Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Noted with Pleasure (Beta Males; JPRS citations)

--Eric Selinger

As a companion to Michelle Sagara's recent post on Alpha Males at Dear Author, Elizabeth Vail has written a delightful tribute to "The Appeal of the Beta Male."  There are interesting reflections on the means of seduction that seem to be preferred by Beta heroes, and also about the types of heroines that Beta heroes seem to get paired up with, at least in contemporary fiction.

Some of the heroes she mentions are familiar to, and much loved by, me:  Phin Tucker from Jennifer Crusie's Welcome to Temptation; S. T. Maitland from Prince of Midnight, by Laura Kinsale.  Others, though, are from authors and novels I've never read.  She discusses "Rose Lerner’s magnificent A Lily Among Thorns" (did she just say "magnificent"?), Mary Balogh’s Lord Carew’s Bride, and Marjorie M. Liu’s The Wild Road (a paranormal, with a gargoyle hero).

The comments have offered a number of additional suggestions, including
  • Rupert, in Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible (from Cleo)
  • Henry Tilney in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, Alex Moore in Jennifer Cruise’s Anyone But You, Theo Mirkwood in Cecilia Grant’s A Lady Awakened, Mark Turner in Courtney Milan’s Unclaimed, and Peeta Mellark in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games trilogy (from Emma Barry)
  • Murphy from [Nora Roberts's] Born in Shame (and Grey from Ice too?) And Ethan from Rising Tides (Imani)
  • Robert Carroway from Suzanne Enoch’s England’s Perfect Hero (Amanda)
Many more have come in overnight, so forgive me if I'm a little behind!

Phin makes an interesting case, because structurally, he's an Alpha:  he's mayor of the town of Temptation, born to power--men from his paternal line have run the town for generations--and possessed of wealth and agency and looks beyond the local norm.  He is, however, bored with and generally uninterested in the position and power he's inherited, and mostly he's there as a catalyst for Sophie's transformation.  There's a fair amount about Phin, Sophie, and the novel here, in the Journal of Popular Romance piece that Kate Moore was kind enough to let me co-author.

I can't help but wonder, though, whether Alpha and Beta in these discussions are as useful for us, as analytical terms, as High Mimetic and Low Mimetic, the terms that Laura Vivanco borrows from Frye in For Love and Money.  That is, "Alpha" and "Beta" are useful as terms to describe the discourse that circulates in the romance community, but HM and LM might be more precise when talking about particular characters, especially since authors so often deploy modal counterpoint (also from Frye and from Laura's book) to vary their characterization from passage to passage or scene to scene.


In unrelated but still welcome news, Jonathan A. Allan reports that a recent MA thesis filed at Eastern Washington University cites several pieces from the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.

The thesis is "Eros and Psyche from Apuleius to paranormal romance: a communication analysis of the archetype's message," by Arielle Nicole Reed (2013); you can find it in the EWU Masters Thesis Collection, as Paper 85.  Reed says she's using four JPRS articles, but I could only find three in her bibliography:
  • Allan, J.A. (2011). Theorising male virginity in popular romance novels. Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 2 (1); 
  • Pearce, L. (2011). Romance and repetition: Testing the limits of love. Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 2 (1); and
  • Toscano, A. (2012). A parody of love: The narrative uses of rape in popular romance. Journal of Popular Romance Studies, 2 (2).
Good to know that we have a Very Useful Journal on our hands.  Thanks for the heads-up, Jonathan!

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