY Empire State College
This project examines the novels of Elizabeth Lowell (Jade Island, 1998) and Katherine Stone (Pearl Moon, 1995), both of which explore romantic relationships between a white hero and a mixed-race Asian (and white) heroine. I argue that these interracial romances invert the conventional romance formula by featuring white heroes who domesticate their Asian heroines, and in turn, the family-owned companies they represent, thereby “modernizing” corporations that are portrayed as overtly patriarchal, regressive, and anti-capitalist. Lowell’s and Stone’s respective narratives reveal that a racial and nationalist hierarchy is potentially (re)affirmed in the formulaic conventions of popular romance.
In their negotiations of interracial romantic relationships, both novels construct conflicts between Orientalist conceptions of “East” and “West.” The Asian heroines have been traumatized by a particular depiction of Chinese culture and its anti-capitalist leanings. The Chinese family and community functions as a regressive past in which individual desires and feelings are painfully oppressed, and defined roles are marked by an extreme enforcement of gender inequality. Lowell and Stone construct “Chineseness” as something that must be rescued from itself; Jade Island and Pearl Moon are essentially narratives of progress, in which the Chinese community may offer security at the expense of freedom, but the British and/or American corporation has the ability to offer more satisfactory versions of both. The hero, who represents the (white) British or American corporation, introduces the Chinese heroine to a “domesticated” workplace—one that is specifically racialized and nationalized—and she is transformed in the process. The conventional (white) heroine’s gendered victory is reconfigured as a racial and national victory for the heroes of interracial romance. These novels reveal that whiteness, despite its invisibility in the majority of romance novels, is central to the formulaic conventions of the genre. More importantly, perhaps, they suggest that the contemporary romance alleviates particular racial and national anxieties that emerge out of a global economy.