Teaching Popular Romance

In 2017 one of the Postgraduate MA Literature and Culture optional modules at the University of Birmingham (UK) was "Guilty Pleasures: Reading the Historical Romance."
Guilty Pleasures explores the phenomenon and development of the popular historical romance from the start of the twentieth century to the present day. You will also examine the history of reading the romance, from the start of mass-market romance publishing in the 1920s to the recent phenomenon of literary blogging and fandom.
In this module you will read a range of historical ‘romance’ novels from the Regency romance, to the mid-late twentieth century ‘bodice-ripper’, to the more recent phenomenon of the hybrid historical fantasia or paranormal/time-travelling romance. You will analyse the archetypal conventions, narrative structures, plot patterns and themes of the romance genre, exploring the commercial ‘category’ romance’ of Mills & Boon or Harlequin, and the bestsellers of acclaimed ‘Queens’ of romance such as Heyer and Holt, alongside and in dialogue with examples of the contemporary middlebrow (eg. Gregory), and what might be described as elite or ‘literary’ romance (eg. Fowles).
There is an undergraduate final year module version of this too.

In 2017 the syllabus for Trent University's ENGL-2706Y/2707H: Popular Fiction included
Week 5: Affective Reading and Romance; Rebecca
 A category romance of your choice
 Laura Vivanco
 Radway
In 2016 Heather Schell taught "Happily Ever After: Love Stories and American Culture" at George Washington University.

At the University of Exeter Dr Joseph Crawford has taught 'Reader, I Married Him': The Evolution of Romance Fiction from 1740 to the Present (EAS3225).

In the academic year 2015-2016, the University of Alberta's Department of English and Film Studies offered:
English 693 B2: Literary Themes
Harlequin Romance: Reading the Life of a Genre
Winter 2016; W 1400­1650
Instructor: C. Devereux

Harlequin Enterprises began publishing paperback reprints in Winnipeg in 1949. In 1957, the company acquired distribution rights for the popular romance novels published by British company Mills and Boon. By 1971, Harlequin had purchased Mills and Boon and its publications had arguably become iconic in the field of category or series romance fiction: “Harlequin Romance” is a name that had by the late twentieth century come to epitomize the brand of romantic narrative the company has been so successful in producing. In this course, we will consider the rise of Harlequin Enterprises, looking at the English­-language contexts within which the romance genre emerged in the middle of the twentieth century, the publishing company, the marketing of the romance, and, of course, the novels themselves, in a range of texts from the 1950s to the 21st century. We will consider the expansion of the Harlequin brand in the past two decades, as well as some other popular romance genres in circulation in the 1950s and 60s, such, notably, as lesbian pulp fiction and medical romance. We will also look at contemporary and recent texts that build on the Harlequin tradition (such as chick lit), at e­books and the industry, at a recent lawsuit pertaining to e­books and Harlequin, and at critical and historical studies of Harlequin and romance fiction (Leslie Rabine, Janice Radway, Tania Modleski, Alison Light, Paul Grescoe, Laura Vivanco, Margaret Ann Jensen). The object is to trace the life of a genre from its emergence as an identifiable— branded—category through its legacies and afterlife. (details here)
In Fall 2015 at Ithaca College Jennifer Wofford taught a seminar on romance fiction. More details here.

In Spring 2015 Dr Katharine Dubois (who writes romance as Katharine Ashe) and Laura Florand taught The Romance Novel: History, Culture and Form at Duke University. A brief outline was posted at TMT in 2014. More information can be found at Unsuitable, the course's blog.

In 2014/15 the Department of English and Comparative Literature (DECL), College of Arts and Letters of the University of the Philippines offered a Special Topics (English 198) course on Reading the Romance Novel. The syllabus has been made available by Dr Lorie Santos.

Dr Jessica Matthews has taught ENGH 202: Why Women Read Romance at George Mason University. Details about the syllabus, required texts, secondary sources and the class blog are online. She's also discussed the design of the course and how she selects the primary texts at The Popular Romance Project. In Spring 2017 she taught English 309: The Popular Romance and details about it can also be found online.

Professor Eric Selinger has been teaching courses on popular romance at DePaul University, Chicago since 2006. By 2012 he had "taught about twenty-five courses on the genre, from large undergraduate surveys to senior and graduate seminars. The novels I've taught range from Christian inspirational romance to BDSM and LGBT romances, often accompanied by some range of essays and chapters from popular romance scholarship." More details can be found elsewhere on this blog, including this pair of posts from 2012 (1) and (2) relating to the 2012 ENG 383 (Women and Literature: Popular Romance Fiction) course.

In 2012 a "single semester module, delivered in fourteen weekly ninety-minute units, focusing on the (British) popular romance and three novels from the Regency and desert romance subgenres in particular: Georgette Heyer’s Bath Tangle (1955), E.M. Hull’s The Sheik (1919), and a recent Mills & Boon category romance, Marguerite Kaye's The Governess and the Sheikh (2011)" was taught "at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg (Bavaria, Germany) to second- and third- year BA and teaching degree students". Details have been published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies.

In 2010 "a unit on historical fiction" was offered at the University of Tasmania, Australia (UTAS),  "in which students read Georgette Heyer’s Sylvester alongside literary classics such as William Shakespeare’s Henry V and Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe." A detailed pedagogy report on the course was published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. In 2014, Dr Lisa Fletcher again included romance as part of a more broadly focused unit: HEN211 Popular Genres/HEN311 Popular Genres focuses on popular romance fiction, fantasy, and steampunk. 

The University of Wisconsin Milwaukee offers Film Studies 212-002, Intermediate Topics in Film Studies: Genres of Romance Across Media, TR 2:00-3:50, Katie Morrissey. The sample syllabus from a previous year included The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer and Hot Target by Suzanne Brockmann.

In 2013 Professor Karin E. Westman of Kansas State University included Georgette Heyer's Frederica among the required texts for ENGL 698 "Capstone: Jane Austen and Her Legacy." A similar course, "English 360: Women Writers" which focused on "the continuing literary legacy of Jane Austen" was taught in 2011 by Teresa Huffman Traver at California State University.

Professor Andrew Goldstone of  Rutgers University has offered a course on Popular Reading: Low to Middling Genres, 1890-1945. In 2012 this included E. M. Hull's The Sheik. In 2010 he taught a similar course and placed Hull's novel in the context of Ethel M. Dell's The Way of an Eagle and Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm.

In 2010 romance authors Cara Elliot and Lauren Willig taught a course at Yale University. Their Syllabus for Yale College seminar on "Reading the Historical Romance Novel" and Supplemental Reading List for "Reading the Historical Romance Novel" can be downloaded from Cara Elliot's website.

In 2010 Dr. Paula R. Backscheider of Auburn University taught "ENGL 4710: Popular Genres: The Romance."

In 2008 Dr Jo Koster taught Experience Liberated: Comparative Literature Seminar in the Romance at Winthrop University. The syllabus and other details remain online.

If you know of any other online syllabi for courses on popular romance fiction, or which include popular romance fiction, please let me know.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for creating this resource! It's been incredibly helpful as I work up my syllabus/reading list for my own DIY Romance MFA. I'll be blogging about my process at romancemfa.com and, of course, will keep following your blog!

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  2. Glad it was useful. I'm looking forward to seeing the syllabus of the Romance MFA once it appears!

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