7.1 of the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. The article explores the depiction of disability in a selection of romance novels. This is a rather understudied area of both popular romance studies and disability studies:
Cultural disability studies scholars have repeatedly criticized academics in the humanities for perpetuating a “critical avoidance” (Bolt) of disability and disability issues. Yet cultural disability studies scholars themselves have been reluctant to engage with certain types of cultural production, and romance novels are a prime example of this. As the most popular of the popular genres, romance novels are an obvious site of investigation for a field concerned with the effects that representations of disability have upon the world. Though recent articles by Kathleen Miller, Emily Baldys, and Sandra Schwab indicate the productive potential of a dialogue between disability studies and popular romance studies, the critical conversation about disability in romance novels has only just begun. Focusing on selected novels by Mary Balogh, a bestselling author of historical romance, I argue that romances with disabled protagonists offer significant opportunities to challenge negative stereotypes around disability. (37)Cheyne focuses on "the six books in the Slightly series (published 2003–04),
and the Simply quartet (2005–08)" (39) and argues that,
In the context of a contemporary culture in which there is “a pervasive cultural de-eroticization of people with disabilities” (Mollow and McRuer 4), the emphasis placed on the development of a sexually satisfying relationship is significant. Anna Mollow and Robert McRuer note the “segregation” of “sex and disability” in “dominant cultural representations” (2). Depicting disabled heroes and heroines in satisfying sexual relationships and as erotic agents, as Balogh does, challenges this segregation. [...] More broadly, the depiction of disabled characters achieving the HEA is significant in a society still dominated by tragedy-model perspectives and thus ambivalent about whether disabled people are worthy or desiring of love. (40)She also addresses the question of whether disabled secondary characters are marginalised and/or used as "yardsticks" to measure the tolerance, good nature etc of non-disabled primary characters.
Cheyne, Ria. "Disability Studies Reads the Romance." Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies 7.1 (2013): 37–52.