Saturday, August 15, 2015

Misc: Who Reads Romance (in the US) and Does Popular Culture Shape National Identity

Thanks to various people on Twitter for news that,
According to Nielsen’s Romance Book Buyer Report, romance book buyers are getting younger—with an average age of 42, down from 44 in 2013. This makes the genre's average age similar to the age for fiction overall. In addition, 44% of these readers are aged 18-44 [...].

Romance book buyers are still more likely to be female than buyers of fiction overall, but with more attention than ever directed to the genre—especially given all the media coverage of Fifty Shades of Grey—more men are coming into the fold. In first-quarter 2014, men accounted for 15% of romance books purchased, compared with 12% in 2013.

These demographic changes aside, the general profile of romance fans in the U.S. remains fairly steady. Nielsen data shows that romance book buyers are more likely to be from the South and Mid-West regions, tend to be retired and identify as Christian.
More details here.

I saw a call for papers which is probably not looking for submissions from literary critics but which asked some questions I found interesting:
The existence and fundamental importance of nations, national identities, or national boundaries is rarely questioned. Yet, the scholarly literature on nationalism has shown that national communities are socially constructed, that national identities are fluid, and that national boundaries are constantly contested. Clearly, maintaining nations requires a great deal of collective effort. How is it that this effort is rendered invisible? How have nations come to be seen as natural? Why do individuals buy into the idea of national identity?

In order to fully answer these questions, we need to examine the links between nationalism and popular culture. Movies, TV series, popular music, sport, video games, comics and other elements of everyday culture are intimately involved in the production (and contestation) of nationhood. Showtime’s hit series Homeland, for example, closely reflects American values and sensibilities.
I've been working on a book about politics and US romance which, I hope, shows that there are some distinctively US elements to a lot of US romances. That, and Juliet Flesch's book about Australian romance, suggest that romance can work to reinforce national cultural norms and ideas about what it means to be a member of that nation. Jack Elliott's research demonstrates that some significant differences can be detected in authors' word choices:
the North American region has its own distinctive characteristics. [...] Some of these don’t have much bearing on theme or ideas—the use of “toward” rather than “towards,” for example, or the frequent use of the word “gotten”—but look at the striking preoccupation with time in the North American novels! “Forever” and “anymore” are both words favored by North Americans—although the more workaday “afterwards” is not (that’s a European word).
In addition, I wonder if there's an extent to which romance has tended to strengthen national boundaries by reinforcing stereotypes about stereotyped "Others": loyal kilt-wearing Scots, hot-blooded Greek tycoons, vengeful Italian aristocrats, proud Spaniards and domineering sheikhs from a variety of entirely imaginary nations.

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