Monday, April 30, 2012

Out Now: JPRS 2.2

There's a lot in this issue of JPRS so I decided to split my post about it into two parts. Here are the items which are not in the "Special Forum."

Editor's Note
Five years ago, at a hotel bar in Boston, Sarah S. G. Frantz and I sat down with a half-dozen scholars from the U.S., Australia, and elsewhere to plan a new era in popular romance studies. [...] Whatever our scholarly organization and annual conferences looked like, we decided that night at the bar, it should have room for the creators and editors and non-academic scholars of popular romance, in whatever medium, to join the conversation [...]. As Walt Whitman says, then, this issue is dedicated to “You, Whoever You Are.”

A Parody of Love: the Narrative Uses of Rape in Popular Romance - Angela Toscano
Rape in popular romance represents both the violence of love and the violence of understanding that attend the quest to know the Other. In many rape scenes, however, this quest is obstructed by the mistaken assumption that the Other is already known. This occurs because on some level the hero has already appropriated the heroine as an extension of his own desires, rather than having acknowledged her as a separate person. The rape is committed precisely because the hero wrongly believes that his knowledge of the heroine is sufficient and total. His certainty of the absolute authority of his knowledge—of his perception—allows the hero to behave as if the heroine had always already consented to the sex act. The rape reveals the inadequacy of this perception and exposes through its violence and its violation the false underlying assumption that one can know the Other by outward signs, by social role or public name, by the body and its presence, or (most elusive of all) by an access to the interior and singular self through discourse.

Francophone Perspectives on Romantic Fiction: From the Academic Field to Reader’s Experience - Séverine Olivier
This paper will examine why contempt for romantic fiction and for romance readers remains predominant in the French academic field, bringing to light the differences between the dominant construction of the genre and its readership in the French critical context and romance readers’ own perceptions of the books they like to read.
This article is in two parts. The first gives an overview of Francophone romance scholarship and the second is an interview with Agnès Caubet, "Webmaster of [...] the first and currently only Francophone website about the romance genre."

Review by Hsu-Ming Teo of Virgin Territory: Representing Sexual Inexperience in Film, edited by Tamar Jeffers McDonald. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010.

Review by Laura M. Carpenter of Kate Monro's The First Time: True Tales of Virginity Lost and Found (Including my Own). London: Icon Books, 2011.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Show, Don't Tell

Every writing student has heard the rule that you should show, not tell, but this principle seems to be among the hardest for beginners to master. [...] Why is showing better? Two reasons. First, it creates mental pictures for the reader. [...]  Second, showing is interactive and participatory: it forces the reader to become involved in the story, deducing facts [...] for himself or herself, rather than just taking information in passively. (Robert J. Sawyer)

And apparently deducing facts may be very important in assisting identification with a character. Over at OnFiction Keith Oatley reports on the findings of Maria Kotovych, Peter Dixon, Marisa Bortolussi, and Mark Holden as outlined in "Textual determinants of a component of literary identification," Scientific Study of Literature, 1 (2011): 260-291.
Their idea is that just as when in conversation we make inferences about what the other person is thinking and feeling, so we do in coming to understand a character in a book. When we need to make such inferences we come to understand the character better, and can identify with that character more strongly.  [...]
Kotovych and her colleagues argue that the literary idea of identification is not well defined, and they concentrate on just one aspect of it, which they call "transparency:" the extent to which readers understand a character. In this first experiment the researchers found that the transparency of the narrator was greater for readers who read the story with the implicit preamble than for those who read the story with the explicit preamble. [...]

In a third experiment the authors used stories by different writers, and compared versions that used free-indirect speech and directly quoted speech. Free-indirect speech requires more inferences than directly quoted speech. Again they found more transparency of characters was achieved in the versions that required more inference. [...]

The idea that in coming to know a literary character we need to make inferences as we would with a real person, not just be told about the character, is a critical insight.

Photo by anilkuzhikala and made available via Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Call for Papers: Collection of essays defining Urban Fantasy Genre

This call for papers is being circulated and might be of interest to romance scholars:
Despite their covers that picture chicks in black leather with tramp stamps, urban fantasy as a best-selling genre is much more complex. This collection seeks to examine the genre of urban fantasy and open a dialogue that encourages definitions beyond a basic marketing strategy. Essays for this collection can cover the genre as a whole, specific themes, or specific authors. Chapters may include topics on genre blending, feminist and gender approaches, urban spaces, spirituality and faith, class, and post-colonial studies. Special interest is given to chapters exploring the differences between urban fantasy and genres like paranormal romance, detective fiction, epic fantasy, and other similar genres. Other approaches are welcome. Interested contributors are encouraged to forward a 300-500 word abstract, along with a brief curriculum vita, to Jamie Dessart, Professor of English at Waynesburg University (, by September 1, 2012. Successful authors will be notified by October 1, 2012.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Eric Murphy Selinger's Playfulness

Eric Selinger and Sarah Frantz have been called “the Marx and Engels” of romance scholarship. If this is the case, perhaps it is time to turn attention to the ways in which our very own Marx and Engels theorize and write about romance. In this regard, I offer a “playful” engagement with Eric Selinger’s essay in New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction (now available for $9.99 on Kindle).

Selinger’s wonderful essay – an essay that is not anxious, not attempting to slay various precursors, not defensive of the genre, and makes no apology for studying romance – provides a challenge to scholars (and common readers) of the romance novel. Throughout his chapter, Selinger speaks of the possibility of “close reading” the romance novel, even if only to see “what would happen.”

Anecdotally, I must reluctantly admit that I have recently heard “close reading” used as a dismissive judgment on scholarship. To say that a critic hasn’t engaged in a “close reading” is to suggest, at least so it seems, that the critic has been overly theoretical. Theory becomes a symptom for a reading that isn’t close enough, theory is an illness that the reader needs to be cured of because the critic is missing the forest for the trees, the text for the words.

Indeed, I often find myself asking questions about theory, criticism, and popular romance fiction: What is the place of theory and criticism? Can we “close read” literary criticism and theory? Can we “close read” theory the same way we “close read” fiction? What would happen if we did “close read” theory and criticism?

To these ends, I turn my attention to Selinger's essay in New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction. In his essay, “How to Read a Romance Novel (and Fall in Love with Popular Romance),” Selinger offers a close reading of Laura Kinsale’s Flowers from the Storm (1992) and draws on ideas of intertextuality, particularly with respect to Milton’s Paradise Lost. The governing question of Selinger’s essay is: “What would “close-reading a romance” (as opposed to “reading the romance”) look like in practice?” And this is precisely what Selinger does throughout the essay.

Flowers from the Storm invokes [Milton] by name, stops by his house, and vividly associates Paradise Lost with Maddy’s parents and with Jevaulx’s hidden intelligence. If we want to know “precisely where we are” as we read the novel, we will need to think about Milton – so, at least, I teach my students to read the scene.

I am struck by how closely Selinger reads Flowers from the Storm. Indeed, I am taken aback—almost surprised—by the closeness of the reading. Selinger provides a series of intertextual relations between Flowers from the Storm and Paradise Lost, which consistently (and without fail) demonstrate the relation between these two texts. There is, of course, an academic (and political) game taking place: if the popular romance novel is able to “play” with Paradise Lost, then surely there must be some intelligence in these novels, something that makes them worthy of scrutiny and scholarship. But, there is something more catching, at least for me, about Selinger’s piece. Selinger “plays,” and “plays” quite a bit.

  • Speaking about Dixon’s discussion of romance, Selinger writes, “this ‘way’ bears little resemblance to the subtle, playful strategies that we may have acquired in order to understand poetry or literary fiction, postmodern or otherwise.”
  • Selinger later writes, “to read such a romance closely would not be to resist or dismiss it, but rather to let the mind of love we see at play in the text spark an interesting excitement, an ‘erotic curiosity’ of our own.” 
  • About Kinsale’s novel: “You don’t have to read very far into Flowers from the Storm to note Kinsale’s play with romance conventions made famous by The Flame and the Flower.”
  • Kinsale’s novel, but now in discussion with Dixon: “But the minute we accept Kinsale’s exegetical challenge, playing along with what we might either call (with Dixon) the novel’s ‘postmodern game-playing’ or (with Roberts) its ‘interplay with the art of the past,’ we realize the Miltonic echoes are everywhere in the text."
  • Once more, Selinger invokes play: “To praise Kinsale’s novel, I may well want to
  • play the ‘games’ I find in it, to use Dixon’s term, just as I play the postmodern mind games of A. S. Byatt’s bestselling Possession: A Romance, published just two years before Flowers from the Storm.
  • Incidentally, in his “Rereading the Romance,” (2007) Selinger writes, “But the fundamental questions of pleasure at play in romance novels strikes me as yet to be posed in a way that is both robustly theorized and practically applicable, able to account for the novels or the experience of reading them in their range, variety, and charm.”

I admit that what struck me about this “playfulness” was a passing moment in Selinger’s paper, “a good enough author can use ‘nostalgia’ precisely in order to raise the sort of ‘large’ questions that Gornick wants novels to explore: “how we got to be as we are, or how the time in which we live to be as it is.” “Good enough author” recalls, alludes to, and perhaps is consciously aware of, D. W. Winnicott’s formulation of the “good enough mother,” which is so carefully considered in his book Playing and Reality (1971).

I want to suggest that Selinger’s use of “play” is important, not because of the way he critiques notions of “play," but because Selinger is carefully and playfully playing with play. Selinger might very well be attempting to recuperate the “playful” quality of literary analysis. I think this “recuperative” practice is important for Selinger. At one point in a very playful spirit, Selinger writes:

Kinsale’s phrase “pirate mouth” may be inscrutable on its own (a mouth with an eye-patch? a mouth that says “arrrr”?), but it makes sense as stock-response shorthand, a way to trigger the sort of associations spelled out at greater length by Woodiwiss and intensify them through brevity and juxtaposition.

What could be more “playful” than the brief meditation on the “pirate mouth”? (As a reader, I am imagining Captain Hook, and I think there are some invocations of Neverland – “the opportunity to return, night after night, to some duty-free zone of the imagination” – to be found in the essay as well.) Selinger challenges his readers learning “How to Read a Romance Novel (and Fall in Love with Popular Romance),” to think “playfully” and to think about what that might mean. But, isn’t “play” childish?

Play may very well be childish, but as Winnicott notes, “play is immensely exciting.” This is precisely what readers of “How to Read a Romance Novel” will find: play and excitement. For Selinger, the romance is “immensely exciting” because of the ways the romance can “interplay” with other texts, other forms of nostalgia, love, and longing. As Winnicott notes, “playing is an experience, always a creative experience, and it is an experience in the space-time continuum, a basic form of living.” Indeed, I wonder if it is not possible to misread Winnicott; could not “play” also be a “basic form of reading and criticism”? Literary critics are certainly engaged in a “creative experience” of reading the text, and Selinger’s turn to “play” is important to the way in which he believes we might “fall in love with popular romance” just like “[his] adolescent self, first falling in love with poetry.”

“Play isn’t simply fun, and neither are the intenser reaches of pleasure” as Michael Moon has recently written.  Indeed, I am tempted to suggest that Selinger not only teaches his readers “How to Read a Romance Novel (and Fall in Love with Popular Romance),” he also teaches them (and us) “how to play with a romance novel.” Selinger carefully puts “play” back into literary criticism and theory precisely because play, like studying the popular romance novel, “is immensely exciting.”

Cheaper and Ebook New Approaches

New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction is now available for the Kindle

from at £12.99
from, at $20.59
from at EUR 13,78
from at EUR 13,78
from at EUR 13,78
from at EUR 13,78

The print version is currently selling at The Book for a reduced price of £25 (and until the 14th of May they're offering an additional 10% off any purchases if you use a special discount code at the checkout). The Book Depository offers free shipping worldwide.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Deadline Extended for 2012 IASPR Conference!

The Fourth Annual International Conference on Popular Romance Studies

The Pleasures of Romance

York, United Kingdom
27-29 September, 2012

Deadline Extended to May 30, 2012
Competitive Travel Grants Available

Pleasure is continually disappointed, reduced, deflated, in favor of strong, noble values: Truth, Death, Progress, Struggle, Joy, etc. Its victorious rival is Desire: we are always being told about Desire, never about Pleasure.
Roland Barthes

I adore simple pleasures. They are the last refuge of the complex.
Oscar Wilde

In novels, films, TV, fan fiction, pop music, and other media, romance has been both consumed and derided because of the pleasures it imparts. Even those who deride or debunk romance may find, in that refusal, a pleasure of social distinction. Open to talks on any topic related to popular romance texts (in any medium) and to the representation of romantic love in global popular media, now and in the past, this multi-disciplinary conference will also highlight the vexed issue of “pleasure” in popular romance texts, popular romance fandom, and popular romance studies.

All theoretical and empirical approaches are welcome, from affect studies and cognitive science to literary history, middlebrow studies, psychoanalysis, queer theory, and sociology. Proposals may focus on single authors, texts, songs, films, TV series, and marketing campaigns, or on broader, more theoretical approaches, including discussions of pedagogy. We are eager to receive proposals on older forms of popular romance (classical, medieval, early modern, etc.) and on love in Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American popular culture.

Submit proposals for individual papers, full panels, roundtables, interviews, or innovative presentations to by May 30, 2012. All proposals will be peer reviewed.

Travel grants will be available for presenters, on a competitive basis.

Friday, April 13, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (9)

Saturday, April 14, 2012 - 9:45am - 11:15am

Media Love
John Storey - Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, UK and Katy MacDonald, University of Sunderland

In our paper we will present the theoretical framing and research findings of a research project we call Media Love. The project looks at how young people (mostly aged 18 to 24) use media when they fall in love. By use we mean two things: the use of the discourses of media to inform social practices and the actual use of media technologies (SKYPE, MSN, email, mobile phones, etc.) when falling in love.

The paper will be divided into two parts. The first part will present the theoretical framing of the project, including our understanding of the romantic power of the media. The second part of the chapter will focus on the findings of discursive questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews.

Transcultural Romance: Harlequin Mass Market Romances and International Audiences
Mindy Trenary - University of Arkansas

Harlequin Enterprises, launched in 1949, has developed an international reader base, publishing in 113 different languages with licensing agreements in 14 countries.  In the past decade, Harlequin launched several English language manga formats, utilizing this comic style to inform visualization of the text, while utilizing plots from established Western authors.  Similarly, abbreviated Japanese and Korean language manga/manhwa versions of English language Harlequin novels have been translated back into English by fan translators, establishing a bilateral system of enculturation.  This phenomenon suggests that the romance formulas established by Harlequin can be applied cross-culturally, as evidenced by the popularity of this subgenre internationally.

The Harlequin imprint Ginger Blossom attempted to “marry . . . bestselling Harlequin romance fiction and female-friendly Japanese manga! These [manga adaptations]. . . [are a step above] the cookie-cutter manga hitting the shelves today.”  Yet the Ginger Blossom line was unsuccessful, ceasing distribution in 2007.  However, these Harlequin manga adaptations proved more successful in Japan and South Korea.  Harlequin imprints, such as Emerald, Passion, and Pure, released stories appealing to the shojo demographic in Asian countries.  These English language Harlequin stories illustrated by Japanese mangaka and translated into Japanese and Korean are receiving an increasingly positive reception amongst American manga readers.  Scanlator teams have begun projects re-translating these Japanese and Korean texts into English.  These texts, often set in the United States and featuring American characters, appeal to American audiences, and the slightly stilted re-translated dialogue and manga style illustrations offer a uniqueness to Harlequin’s formula driven novels, appealing to a new reader base not familiar with traditional Harlequin fare.  It appears that the readers of these scanlations see these texts more as international phenomena, incorporating elements of American, Japanese, and Korean cultures.  The popularity of these imprints, then, seems linked to the transcultural nature of the texts.

Romancing the Academic: Blending the Fictional and Analytical Genres of Popular Romance Writing
Catherine LaRoche and Catherine Roach - University of Alabama

[This paper has now been cancelled.]

This proposal takes up the call’s request for attention to issues of “genre-bending and genre-crossing” in popular romance studies.  As part of an ongoing critical analysis of the function of the romance narrative in popular culture, I’ve been employing experimental methodologies of performative ethnography to engage in a project of hybrid academic writing.  This project bends/blends/crosses the genre of academic writing with that of popular fiction, as I write analytically about the romance while writing romance fiction at the same time, in a self-reflexive process whereby both forms of genre inform each other.  This paper will briefly demonstrate this genre-bending/blending.  First, I lay out the methodology I’ve followed of performative ethnography and hybrid academic/creative writing, with a brief description of the project's parameters, rationale, and precedents.  I then read short scenes of my historical romance fiction, which I write under the persona Catherine LaRoche.  Back in the voice of Catherine Roach (romance studies academic), I critique from the perspective of sex-positive feminism the fiction of Catherine LaRoche, who responds to the critique from the perspective of her romance-writing self.  This genre-blending exercise allows for reflections on the transgressive and progressive possibilities of romance fiction and also on the constraints of the genre, with conclusions about how LaRoche is both more conservative but perhaps also more creative than Roach, as demonstrated by a final love scene wherein LaRoche's heroine takes charge in a penetrative act with the hero, to their mutual delight.

The Popular Romance Project
A presentation by Laurie Kahn, documentary film maker (Tupperware! and A Midwife's Tale) and Executive Producer of the Popular Romance Project.

She will show teaser clips of the shooting done so far for the documentary, will discuss the website, and will describe the broader project. Editors of the PRP-affiliated blog, "Talking About Romance," Sarah Frantz and Eric Selinger, will describe their vision for the blog and for the larger project as well. Website:

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (8)

Friday, April 13, 2012 - 1:15pm - 2:45pm

Different Love: Master-Slave Relationships as Marriage in Scene-Aware Erotic Romance Novels
Cecilia Tan - Erotic Authors Association/Circlet Press/SFWA

Just as popular culture as a whole has seen greater representation of diverse sexualities and lifestyle choices than before, so it goes with the romance novel. Once largely the domain of entirely heteronormative representations, in which the goal and happiest ending is a heterosexual wedding, now one finds entire sub-genres of romance dedicated to gay men, lesbians, threesomes of every combination, and so on. One even finds romances that explore bondage, domination, and power exchange play between lovers. These "scene-aware" romances are a far cry from the "bondage" books of old, in which heroines were kidnapped and sold into harems (for example). "Scene-aware" novels use the existing BDSM lifestyle and the existence of the consensual community as a backdrop for the romance to unfold.

In these novels, which include the newly published "Story of L" by Debra Hyde as well as the "modern classic" book "Exit to Eden" by Anne Rice (writing as Anne Rampling), the central issues that often arise between principles in a romance novel are magnified and codified by the fetishes represented. Many romance novels contain conflict hinging on the compatibility or seeming incompatibility of the two lovers. In a BDSM romance, these elements may be represented literally or metaphorically by  a panoply of activities like bondage, spanking, corporal punishment, et cetera. And no more central issue exists in a romance than the question of True Love. Is he Mr. Right or just Mr. Right Now? In a BDSM romance this manifests itself as something beyond "mere" love, a near-mystical, spiritual bond, often described as the master/slave bond (or mistress/slave, or owner/owned; it is not gender-specific).

This paper will relate the way in which the tropes of the romance genre are transformed and represented in the BDSM romance via the ways this different form of loving adds hues to the erotic and relationship color palettes.

The Purple Circle: Confluences of Kink and Geek Cultures
Claire Dalmyn - York University

The first part of Staci Newmahr's ethnographic study of the culture of BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism) rests on her analysis of participants' sexual identities as intimately connected with their status and self-perception as 'outsiders', different from others, and many of the people she observed and interviewed identify themselves as "geeky" as well as kinky. In this paper I will critically unpack and explore some of Newmahr's conclusions and assumptions regarding the dual or linked marginal subject positions of participants who identify as both kinky and geeky. I will ground this analysis in my personal experience as a kink practitioner engaged in study of, with, and among my perverted peers, drawing also on my concurrent experience as a participant in online media fan culture. I will additionally hold Newmahr's assertions and my own participant observation in kink and fan cultures together in tension with representations in mainstream popular culture of characters who are explicitly or subtextually marginalized in multiple ways including sexual deviance, citing examples of tropes such as sadistic outcast villains, doomed masochists, and comic grotesques and buffoons of a fetishistic bent, as well as a potentially emerging figure in the contemporary "Age of the Geek": the new pervert hero.

Newmahr, Staci. 2011. Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Kink as Context
Evelyn Chester

[This paper may now have been cancelled.]

All criticism is done from a point of view.  For many people, their kink is an essential part of their sexual and personal identity. How does being part of a sexual minority, specifically a practitioner of BDSM, contextualize one’s experience and engagement with popular media?  Is there a kink lens or gaze that affects the way we see and understand certain characters and their relationships?  How true to the real-life experiences of kinky people are the depictions we see in popular culture?  How do these depictions make us feel?  What characters/moments/media are embraced and celebrated by the BDSM/kink/leather communities as being particularly meaningful or representative of our identities?

How does this perspective intersect with other ways of engaging with or critiquing media (feminist theory, Marxist theory, queer theory, etc)?

Popular media likely to be discussed: Secretary, White Collar, CSI, Law & Order: SVU, Farscape, Rhianna’s “S&M” and many, many others.

BDSM Romance Fiction: Positive Introduction to BDSM Identity, Practice, and Lifestyle
Sarah Frantz - Fayetteville State University

I will examine BDSM Romance Fiction, positing it as a generally positive introduction for its readers to BDSM identity, culture, practice, and lifestyle. I will discuss the importance of the positive exposure to BDSM in popular culture, its normatizing function, and possible drawbacks of bad BDSM fiction.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Questioning "You Get What You Pay For"

Sir Mark Walport, the director of Wellcome Trust, said that his organisation [in conjunction with The Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Max Planck Society] is in the final stages of launching a high calibre scientific journal called eLife that would compete directly with top-tier publications such as Nature and Science, seen by scientists as the premier locations for publishing. Unlike traditional journals, however, which cost British universities hundreds of millions of pounds a year to access, articles in eLife will be free to view on the web as soon as they are published. (Alok Jha, The Guardian)
Although this announcement may seem unrelated to the usual subject-matter of this blog, it isn't entirely so. After all, the Journal of Popular Romance Studies is also a free, online publication. In the BBC's report it's mentioned that
One of the [...] concerns that some scientists have about open access publishing is that it would be damaging to the peer review system.
But according to Wellcome's Robert Kiley, the peer review process operates the same way regardless of whether the journal is paid for or not.
"Those two elements, quality and open access, are completely separate, and it's a bit of a red herring to conflate them," he said.
"Of course there are low quality open access journals, but there are also low quality subscription journals. Quality and cost are not related."
Indeed. At JPRS "Submissions will be reviewed by the Executive Editor, who will pass on manuscripts of merit to appropriate peer reviewers."

Monday, April 09, 2012

Shades of Grey Academic Opinion

Both Sarah and Eric are quoted today in The Vancouver Sun:

Public domain shades of grey
amid the din of dissent, readers of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy seem to converge on two points: that the books are sexy as hell, and that the terms "inner goddess" and "mommy porn" need to be forever dispatched.

The latter label, which has appeared everywhere from Entertainment Weekly to CNN, has academics and fans alike cringing, thanks to its dual implication that E.L. James' trilogy is the holy grail for prudish housewives and that we should be surprised women enjoy sex.

Experts say the flywheel in Fifty's success is neither that backward nor that simple.

"The relationship described in the book is a lot like the relationship readers have with the book itself: secret, transgressive, and all the more alluring because of that," says Eric Selinger, co-editor of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. "But even without getting all fancy, I'd say that this book had a lot of things going for it that weren't in the story itself." [...]

Selinger, a professor of English at DePaul University, credits a confluence of factors.
"News of the book spread by word of mouth, of course, but once there was press coverage in places like Salon and the New York Times, that gave even more readers cover to buy it. After all, they were just reading to find out what the buzz was about, right?" says Selinger.

"And unlike most works of erotica, it has a non-sexual cover: no hot, half-naked man or woman, which attracts some readers but puts others off." [...]

Sarah Frantz, president of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, says the answer may actually lie in Fifty's non-literary audience.

"She's hitting the people who read, you know, three books a year - the people who read books because they're on Good Morning America or in USA Today," says Frantz. "As much as the power-buyers who purchase a book a week are important, the books that sell hundreds of thousands of copies are the ones that take that specific track."
For more academic analysis of the Fifty Shades phenomenon, see Anne Jamison's Fifty Shades of Pop Culture Theory blog (particularly this post). Anne is
Associate Professor of English at the University of Utah. In summer 2010, she taught a course on Pop Culture Theory focusing on genre: Western, Science Fiction, Noir, and Twilight Fanfiction. After one of the course texts for the fanfiction unit became a bestseller, the professor finally got around to putting up the blog she promised her students.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Fashioning Character

To mark the publication of New Approaches to Popular Romance Fiction: Critical Essays, I've put up a new mini-essay at my website on the topic of clothing (and accessories) in popular romance fiction.

New Approaches includes my essay, "One Ring to Bind Them: Ring Symbolism in Popular Romance Fiction," about which Eric has commented that "Thanks to Laura Vivanco’s essay on 'Ring Symbolism,' you’ll never look at an engagement ring in quite the same way again." Since I've also got an essay titled "Jennifer Crusie's Literary Lingerie" coming out later this month in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, I wanted to give a bit more background information about why I felt moved to write about clothing and accessories in romance novels, which have often dismissed as mere "filler" (Snitow) that establishes “that, like ordinary readers, fictional heroines are ‘naturally’ preoccupied with fashion” (Radway). I'd argue that in romance novels, as in literary fiction, clothing and accessories can, to quote Professor David Lodge, function as "a useful index of character, class, life-style."

Since I'd already discussed engagement rings in New Approaches, I thought it would make a change to write about a wedding ring, so I'm using Michelle Styles's Sold and Seduced as an example of how romance authors " can overlay various ring symbolisms, some of which arise out of a particular novel's plot and characterisation."

I hope you'll enjoy reading "Clothes Make the Man (or Woman)."