Monday, March 30, 2015

RWA Academic Grant Recipients 2015

[From the RWA] Romance Writers of America is proud to announce the recipients of its annual Academic Research Grant competition. The grant program seeks to develop and support academic research devoted to genre romance novels, writers, and readers.
  • Jonathan Andrew Allan, Ph.D., Brandon University: The Optimism of Happily Ever After. RWA awarded funding to Jonathan Andrew Allan's project "The Optimism of Happily Ever After." His proposed research seeks to explore one of the most critically maligned aspects of romance, the happy ending, or, the emotionally satisfying ending, via Affect Theory.
  • Drs. Beth Driscoll, University of Melbourne, Lisa Fletcher, University of Tasmania, and Kim Wilkins, University of Queensland: The Genre World of Romance in 21st Century Australia. RWA awarded funding to Drs. Driscoll, Fletcher, and Wilkins' project "The Genre World of Romance in 21st Century Australia." The researchers plan to create detailed case studies of three authors at different stages in their careers. The case studies will include analysis of the creative processes for one particular book by each author using textual analysis of the books and in-depth interviews with each author. They will also include interviews with the other significant players involved in the creation of and publication of each book. This research will present romance writers and their books in a wider artistic and commercial context.
  • Jessica Taylor, Ph.D., University of Toronto: Professional Business Women: Romance Writers, Feminism and "Women's Work." RWA awarded funding to Jessica Taylor for her project "Professional Business Women." Taylor researches how writers, who can choose to define their work any number of ways, sometimes pitting the creative and artistic against the professional and commercial, can negotiate interesting blends of the two. She studies how writers think and talk about what they do as work and its value and significance.
Congratulations to all the recipients!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Call for Papers: Midwest PCA/ACA Conference, October 2015

Call for Papers: Popular Romance

Thursday-Sunday, October 1-4, 2015
Cincinnati, OH
Hilton Netherland Plaza

Deadline for submission: 30 April 2015.

Love and romance are pervasive elements in popular culture, showing up in film, television, fiction, manga, advertising, advice columns, pop songs, and more. We are interested in any and all topics about or related to popular romance and its representations in popular culture (fiction, stage, screen—large or small, commercial, advertising, music, song, dance, online, real life, etc.)

Topics can include, but are not limited to:
•       critical approaches, such as readings informed by critical race theory, queer theory, postcolonial studies, or empirical science
•       depictions in the media and popular culture (e.g., film, television, literature, comics)
•       literature and fiction (genre romance, poetry, animé)
•       types of relationships (marriage, gay and lesbian)
•       historical practices and traditions of and in romance
•       regional and geographic pressures and influences (southern, Caribbean)
•       material culture (valentines, foods, fashions)
•       folklore and mythologies
•       jokes and humor
•       romantic love in political discourse (capitalism)
•       psychological approaches toward romantic attraction
•       emotional and sexual desire
•       subcultures: age (seniors, adolescents), multi-ethnic, inter-racial
•       individual creative producers or texts of popular romance
•       gender-bending and gender-crossing

Submit a one-page (200-250 words) proposal or abstract by 30 April 2015 to the Popular Romance area on the MPCA/ACA website. Please include name, affiliation, and e-mail address with your abstract. MPCA/ACA can provide an LCD projector for presentations, but it must be requested with your proposal. If necessary, indicate and submit potential scheduling conflicts along with your proposal. If you wish your presentation to be listed as MACA (rather than MPCA), please include this request with your proposal.

More conference information can be found at

For further inquiries or concerns, please contact Popular Romance Area Chair, Maryan Wherry,

Friday, March 20, 2015

A New Subgenre?: Breast Cancer Romances

In "'Less Than Perfect': Negotiating Breast Cancer in Popular Romance Novels," Melissa Zeiger draws attention to "a huge body of romance novels whose heroines are recovering from treatment [which] began to emerge in the mid-1990s and continues into the present" (108).

I have no idea how I missed reading this at the time it came out (though it's been listed on the Romance Wiki for some time) but I'm glad I came across it in the course of my current research because it's a fascinating essay which complements other romance scholars' work on disability, race and sexuality in romance fiction.

Zeiger argues that
The emergence of this subgenre reflects a shift in what is acceptable to say about breast cancer, and the novels contribute to breast cancer’s status as something to talk about rather than hide. [...] I am interested in the way romances record a transitional moment in lifting taboos on breast cancer as a topic of discussion. During the 1980s, virtually no mention of breast cancer, let alone women of color or lesbianism, occurred inside the mainstream discourse of romance. (108)
She demonstrates that romance novels, so often scorned for their predictability and their supposed social conformity, do important cultural work in this area:
Given the futility, and worse, of so much public breast cancer discourse, it seems like a good idea to find as many supplementary sites of discourse as possible. Breast cancer romance takes a problematic genre and uses it to say some things that the culture does not always want to hear. Romance characters are allowed a leeway unknown in what critics have come to call “pink culture”; when despairing, bitter, or just angry, when wildly mourning their breasts, or when disappearing from society to nurse their wounds, they are treated with warm sympathy. This space for feeling has produced a new reading community and is at least one of the major ways that stereotypical romance has been and continues to be rewritten. Such innovations are not trivial or quietist. (109)
Among the novels mentioned are:
Kathleen Eagle’s The Last Good Man (2000), Michelle Douglas’s The Man Who Saw Her Beauty (2012), Marilyn Pappano’s The Trouble with Josh (2003), and [Donna] Alward’s How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart [2011]; the African American romances Crown and Glory (2011) by Denise Jeffries and No Regrets (2002) by Patricia Haley; and Susan Gabriel’s lesbian romance Seeking Sara Summers (2008). The ambiguous politics of these works evokes complex questions regarding the relation of breast cancer to sociocultural status, constructions of femininity, and popular literary representation. (111) 
Zeiger, Melissa F., 2013/14. 
"'Less Than Perfect': Negotiating Breast Cancer in Popular Romance Novels." Tulsa Studies In Women's Literature 32.2/33.1: 107-128. [Abstract]

Monday, March 02, 2015

CFP: Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand 2015

Jodi McAlister is
very pleased to announce that Popular Romance Studies is a new area at the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand conference this year. I'm the Area Chair, and while the CFP has already closed, I've arranged an extension of a few weeks for romance scholars until April 15.

I'd love for the Romance area to make a really dynamic and fascinating debut, so I'd appreciate it if you could circulate this [...] CFP to anyone you think might be interested:

6th Annual International Conference
June 29-July 1, 2015
Massey University Campus
Wellington, New Zealand 


Popular Romance Deadline for abstracts: April 15, 2015 

The Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand (PopCAANZ) is devoted to the scholarly understanding of everyday cultures. It is concerned with the study of the social practices and the cultural meanings that are produced and are circulated through the processes and practices of everyday life. As a product of consumption, an intellectual object of inquiry, and as an integral component of the dynamic forces that shape societies.

We invite academics, professionals, cultural practitioners and those with a scholarly interest in popular culture, to send a 150 word abstract and 100 word bio to Jodi McAlister, Chair of Popular Romance for PopCAANZ: