Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New to the Wiki: Shades and The Sheik

I've decided I should put up a post whenever I add (or someone else adds) an entry to the Romance Wiki bibliography because items are added quite frequently and I don't tweet or blog about them all individually, so people may not be aware of how often new items are added or what they are. In today's post, I'd like to draw attention to an issue of Women: A Cultural Review which should be of interest to romance scholars. I haven't actually been able to get hold of copies of these articles myself but the argument in the article about Heyer, in particular, seems controversial:

Deal, Clare H., 2015. 
"‘Throbb[ing] with a consciousness of a knowledge that appalled her’: Embodiment and Female Subjectivity in the Desert Romance", Women: A Cultural Review 26.1-2: 75-95.

Here's the abstract:

This article examines the relationship between the desert and embodiment in E. M. Hull’s international best-seller The Sheik (1919). This novel, a desert romance, has been the focus of feminist scholarship for decades because of its controversial rape narrative. Drawing on theories of embodiment, in particular the work of Elizabeth Grosz, the author interrogates how the desert is paradoxically presented as a space of liberation and oppression within which female sexuality could be explored despite the gendered violence of pre-existing patriarchal frameworks. Ultimately, the author provides a reading of Diana in terms of her transition from an androgynous ‘girl’ to a sexually desiring, seemingly feminized ‘woman’, and examines the connotations associated with this. The author establishes a connection between the transient nature of the desert and the liberation offered to women within this liminal space. Through an in-depth examination of the protagonist Diana’s corporeal subjectivity over the course of the novel, the author positions The Sheik as offering a voice to female sexuality and erotic fantasy, demonstrating Hull’s depiction of the desert as an appropriation of that space through which to explore female desires. This opens up new understandings of what constituted innovative literature in interwar Britain and marks Hull’s book, with its overtly erotic content and specific focus on female desire, as a political and social departure.
Gillis, Stacy, 2015. 
"The Cross-Dresser, the Thief, His Daughter and Her Lover: Queer Desire and Romance in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades", Women: A Cultural Review 26.1-2: 57-74.

Here's the abstract:

When romance fiction consolidated as a genre in the 1920s and 1930s, a series of generic conventions concerning the heterosexual imperatives came about. This article considers how these heterosexual imperatives function as a mask for queer desire in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades (1926).  Drawing on the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the article identifies in the novel a detailed account of male–male desire through arguing that while the romantic narrative is concerned with the Duc of Avon and Léonie, his former cross-dressing page, the substantial sexual tension in the novel occurs in the meetings and exchanges between Avon and Léonie’s biological father, Henri Saint-Vire. While These Old Shades ends with the presentation of Léonie by Avon as his duchess, it is male–male desire which has (queerly) driven this romance plot to its ‘natural’ conclusion of marriage.  The article thinks through what happens when the rivalry, explicitly about desiring a woman, is an implicit homosocial bond and how this functions within the heterosexual imperatives of the romance novel. The article questions how desire functions in the romance novel and, more crucially, how romance fiction can be read as resisting, at least in part, that which has been traditionally understood as their raison d’être—the heterosexual imperative.
And in the same issue there's another item which may be of interest, though I won't be adding it to the Bibliography because I've not been adding Fifty Shades scholarship to it unless there's a clear link made to romance novels:

Booth, Naomi, 2015.
"The Felicity of Falling: Fifty Shades of Grey and the Feminine Art of Sinking", Women: A Cultural Review 26.1-2: 22-39.

Here's the abstract:
This article explores the frequent faints depicted in the Fifty Shades novels in the context of a long history of feminine swooning in the popular novel, and in light of Alexander’s Pope’s famous description of bathos as ‘the felicity of falling gracefully’. Pope’s satirical treatise describes not just a sinking from the high to the low, but from the present to the past, through a process of bathetic literary travesty. The author argues that the Fifty Shades novels travesty their literary precedents, troping in particular on past moments of female powerlessness and producing bathos through depictions of the fainting female form. The novels depend in particular on (mis)readings of Tess of the D’Urbervilles: their celebration of Tess’s abjection strips Hardy’s novel of its most complex and disturbing elements, euphemizing a bloody and tragic struggle as a swoon of ecstatic submission. At stake in this discussion is the question of how popular fiction deals with its past—in this case, how the novels deal with a history of exploited femininity iconized in the swoon. The Fifty Shades novels simultaneously invoke and deny the past, celebrating female abjection in a manner that disavows the specificities of that abjection, and denying the materiality of the materials they draw upon. E. L. James’s approach to her historical referents is contrasted with Angela Carter’s, through which the texture of the past (and the motif of feminine fainting) is vividly engaged with in an attempt to transform the future.


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