Thursday, April 02, 2015

Romance VII: Queer Love, Multiplicity, and the (Cruel) Optimism of the HEA

Romance VII: Queer Love, Multiplicity, and the (Cruel) Optimism of the HEA

Serial Monogamy? Archetype, Formula, and Variation in Paranormal Romance.

(Maria Ramos-Garcia,  South Dakota State University)

This paper will analyze the effect of serialization in the way romantic relationships are depicted in paranormal romance. The serial form tends to stretch a conflict, while the romance demands the HEA of a new couple on each installment. These seemingly opposed forces at play account for the creation of more varied relationships, a smorgasbord of options within the restrictions of a specific fictional world. Furthermore, the supernatural character of those relationships allows for levels of physical (but also ideological) experimentation that would be harder to accept by many readers in a single-title or realistic setting. It is my contention that the careful analysis of this “variation within the paradigm” will allow for new avenues of research on the nature of mainstream romance in the 21st Century. This paper specifically will analyze the variation on the physical descriptions of heroes and heroines, their previous sexual history (or lack thereof), the progression of their sexual and emotional connection, and the further evolution of established relationships on later books, especially regarding work and reproduction. It will also explore the implications of emerging story lines that challenge the heteronormative, monogamous expectations of mainstream romance, such as J.R. Ward’s inclusion of a homosexual couple as protagonists of one her “Black Dagger Brotherhood” novels, and Lynn Viehl’s happily ever after of a female protagonist with two individual males that through supernatural means are condemned to share the same body. I believe this line of study will contribute to delineate the ever-changing boundaries of romance and to expose both its potential and its limitations.

Love and Plurality: Ensemble Casting and Modularity in Contemporary Rom-Coms

(Katherine Morrissey,  University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)

The traditional boy-meets-girl story has typically been one of courtship. Two young people meet, stumble towards love, and then commit to spending their lives together. While the bulk of romantic films still focus on the stories of white, heterosexual, and upper-middle class characters, today's romantic films often depict not one courtship narrative but many. These films utilize ensemble casting and overlapping storylines in order to depict multiple romantic journeys within the space of a single film. In this paper I focus on two recent romantic films: What to Expect When You're Expecting (2012) and He’s Just Not That Into You (2009) and examine how the films’ narrative structures stretch to accommodate their multiple protagonists. I argue that these films adopt a modular approach to narrative and storytelling, using ensemble casting as a strategy for expanding the versions of relationships and family that can be addressed within a single film. Modularity has previously been identified as an essential element of digital media (Manovich), as a type of narrative play with time and memory (Cameron), and as an enactment of contemporary labor conditions (King). Contemporary romantic films reveal another side of modularity: its utility for managing ideological tensions and providing narrative space for conflicting cultural norms.  These films test a variety of configurations for romance and partnership, testing the limits of romance narratives and the scope of possibility for happy endings.

Blurred Lines: Queering Gender, Masculinity, and the Regency Romance

(Dawn Gott, University at Buffalo-SUNY)--Dawn was unable to present [EMS]

Regency romances are well-loved by the romance readership and have well established tropes that are easily identifiable—witty repartee, the aristocracy, Prinny, the ton, etc… When something is as comfortable and recognizable as the plot devices, tropes and general framework of a Regency, authors have room to stretch the boundaries of the sub-genre to engage the readerships’ attention and subtly tweak established mores. I will interrogate  the sub-genre, using  a queer theoretical framework, focusing on five romances—Dara Joy’s Ritual of Proof, Wen Spencer’s A Brother’s Price, and J.L. Langley’s My Fair Captain, The Englor Affair, and My Regelence Rake. These romances provide cultural insight into American society; especially as love, sex, and romance no longer seem to be constrained by heteronormative boundaries. In addition to looking at how these romances trouble the Regency sub-genre, I will also examine how they question patriarchy, gender, and masculinity. Indeed, Joy and Spencer’s romances address these themes utilizing the traditional hero/heroine (male/female) duo while Langley’s trio are all non-traditional hero/hero (male/male) romances. Regencies have been around for many decades, a stable and seemingly unexciting romance field. Yet, because the Regency provides an established milieu, it is available as a springboard for experimentation in themes and tropes that reveals much about modern American culture. These five romances use the Regency structure to create new ideas for classic love stories and blur the lines between gender and masculinity, queering the Regency in a manner that both old and new fans of the sub-genre can appreciate.

Happily Ever After's Cruel Optimism

(Jonathan Allan, Brandon University)

This paper focuses its attention on the “happily ever after,” often considered central to theories of the popular romance novel, particularly in the American Tradition. However, a close reading of the RWA definition notes that it is less about “happily ever after” and an “optimistic” ending. This paper, thus, focuses on optimism as a theoretical rubric through which to think about the popular romance novel. In particular, this paper brings together the insights of Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman.

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