The Consummate Virgin: Female Virginity Loss and Love in Anglophone Popular Literatures
explores dominant cultural narratives around what makes a “good” female virginity loss experience by examining two key forms of popular literature: autobiographical virginity loss stories and popular romance fiction. In particular, this book focuses on how female sexual desire and romantic love have become entangled in the contemporary cultural imagination, leading to the emergence of a dominant paradigm which dictates that for women, sexual desire and love are and should be intrinsically linked together: something which has greatly affected cultural scripts for virginity loss. This book examines the ways in which this paradigm has been negotiated, upheld, subverted, and resisted in depictions of virginity loss in popular literatures, unpacking the romanticisation of the idea of “the right one” and “the right time”.
It has chapters on historical romance and category romance which will be of particular interest to scholars of popular romance fiction.
Also published in August: "Bringing together an international group of scholars, The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction [edited by Jayashree Kamblé, Eric Murphy Selinger and Hsu-Ming Teo] offers a ground-breaking exploration of this global genre and its remarkable readership. In recognition of the diversity of the form, the Companion provides a history of the genre, an overview of disciplinary approaches to studying romance fiction, and critical analyses of important subgenres, themes, and topics. It also highlights new and understudied avenues of inquiry for future research in this vibrant and still-emerging field."
Faith, Love, Hope and Popular Romance Fiction is a book by Laura Vivanco which she put online on her website during the pandemic. It explores romance from a theological perspective, arguing that romance novels provide a form of pastoral care to readers. The first section of the book provides a new definition of romance, focused on faith, love, hope and pastoral care while the second half explores these concepts in more detail in relation to specific texts or concepts: Piper Huguley's A Precious Ruby; Rose Lerner's In for a Penny; Alyssa Cole's A Princess in Theory; Nora Roberts' Three Sisters trilogy; devils and the damned.
Love, Language, Place, and Identity in Popular Culture: Romancing the Other (ed. María Ramos-García and Laura Vivanco)
explores the varied representations of Otherness in romance novels and other fiction with strong romantic plots. [...] What all the essays have in common is the exploration of representations of the Other, be it in an inter-racial or inter-cultural relationship. Chapters are divided into two parts; the first examines place, travel, history, and language in 20th-century texts; while the second explores tensions and transformations in the depiction of Otherness, mainly in texts published in the early 21st century. This book reveals that even at the end of the 20th century, these texts display neocolonialist attitudes towards the Other. While more recent texts show noticeable changes in attitudes, these changes can often fall short, as stereotypes and prejudices are often still present, just below the surface, in popular novels.
Jonathan A. Allan's Men, Masculinities, and Popular Romance seeks to open a lively and accessible discussion between critical studies of men and masculinities and popular romance studies, especially its continued interest in what Janice Radway has called 'the purity of his maleness.'"
Ria Cheyne's Disability, Literature, Genre: Representation and Affect.
- The Gothic Romance Wave: A Critical History of the Mass Market Novels, 1960-1993 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland) argues that
The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the birth of modern feminism, the sexual revolution, and strong growth in the mass-market publishing industry. Women made up a large part of the book market, and Gothic fiction became a higher popular staple. Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney emerged as prominent authors, while the standardized paperback Gothic sold in the millions. Pitched at middle-class women of all ages, Gothics paved the way for contemporary fiction categories such as urban fantasy, paranormal romance and vampire erotica. Though not as popular today as they once were, Gothic paperbacks retain a cult following—and the books themselves have become collectors’ items. They were also the first popular novels to present strong heroines as agents of liberation and transformation. This work offers the missing chapters of the Gothic story, from the imaginative creations of Ann Radcliffe and the Brontë sisters to the bestseller 50 Shades of Grey.
In Consuming Agency and Desire in Romance: Stories of Love, Laughter, and Empowerment (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington) Jenni M. Simon argues that:
The romance industry has profited on the fantasies of women for centuries. However, as a new generation of women raised under the guidance of second-wave feminists take up the reins of romance production, romance novels and films have increasingly challenged tired stereotypes labeling romantic stories as formulaic fodder. This book examines how the romance genre serves women in multiple ways, from escapism to sexual education, from fantasy to fun, and most importantly, as a site of production for feminist texts.An excerpt is available.
Además de analizar los elementos formales constitutivos del género, en este libro quiero demostrar que se trata de un género popular mucho más diverso y complejo de lo que suele suponerse. Aunque no soy fan de las novelas, he leído una buena cantidad de todos los subgéneros para redactar el libro y me ha sorprendido tanto su calidad como su variedad. En su mayoría son muy entretenidas porque la voz narrativa suele ser un tanto irónica, al igual que los personajes, y aunque también hay una gran cantidad de novelas que, francamente, son muy malas, me he guiado por las opiniones de las lectoras que sí son aficionadas y no me he equivocado: son las mejores críticas del género. Por último, quisiera que el libro sea una invitación a la apreciación justa del género que evite el tono de desprecio que acompaña a sus detractores. No se trata de un género ideológicamente conservador, también es innovador, porque si no lo fuera habría desaparecido.
Through close readings of more than fifty novels and novellas published over two decades, Ali analyzes the ethical world of Robb’s New York circa 2060. Ali explores Robb’s depictions of egalitarian relationships, satisfying work, friendships built on trust, and an array of models of femininity and family. At the same time, the series’ imagined future replicates some of the least admirable aspects of contemporary society. Sexual violence, police brutality, structural poverty and racism, and government surveillance persist in Robb’s fictional universe, raising urgent moral challenges. So do ordinary ethical quandaries around trust, intimacy, and interdependence in marriage, family, and friendship.
Ali celebrates the series’ ethical successes, while questioning its critical moral omissions. She probes the limits of Robb’s imagined world and tests its possibilities for fostering identity, meaning, and mattering of human relationships across social difference. Ali capitalizes on Robb’s futuristic fiction to reveal how careful and critical reading is an ethical act.
Representing Difference in the Medieval and Modern Orientalist Romance was published in March 2016 by Palgrave Macmillan. It
proffers innovative case studies on representations of cross-religious and cross-cultural romantic relationships in a selection of late medieval and twenty-first century Orientalist popular romances. Comparing the tropes, characterization and settings of these literary phenomena, and focusing on gender, religion, and ethnicity, the study exposes the historical roots of current romance representations of the east, advancing research in Orientalism, (neo)medievalism and medieval cultural studies. Fundamentally, Representing Difference invites a closer look at medieval and modern popular attitudes towards the east, as represented in romance, and the kinds of solutions proposed for its apparent problems.
Catherine Roach's Happily Ever After: The Romance Story in Popular Culture is published by Indiana University Press (2016). She proposes "that romance novels have nine essential elements": "It is hard to be alone"; "It is a man's world"; "Romance is a religion of love"; "Romance involves risk"; "Romance involves hard work"; "Romance facilitates healing"; "Romance leads to great sex, especially for women"; "Romance makes you happy"; "Romance levels the playing field for women" (see her post for the RNA).
“Find your one true love and live happily ever after.” The trials of love and desire provide perennial story material, from the Biblical Song of Songs to Disney’s princesses, but perhaps most provocatively in the romance novel, a genre known for tales of fantasy and desire, sex and pleasure. Hailed on the one hand for its women-centered stories that can be sexually liberating, and criticized on the other for its emphasis on male/female coupling and mythical happy endings, romance fiction is a multi-million dollar publishing phenomenon, creating national and international societies of enthusiasts, practitioners, and scholars. Catherine Roach, alongside her romance-writer alter-ego, Catherine LaRoche, guides the reader deep into Romancelandia where the smart and the witty combine with the sexy and seductive to explore why this genre has such a grip on readers and what we can learn from the romance novel about the nature of happiness, love, sex, and desire in American popular culture.
Romance Fiction and American Culture brings together scholars from the humanities, social sciences, and publishing to explore American romance fiction from the late eighteenth to the early twenty-first century. Essays on interracial, inspirational, and LGBTQ romance attend to the diversity of the genre, while new areas of inquiry are suggested in contextual and interdisciplinary examinations of romance authorship, readership, and publishing history, of pleasure and respectability in African American romance fiction, and of the dynamic tension between the genre and second wave feminism. As it situates romance fiction among other instances of American love culture, from Civil War diaries to Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, Romance Fiction and American Culture confirms the complexity and enduring importance of this most contested of genres.
John Markert argues in Publishing Romance: The History of an Industry, 1940s to the Present that
Romance novels have attracted considerable attention since their mass market debut in 1939, yet seldom has the industry itself been analyzed. Founded in 1949, Harlequin quickly gained market domination with their contemporary romances. Other publishers countered with historical romances, leading to the rise of “bodice-ripper” romances in the 1970s. The liberation of the romance novel’s content during the 1980s brought a vitality to the market that was dubbed a revolution, but the real romance revolution began in the 1990s with developments in the mainstream publishing industry and continues today. This book traces the history and evolution of the romance industry, covering successful (and not so successful) trends and describing changes in romance publishing that paved the way for the many popular subgenres flooding the market in the 21st century.
Laura Vivanco's Pursuing Happiness: Reading American Romance as Political Fiction was published at the beginning of 2016. It
explores some of the choices, beliefs and assumptions which shape the politics of American romance novels. In particular, it focuses on what romances reveal about American attitudes towards work, the West, race, gender, community cohesion, ancestral “roots” and a historical connection (or lack of it) to the land. The novels discussed include works by Suzanne Brockmann, Beverly Jenkins, Karin Kallmaker, Pamela Morsi, Nora Roberts, Sharon Shinn, Linnea Sinclair and LaVyrle Spencer.Romance author Isobel Carr has described it as "an insightful and entertaining look at the inherent, often invisible, politics that underlie America’s most popular genre of fiction".
The paperback edition of Women and Erotic Fiction: Critical Essays on Genres, Markets and Readers was published on 30 November 2015 (it became available for Kindle in August):
Erotic texts written by and for women play a significant role in negotiating relations of gender, sexuality and kinship, and in shaping popular ideas about romance and the erotic. Examining the ""mainstreaming"" of women's erotica following the runaway success of Fifty Shades of Grey , this collection of new essays focuses on the publication and reception of women's popular erotic fiction across various genres and cultural contexts. The contributors draw connections between feminist and cultural studies scholarship on visual pornography and critical research on popular romance fiction. Essays explore a range of writing: popular erotic romance novels; ""feminist porn""; male/male and menage fiction; lesbian romance; sex blogs; new Chinese erotica; BDSM novels; and slash fiction. Topics discussed include the ideological and critical aspects of popular texts, audiences and fan communities, the disciplinary function of popular speech about women's erotic fiction, and the technological and social shifts which have facilitated women's access to new forms of erotic material.
Due out in February 2021 from UCL Press is Georgette Heyer, History, and Historical Fiction, edited by Samantha J. Rayner and Kim Wilkins. The table of contents can be found here.
current project is a book-length manuscript that examines the effects of the publishing, librarian and educational fields on the history of young adult literature and, more specifically, on teen girl romance novels published from 1942 to 1967 (known as the female junior novel genre). Allen uses a feminist cultural materialist approach, drawing on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Luce Irigaray, and using previously unpublished archival documents, to suggest a revised history of young adult fiction: one that explores the neglected female junior novel genre in relation to the rise and fall of a semi-autonomous network of female producers and distributors (editors, critics, librarians), and contrasted against the academics who ultimately defined "good" young adult fiction. By examining the female junior novel texts and network in relation to Cold War politics, federal initiatives in education and librarianship and the history of the children's publishing industry in America, she suggests a heretofore hidden battle regarding who has the right—and ability—to define our current concept of young adult fiction.
Margo Hendricks was awarded an RWA Research Grant in 2018 for
Heliodorus' Daughters: Women of Color and the Romance IndustryExcitingly, this appears to have now expanded into a two-book project.
RWA awarded funding to Professor Emerita Margo Hendricks to carry out field research for her book project titled Heliodorus’ Daughters: Women of Color and the Romance Industry on the relationship between women of color and the romance genre.
Johanna Hoorenman "is currently working on a cultural history of Native American themed popular romance novels, tracing the roots of the subgenre to early American women's captivity narratives and James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans" (http://muse.jhu.edu/article/662582)
Christine Larson "is currently writing a book on the 40-year history of romance writers’ professional networks." Some more details are given here.
career-long project, which began with A Natural History of the Romance Novel, is to define, analyze, and write the history of the genre based on as synoptic a knowledge of the entire history of the novel as I can muster.Eric Murphy Selinger has outlined his plans for How to Read a Romance Novel (and Fall in Love with Popular Romance) here at Teach Me Tonight. He envisages writing a book which will
The romance is a world-wide phenomenon, but I would argue that American romance holds a place near the center of the genre’s concerns, and its history deserves a separate treatment. I wish to write that history.
The proposed project will involve first identifying the novels of American authors that contain the eight elements of the romance novel laid out in my earlier book. From this will emerge the first identification of America’s national canon of romance. Analysis of these novels with an eye to identifying the essential components of an American romance, which is to say, those characteristics that the author’s nationality and its attendant culture imbue it with, will define our romance tradition. (RWA)
introduce its readers to a bunch of late-20th and early 21st century British and American romance novels that I quite like, from a range of subgenres, from Christian inspirational novels to paranormal, erotic, and LGBTQ romance, with the focus of each chapter being one to three novels that I read in depth, attending both to internal complexity and to a novel’s dialogue with literary or cultural contexts.
If you know of another forthcoming publication in the area of romance which should be added to this list, please contact Laura Vivanco.