Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Publication: Romance: The History of a Genre

Romance: The History of a Genre, ed. Dana Percec (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2012).

The volume does not limit itself to romance as defined by the RWA and in the endnote the editor observes that:
this book "sits on the fence", as it were, in the attitude it takes toward the reading and writing of romance. It maintains a sufficient humorous distance from romance while at the same time advocating a more appreciative attitude. In the first of these moods, the contributors allow themselves a degree of playful complicity with the kind of romance readers who put their names to the half-serious site and blog entitled "Smart Bitches, Trashy Books" [...]. The second stance acknowledges the institutionalization of romance writing. Such serious professional sites as "Romance Writers of America" [...] often draw attention to this phenomenon. In other words, the intended attitude of this book towards the status of the genre of romance today is neither condescending nor reverential but one of academic curiosity and, we could say, open-minded skepticism. (232-33)
The volume includes the following:
Codruţa Goşa’s chapter Sex and the Genre: The Building of Sexual Tension and Its Role in Popular Romance reports her analysis and discussion of the place and role of sex scenes as defining elements for the building of sexual tension in contemporary romance novels. Her chapter documents and substantiates the claim that the romantic genre places great importance upon, and relies heavily on, such scenes, which play a crucial role. Her corpus is constructed by selecting three romance authors – all of Anglo-American origin - whose works are best-sellers in Romania. The novels selected for analysis have different settings: historical, fantastic, and contemporary. Goşa compares and contrasts the sequence, context and protagonists of the most important erotic encounters, and the particularities of the language used. (ix)
Goşa states that
"In this paper I argue that rather than the escapist mode it sets off, it is pure sex that makes its readers tick, as the motto of this paper does seem to suggest. To substantiate this claim I chose to analyse both quantitatively and qualitatively the pretexts, contexts, contents, length, place and language of sex scenes in three novels written by three best selling novelists of the genre in Romania." (14)
She admits that "I am far from being in a position to claim that the findings are generalisable or representative for the genre" (16). The three novels analysed are: Nora Roberts’s Enchanted, Sandra Brown’s Fanta C and Judith McNaught’s A Kingdom of Dreams.

Here's an overview of the fifth and sixth chapters:
Andreea Şerban’s chapter, Romancing the Paranormal: A Case Study on J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood, looks at the mythical figure of the vampire, which has always exerted a powerful fascination, through its juxtaposition of a highly erotic feeding ritual with savage killing, but above all through its association with eternal youth and immortality–. The recent explosion in the number of vampire stories–be they in print or film format–not only testifies to this appeal but also shows the vampire as an ever-changing and highly adaptable creature that never fails to fascinate. Among writers who have brought new insights to the genre is the American J.R. Ward, whose now nine-volume series rewrites and relocates the vampire, by placing it at the heart of paranormal romance narratives. Ward’s vampire protagonists are the best males of the species, members of an exclusive society–the Black Dagger Brotherhood–valiant and loyal heroes, abiding by a strict code of honour both in battle and in courtship. Şerban’s text-oriented analysis draws on a cognitive approach to the fictional world (following Semino and Cook’s schema theory) and looks at ways in which readers’ romantic schemata are reinforced or disrupted, while at the same time exploring the vampire’s romanticisation and Americanisation in the context of our contemporary consumerist society.
A similar interest in Gothic fiction is displayed by The Twilight Saga: Teen Gothic Romance between the Dissolution of the Gothic and the Revival of Romance by Daniela Rogobete. She interrogates the contemporary metamorphoses of the Gothic romance as illustrated in The Twilight Saga, the cinematographic adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s trilogy. Current criticism places the multiple manifestations of postmodern Gothic–conflictingly shaped by social realities, contemporary moral and ideological crises and by late capitalist consumerist society–at the intersection of a number of trends of thought, which are inclined to include the Youth Goth phenomenon within the broad domain of Gothic Studies. Going far beyond its textual boundaries, though constantly coming back to its literary tradition, teen Gothic is now envisaged as a complex combination of text, music, fashion, film, and social and ideological criticism. Gothic romance has preserved the capacity to subvert conventions and give voice to the repressed fears and anxieties of
the age, heightening the degree of ironic self-consciousness and self-referentiality, finding new means of undermining authority, and adjusting to the demands of postmodernism. Relying upon the visual and textual coordinates of the huge impact the Twilight series is still having upon its viewers and readers, her essay argues that the new tendencies of teen Gothic romance represent a novel and hybrid facet of a highly metamorphic genre rather than being a monstrous revenant coming back from a “vampiric” past as an overly-tamed, and feminized, Gothic whose “exhaustion” and “dissolution” have already been foretold. (xi-xii)
And an overview of the tenth chapter:
Reghina Dascăl’s Raj Matriarchs. Women Authors of Anglo-Indian Romance examines the role of the so-called Anglo-Indian women writers in constructing a particular image of colonial India, partly romancing the Raj (it is not by chance that the genre of romance flourished at the turn of the 20th century, reaching its peak in the interwar years), hypostasising it as the perfect setting for exotic romance, and partly construing it as a brittle, hybrid, creolised Anglo-Indian reality. The author suggests that, for British feminists and suffragettes, India became a testing ground for female activism as they zealously embarked upon the salvation and emancipation of their sisters, throwing their weight behind campaigns against child marriage and suttee, and in favour of educational and professional inclusion. Like the benevolent, well-meaning and liberal fathers of the Empire, these imperial mothers and feminists–Josephine Butler, Christabel Pankhurst and Harriet Taylor Mill–in adopting their twin agenda of emancipation and deliverance , contributed substantially to the imposition of Western outlooks on the women of India. Writers of Anglo-Indian romance such as Maud Diver and Flora Annie Steel bring fresh perspectives to bear on the palimpsest reality of the British Raj. (xiii-xiv)
More details about the volume are available from the publisher.


  1. I would never have run across this book on my own, and it contains a piece on romance and Turkey that I absolutely need to think about for my current project. Thank you for your post!

  2. It's good to know that these posts are useful. Was it Chapter 8, "From Romance to Urban Gothic in Orhan Pamuk’s The Black Book"? I stick fairly strictly to the RWA definition of "romance" when adding entries to the Romance Wiki bibliography so it isn't there at the moment but it's difficult to decide sometimes, particularly when I'm having to make a decision solely on the basis of the title.