Wednesday, January 30, 2013

CFP: Zombie Love, The Supernatural, and Trash

Zombie Romantic Comedies - Essay Collection
The recent re-animation of the zombie in popular culture has led to the creation of the “zombie romantic comedy,” or the zomromcom. Evidence of the zomromcom phenomenon can be found in books, movies, and on the internet. Articles are invited for an edited collection on issues related to any element of zombie romantic comedies. The following categories suggest possibilities for exploration but are by no means exhaustive:
• Love and zombies/the undead
• Love in the postapocalyptic world
• Romance and monstrosity
Deadline May 15, 2013. Full details here.

Supernatural Studies - A Journal
Supernatural Studies (ISSN 2325-4866), a new, peer-reviewed journal welcomes article and book review submissions for its first two issues (Spring and Fall 2013). We welcome articles on any aspect of the representation of the supernatural.
Standing submission dates are March 1 and October 1.
The journal focuses on representations of the supernatural in popular culture, including (but not limited to) art, literature, film, and television.
 Details can be found here as well as at Supernatural Studies' homepage.

Picking Through the Trash

English Graduate Students’ Association Conference at York University, Toronto
May 10th and 11th, 2013 
“I love trash!” – Oscar the Grouch

How many of us are willing to agree with Oscar, without any reservations? Even when claiming a love of trash culture, many of us take care to emphasize that this admiration happens at a distance. Phrases like “guilty pleasure” often accompany the admission, for we are aware we might be saying too much about ourselves, or aligning ourselves too closely with something whose main attraction might be its ability to be consumed easily, rapidly, and in large quantities. Yet designating someone or something as being trash or trashy reflects as much on the cultural commentators as on the given object. In this sense, “trash” is a political term, premised on notions of hierarchy and exclusion, even when we try to collapse these through kitsch or camp reclamations.
Deadline for submissions is March 15th, 2013. Full details here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Teaching Romance

As I've already compiled short lists of  forthcoming conferences and forthcoming publications, I thought it might also be interesting to feature a page here about courses about romance (or featuring romances) which are currently being taught, or which have been taught in recent years. You can find the link to the new page at the top of the sidebar (and here's a direct link).

If you know of any others, I'd be very grateful if you could tell me about them.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Engineering Love: What Difference Would It Make?

In her recent PhD thesis on science fiction (which can be downloaded from here), Laura Wiebe writes that:
the boundaries of science fiction, as with any genre, are relational rather than fixed, and critical engagements with Western/Northern technoscientific knowledge and practice and modern human identity and being may be found not just in science fiction “proper,” or in the scholarly field of science and technology studies, but also in the related genres of fantasy and paranormal romance.  (iii)
According to Wiebe,
Science fiction becomes one of many possible ways of framing and iterating the narrative of romance, and romance becomes a way of framing science fiction; the paranormal frames and is framed by both. (40)
and, she argues, in the Ghostwalker series Christine Feehan
ends up, intentionally or not, narrativizing a kind of intercourse between love and technoscience, romance and science fiction, demonstrating what can happen when issues more at home in feminist science studies and science fictions get channelled through popular paranormal romance. (40-41)
To be more specific,
As paranormal romance, this tale may be too romantic to sit comfortably in the midst of orthodox science fiction, but it takes on some of the work that science fiction tends to do.
However unsexy technology may or may not be, and however much the series emphasizes sex and love, technoscientific possibility lies at the heart of Lily and Ryland’s relationship, and this is the case for the other heteronormative romantic leads as well. Psychic enhancement and subjection to the scientific quest for knowledge is not just a commonality between the men and women but possibly also the source of their emotional and physical connection. Appropriately for the romance genre, the attraction between Lily and Ryland, and the other pairs as well, is intense and irresistible – as romance critics such as Linda Lee have noted, “destined romantic partners” are prevalent in paranormal romance (58). Uncharacteristically, in the Ghostwalkers series we repeatedly face the likelihood that this attraction is genetically engineered. (57)
despite the romantic resolution that each narrative works toward, along the way, the repeated implication and growing certainty that the lead couples’ feelings for each other have been technoscientifically enhanced raises anxieties about the natural integrity and trustworthiness – the truth – of sexual attraction and love. In an attempt to deal with feelings of being manipulated, several lovers tell themselves and/or each other that Whitney might be able to engineer their sexual attraction but not their love, the way they so quickly come to care for each other so deeply. But ultimately, the characters’ unions and marriages assert a claim, voiced earlier by Ryland, that true love and passion transcend their origins: the experienced reality of emotional and physical attraction (and, as I suggested, there is some attempt, in the novel to distinguish the two) overrides any uncertainties about where such feelings came from or how they came to be (whether natural or constructed). As Ryland asks, “What difference would it make?” (Shadow Game 174). ‘Felt’ emotional truth is all the truth they need. The nature/technology binary is brought to the surface here and never fully resolved. (59)
Wiebe, Laura, 2013. Speculative Matter: Generic Affinities, Posthumanisms and Science-Fictional Imaginings. Ph.D. thesis from McMaster University. [See in particular pages 37-71 on love, romance and Christine Feehan's Ghostwalkers series of romances.]

Monday, January 14, 2013

CFP: Anthology on Philosophies of Love & Sex

Call for Papers for an Anthology: Philosophies of Love & Sex

Love and sex are among the most meaningful and ethically significant phenomena in our lives. For many of us, our longing for genuine love and satisfying sex are so great that they equal or surpass our desires to become educated, find meaningful work, procure wealth and find spiritual fulfillment. Yet love and sex— and our beliefs about both— seem to cause us at least as much suffering as joy, and at least as much regret as satisfaction. Love and sex also tend to bring out the best and the worst in people, yielding acts of incredible generosity and astonishing violence. In public life, shared beliefs about sexual appropriateness often unite a diverse population, while differing beliefs about love and sex inspire some of the most hateful rhetoric. Paradoxically, then, love and sex are both fundamental constituents of a good and happy life, and among the greatest causes of human wrongdoing and suffering.

Though popular cultural references to love and sex abound, most of us spend surprisingly little time reflecting on what they mean to us and what role we want them to play in our lives. Philosophical reflection on love and sex has the power to yield valuable insights about intersubjectivity, vulnerability and political praxis, to challenge conventional beliefs and to renew our sense of wonder before these incredibly important phenomena.

We are seeking essays that explore and illuminate the diverse meanings of love and sex. Themes of interest include but are not limited to: erotic intersubjectivity and reversibility, erotic embodiment, maternal/paternal/familial love, historical shifts in familial and sexual values, voluntary vs. involuntary love, the intertwining of love and friendship, love and loss, love across difference, queer love and sex, feminism vis-à-vis love and sex and conceptions of sexual perversion.

Perspectives from all philosophical traditions are welcome.

Guidelines for Contributions:
Please submit completed papers (approximately 8,000 words) or extended abstracts.
All submissions should include a 100 word abstract.

Papers should be in MS Word format.
Please submit materials as attachments to:

Deadline: Monday, May 6, 2013

Thank you for your interest.
Sarah LaChance Adams :
Caroline Lundquist :
Christopher Davidson :

The images are of Rodin's The Thinker (photo by Kadellar and made available at Wikimedia Commons under a creative commons licence) and The Kiss (photo by Yair Haklai, and also from Wikimedia Commons).

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Genre Struggles

Genre logically implies a struggle between the genres in so far as each genre aspires to prevail and to reduce the others to sub-genres.
That's what's stated in a call for papers for the Gender/Genre Conference (Nov 22-23, 2013) (abstracts Jan 15, 2013), to be held at the University of Paris Est (Créteil/Marne la Vallée). That may be what it logically implies but, the cfp continues,
Literature understood in the sense of writing, blurs, disturbs and shakes up categories whether they be sexual or literary, and introduces differentiation into genre. Categories which we held to be atemporal then turn out to be susceptible to historical variations and reversals as well as numerous, intermittent developments. In English, the term gender is a deconstructing force which elicits questions.
Papers from very different fields: linguistics, the history of ideas and literary theory, or commentaries on singular works will be welcome, as long as they bring together notions of difference between the sexes and between literary genres. A selection of papers will be published in an edited volume.
At an earlier conference on genre the "logic" or law of genre was also interrogated:
At the Strasbourg International Colloquium on Genre, in July 1979, French philosopher Jacques Derrida began his essay, "La Loi du genre" with "Ne pas meler les genres" (Genres are not to be mixed). The essay proceeds by a series of intellectual feints, turns, and interrogations of its own rhetoric [...] to suggest that such a law - "Genres are not to be mixed." - is, for genres, madness. (Delany 63)
Delany, Samuel R. “The Gestation of Genres: Literature, Fiction,Romance, Science Fiction, Fantasy ...Intersections: Fantasy and Science Fiction, eds George E. Slusser and Eric S. Rabkin. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 1987. 63-73.

Monday, January 07, 2013

A History of Love and Popular Romance

We're still waiting for one, as no-one's yet written a detailed history of popular romance fiction which fully explores its relationship to the social context in which it was written. However, Dr Claire Langhamer, at the University of Sussex has
recently completed a manuscript on love and commitment in the mid-twentieth century. This book, Everyday Love. Emotional Revolution in Twentieth Century England  will be published by Oxford University Press in 2013. The project starts from the premise that love has a history: that it has meant different things to different people at different moments of the past and has served different purposes. The book tells the story of love at a crucial point, a moment when the emotional landscape changed dramatically for large numbers of people. It is a story based in Britain, but informed by America, and covers the period from the end of the First World War until the break up of The Beatles. It describes a fundamental shift in the value attached to emotional intimacy within heterosexual encounters as marriage came to be seen less as a religiously sanctioned institution and more as a relationship based on love and sex. Until at least 1970 more people married than ever before and they did so at increasingly younger ages. To the casual observer it was a golden age of marriage. And yet, romantic love, particularly when tied to sexual satisfaction, often proved an unreliable foundation upon which to build marriages: it had the potential to evaporate over time and under pressure. Scratching beneath the surface of the golden age then, the book uncovers a twentieth century of quiet emotional instability. In fact a number of unsettling questions about life and love emerged in this period. What, contemporaries asked, was the correct balance between love, romance and passion and were they even compatible? How central was love to partner selection and did pragmatism also have a role? Could, indeed should, marriages survive in the absence of love? Was falling in love a unique or a repeatable experience? Did one perfect partner or soul mate exist? Could a love affair alone lead to self-fulfilment? Crucially, concerns emerged about how to balance desire, agency and social obligation. If people were not responsible for falling in and out of love, as Mary Grant of the Woman’s Own problem page suggested in 1950, what would happen to lifelong commitment? The book suggests that a matrimonial model based upon the transformative power of love carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. The end of century decline of life long marriage was rooted in the contradictions, tensions, and illogicalities that lay at the heart of mid-century intimacy.
How does this affect popular romance fiction? I don't know, but in 1987 and 1988 Judy Giles interviewed "working-class women who grew up in Britain before the Second World War" (280). She found that
working-class girls aspired to the financial and material security of domesticity and that they perceived romance as 'silliness' liable to jeopardise such aspirations. The anti-heroic, anti-romantic mood of post First World War England with its refusal of sentiment and its retreat into the private worlds of suburban domesticity [...] celebrated precisely those attributes so long valued and practised by 'respectable' working-class women - restraint, cheerful stoicism and prudence [...]. The 'modern' young woman was expected to be robust, sensible and free from the constraints of Victorian 'sentimentality'. Romantic fiction rewarded common-sense, unselfishness and above all cheerfulness - heroines get their men because they have not made 'a fuss'. (282-83).
Nonetheless, romantic fiction was evidently still a bit too romantic for some:
in the 1920s and 30s the acceptable response to the longing expressed in romantic fiction was to read these as 'silly', 'perverted' and 'immature', marginal and potentially threatening to the 'real' experiences of a woman's live which consisted of prudential marriage and the provision of a comfortable, hygienic home in which to sustain a male breadwinner and rear healthy children. [...] Yet, of course, the refusal to recognise or present a narrative centred around passion and romance does not mean these did not exist or were not longed for. The stories which follow [from her interviewees] show both the deployment of an anti-romantic discourse and the forms in which those expediently suppressed desires could be articulated both then and now. (283-84)
  • Giles, Judy. " 'You Meet 'Em and That's It': Working Class Women's Refusal of Romance Between the Wars in Britain." Romance Revisited. Ed. Lynne Pearce and Jackie Stacey. New York: New York UP, 1995. 279-92.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Lists, a Job, and Other Business in the New Year!


At the end of last year I created a new page on this blog to keep track of forthcoming conferences on romance fiction and related topics. The page is accessible via a link at the top of the sidebar. If anyone knows of other relevant conferences, please let me know.

I was wondering if there might also be interest in a forthcoming books/articles page, again on topics related to the academic study of popular romance fiction and related topics (such as desire, chick lit, love, marriage, paranormal creatures, rom-coms). If there's enough interest, I'll create a page so please let me know if you've got a book or article in the works which meets those criteria and will be published in 2013.

Job Opportunity

This isn't specifically asking for someone with knowledge of romance publishing, but Queensland University of Technology is looking for someone who can
contribute to teaching, research and administration related to the Bachelor of Entertainment Industries and must have a strong understanding of the process of getting entertainment products made and marketed – either from industry experience, or from study of industry processes. Applicants may be trained in Business, Law, Finance or Creative Industries. The degree focuses on cross-sector generic producing skills, and we encourage applicants with an interdisciplinary interest and expertise in any commercial entertainment sector, including but not limited to publishing, music, television, radio, computer games, theatre, dance, theme parks, sport or transmedia.
It's a fixed-term, 3-year position and the closing date is 20 January 2013. More details here.

Other Business

Given the number of billionaire tycoons in popular romance, I thought this could be relevant to romance scholars:
Call for contributors
Business in Popular Culture
Deadline: 1 February 2013

We are putting together a collection of papers that explore various representations of business in popular culture. The topics could range from fashion, design and branding to popular media, social media and entertainment. We seek abstracts from academics, scholars and practitioners who have an innovative approach to business and popular culture.

The selected papers may be considered for publication in an edited book or a special issue journal. Please send abstracts (no more than 200 words) and a short bio to the editors:

Dr Toni Johnson-Woods:
Dr Gjoko Muratovski:
Deadline: 1 February 2013