Sunday, July 31, 2022

A short exploration of "unconditional love"

Kharma Kelley, a romance author, has a few points to make about "unconditional romance" and I think it's a topic worth thinking about given that "unconditional romance" remains part of the RWA's extended definition of a romance novel:

Two basic elements comprise every romance novel: a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. 
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as they want as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love
Here's what Kelley has to say:

If we're gonna talk about love in a mature and nuanced manner, let's start by realizing that "unconditional love" is a cruel and unrealistic idea that has shamed ppl into removing boundaries and standards required for a healthy relationship--platonic, familial, or romantic.

This idea of unconditional love can be toxic when it guilts ppl into staying with abusive partners, or forgiving family members who participated in abuse. It can shame parents into accepting the harmful and/or violent behavior of their children and vice versa.

Instead we need to empower everyone that it is OK for their love to have standards, boundaries and expectations. We are human and our loyalty, dedication and affections are GIFTS. We don't owe it to anyone unconditionally. That isn't fair, nor healthy.

Also, let's not conflate love with caretaking. Feeding, clothing and contributing to the survival of a person is not necessarily love. The will and desire to caretake can be deepened by love, but it isn't a requirement of caretaking.

I feel like what many of us are really asking for when we say 'unconditional love' is acceptance of who we are flaws and all. But even defining it as that is unrealistic. Some of our flaws will be unacceptable to some folks. And that's okay. Why?

Because I can choose to examine my flaw and if it's worth changing. Will I be better for it or nah? Notice how I didn't make it about them? Because it isn't. I always have the power to determine if a flaw is really a flaw to me.

I also have the power to determine if the relationship I may stand to create or strengthen is valuable enough to invest in by addressing this flaw. And for the record I define flaws as behaviorial. Behaviors can change. Identities and physical traits are NOT flaws.

When I wrote Faith, Love, Hope and Popular Romance Fiction (which can be read online or downloaded free from here) I decided to omit a discussion of "unconditional love" because I wasn't really sure to what extent all romance writers believed it was an essential part of romance or whether they'd have different understandings of what it meant. Instead, I decided to limit myself to arguing that, in romance novels, true love is depicted as both "good" and "durable." However, I do have an unpublished offcut which I saved and which shows me struggling to work out what "unconditional love" might mean in specific romance novels. I'll paste it in below.


One work of pastoral theology has stated that 

Unconditional love is the only real love. Conditional love is a counterfeit. It says in effect, "I will love you if - or I love you because." What it means is, "I will love you if you will fulfill my demands," or, "I love you because of what you mean to me or can do for me. (Hulme 92)

This particular definition of conditional and unconditional love comes from a chapter outlining “a theological approach to the parent-child relationship” (88); the heroine of Marin Thomas’s Daddy by Choice (2005) bears witness to the damage that can be done when parents fail to provide this kind of love:

Heart breaking, Josephine stared at her parents, yearning for the one thing they had withheld all her life. "Unconditional love [...] I'm not sure my parents know what unconditional love is." Josephine's voice cracked. "I believe my sister [...] chose to live her life away from the family because she realized she could never be what my parents expected her to be. [...] Until my sister's death, I hadn't known I had fallen victim to my parents' expectations. All my successes and accomplishments were to please them in the hope of earning their love. I didn't understand that no matter what I did, how successful I became, I would always fall short in their eyes." (222)

As Flynn, the hero of Dallas Schulze’s Tell Me a Story (1988), remarks, children need to be given "room to grow and you have to love them for what they are, not for what you want them to be” (465). Much later in the novel this brief definition of unconditional love is echoed when Ann realises that this is the kind of love Flynn himself requires: “unconditional love. Someone who accepted him with all his faults and all his good points. Someone who'd never compare him to another and find him wanting. Someone who'd love him just as he was” (621). In Courtni Wright's It Had to be You (1998), it is the heroine, Jenna, who is explicitly described as being a recipient of this kind of love. She initially believed that “her humble beginnings lay between” (17) her and Mike and “had decided that the chasm between them was too wide for him to cross” (36). Mike, however, persists in trying to bridge the gap and, by the end of the novel, she has “completed her crossing” (283) and knows Mike feels “unconditional love and acceptance. He did not care which side of the tracks had been her beginnings. He had never been embarrassed by her lack of knowledge about which fork or spoon to use with which food in a multicourse meal” (282).

Both Ann and Courtni’s respective recognition of the presence of unconditional love towards and from their heroes occurs as the novels draw to a conclusion; accepting that one is loved in this way can take time and moreover this type of love is certainly not always present immediately in the romantic relationships depicted in romances. Such a delay is, indeed, implied in the RWA definition of romance, in which unconditional love is said to be one of the rewards given to the protagonists after they have undergone “risk and struggle for each other”. Moreover, certain conditions may have to be met in romantic relationships in order for love to become unconditional and for each lover to be able to receive it. The heroine of Lidiya Foxglove’s The Mermaid Bride (2017), for example, recognises that “Being in love didn’t mean lying and hiding parts of yourself and trying to be someone you weren’t. We could only be in love if we accepted the truth of what we were, and how we felt about each other, and were willing to struggle through all the troubles” (Lidiya Foxglove, The Mermaid Bride, Chapter 21).


So, I think it might be useful to understand what different people mean by "unconditional love" as applied to relationships. It doesn't seem healthy to me to be in a relationship with someone who keeps making you jump through hoops to earn their approval, and where you're walking on eggshells thinking that if you do something wrong they'll no longer want to be with you but, on the other hand, it seems healthy to have standards regarding behaviour which will remain unacceptable, no matter how much you love someone or how much you've committed yourself to them.

In our chapter in The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction, Eric Selinger and I wrote that:

Research remains to be done on “unconditional love” in popular romance fiction. Does unconditionality work as a defining quality for love in purely secular romance contexts, or does it always bring with it a trace of religious reference and discourse? Has the feminist critique of unconditional love been incorporated into popular romance? If so, how is it addressed? Do romance novels ever extol the value of conditional love, which in Fromm is co-equal with unconditional love, since both are necessary elements in a “mature” version of the emotion? And although “unconditional love” is part of the RWA definition of the genre, is this a transnational ideal, or more specifically an American one? (499)

The pre-print version of that chapter's available for free to download here and it goes into a bit more depth about the religious roots of the concept of "unconditional love."

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Lots of IASPR news and new publications

In recent news:


The International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR) is seeking a Secretary to join our Executive Committee. This is a volunteer position, with a two-year term. 

More details here on what's involved in being Secretary.

They're also looking for a Film and Television Editor, Journal for Popular Romance Studies. Details about that can be found here (and the deadline's 30 July).

If you're not already signed up to IASPR's quarterly newletter, I'd encourage you to do that here (where you can also see the newsletter's archive). This quarter's newsletter includes a link to PCA Romance Area 2022 Abstract Booklet which I don't think was available online during the event and an interview with the new IASPR President (congratulations Jayashree and I look forward to seeing your ideas come to fruition!)

And on to the new entries in the Romance Scholarship Database:

Ayala Rodríguez, Ida María and Iraida Thalia Almaral Cereijo (2022). "Deconstructionism of the heroine in the novel The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer." Sincronia 82:536-564.

Balteskard, Susanna (2022). Feminism in Romance: How the romance genre has(n't) changed since the 1950s. Bachelor thesis, Norwegian University of Science and Technology. [Abstract only.]

Buttrick, Nicholas Westgate, Erin C. Oishi, Shigehiro (2022). "Reading Literary Fiction Is Associated With a More Complex Worldview." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Online First. [A preprint version is available for free online - see the links in the romance scholarship database entry I've linked to]

Farooqui, Javaria (2022). "On Loving Popular Fiction in Pakistan." The Aleph Review.

Namysłowska, Karolina (2022). Romance novels in translation: Focus on defining features of selected texts translated from English into Polish. Masters thesis, Jagiellonian University. [Abstract]

Also, since I was sent a free copy of New Frontiers in Popular Romance: Essays on the Genre in the 21st Century, I've been able to update the entries in the Romance Scholarship Database about it to include quotes that give a flavour of each essay.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

A Changing Genre? New dissertations and links: readers, feminism, LGBTQIA+ , Black romance

Here are the new dissertations:

and thanks to Cruz-Bibb, I've found references to some older dissertations I hadn't come across before: 

The last two reach very different conclusions from each other about lesbian romance. Brown argues that lesbian romances differ significantly from f/m ones, whereas Secrease finds that they're really very similar. Both Brown and Secrease base their conclusions on small samples, and it could be argued that they're comparing the lesbian novels to at least some generalisations about heterosexual romances which have now been superseded (and may have even been a bit out of date by the time the dissertations were written) but it's interesting nonetheless that they disagree. I linked to the entries in the Romance Scholarship Database since I've included quotes there which are possibly not available in the excepts at ProQuest.


Another item I found in Cruz-Bibb's bibliography is:

In it Green mentions that

what I have experienced as "feminist changes" to the romance genre began appearing in the mid-1980s [...] In my experience, in all but the subgenre of historical romance, gender stereotypes were beginning to change. Male characters were no longer portrayed strictly as brooding, dark, and macho; heroines were given more independence and depth. There were also thematic changes: for example, writers were beginning to pay attention to contemporary social issues, such as single parenting, substance abuse, and child abuse. (14)

On the topic of changes which took place in the 1980s, Steve Ammidown tweets that:

Minger's novel was published in 1983. Steve's careful wording here reminds me that it's hard to keep track of "firsts" in the genre: since there are so many romances, and many of the earlier novels are somewhat difficult to access, their plots may not be known to current scholars. There has been some work done on earlier romances of course, and clearly some of them had plots we might find surprising. For example, jay Dixon's The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990s, describes a romance by Elizabeth Carfrae, from 1929, in which the married heroine conceives a child with the hero, to whom she is not married and "Her husband thinks the baby is his and raises her accordingly until his death, when the hero and heroine meet up again and marry" (139). One early romance involving abortion is described by Joseph McAleer in his Passion's Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon:

In November 1939 a Mills & Boon novel, How Strong is Your Love? by Barbara Hedworth, made the Irish Government's list of prohibited books, on the grounds that it 'advocate[d] the unnatural prevention of conception', a provision of the 1929 Censorship of Publications Act. [....] Mills & Boon published this novel [...] over a year earlier, in August 1938. Splashy advertising for this title billed it as 'an absorbing romance' and 'a love story that will delight everybody'. Apparently not: [...] the heroine's father, a village doctor, is an abortionist. He decides to help Rose, unmarried but pregnant, by performing 'an illegal operation'. The abortion (never called such by name) is a success, but a blood clot kills Rose. To spare his family the shame and scandal, Dr Vickers shoots himself. (168)

I suspect that Steve was thinking more of novels in which abortion is "called such by name" and despite the censors' concerns, clearly this novel does not present abortion very favourably given that Rose dies, but it's interesting that the topic was at least present here: later on Mills & Boon's policy was to avoid the topic completely so as not to have their publications censored.

Still on the topic of changes in the genre, in a recent article, Ana Quiring argues that "a new subgenre of queer Regency-era romance" 

align[s] the lovers with the most marginalized in society. In consequence, these novels imagine queer love and sex as always political. Rather than repeating the Cinderella dream of marrying up, they invent a new one, no less fantastic: romantic love as a conduit to solidarity.

And by "new subgenre" Quiring doesn't mean that it's only just appearing in 2022: one of the romances described in the article dates from 2014.

Still on the topic of queer/LGBTQ+ romance, I'm a bit less sure about the historical perspective of a recent article in the Guardian, which refers to "the rise of LGBTQ+ romance fiction" and notes that readers of one of the works discussed "praised the novel for being refreshingly joyful and funny – including a happy ending, which is not that common for a book with an LGBTQ+ plot." Obviously, given the dissertations by Brown and Secrease mentioned above, LGBTQ+ romance (which, by definition, includes a happy ending) isn't actually something new but perhaps what's happening is that it's relatively recently broken through into the awareness of mainstream media?

Also apparently breaking through is Black romance.  Naomi Elias states that Bolu Babalola's "romance books—by design, not default—have become outliers in the publishing industry, since they center Black women as romantic leads" and the sub-heading of the article adds that Babalola's work "normalizes seeing Black women being loved loudly." Given that mainstream romance publishing has tended to publish too few Black authors, the word "outlier" seems fair enough but I think whoever wrote the sub-heading (and it may well not have been Elias) is overlooking the work of many other Black romance authors who've been publishing for decades.

Summing up and discussing some of the changes that have been happening in romance is this pair of podcasts:

The Agony and the Ecstasy: Race and the Future of the Love Story Part 1

The Agony and the Ecstasy: Race and the Future of the Love Story Part 2

Two of the contributors are:

  • Jayashree Kamble, Professor of English Literature at La Guardia Community College
  • Shana McDavis-Conway, Co-Director for the Center for Story-Based Strategy and Staff Reviewer for Smart Bitches, Trashy Book

I'll end, though, with something that's been present in the genre for a very long time: historically inaccurate clothing on covers. Bernadette Banner has redrawn some historical romance covers (and the cover of one work of historical fiction) to make the costumes more accurately reflect clothing in the periods and places in which they're set. The novels are: Kelly Bowen's Duke of My Heart; Beverly Jenkins's Something Like Love; Olivia Waite's The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics; Alyssa Cole's An Extraordinary Union; Gillian Bagwell's Venus in Winter; Gayle Callen's Love with a Scottish Outlaw.

She doesn't really explore the reasons why inaccurate outfits might be more appealing to readers, and I'm not sure how much that's been discussed by romance readers and scholars. Presumably the shirts that open in the wrong way are more appealing due to the amount of bare chest they reveal and I can see how some modern hairstyles might seem sexier than accurate ones but is some of this due to which stock art was available? I get the impression, though, that these were published by large publishing companies who commission photo shoots specially for their covers, so some of these choices don't make a lot of sense to me. Are publishers making assumptions which aren't warranted about what will appeal to readers? Or is the key thing just to give a general "historical" feel so that the reader can easily identify which romance subgenre the book's in?

Thursday, June 16, 2022

New: Courtney Milan, Historical Romance, Teaching Romance, Podcasts, Mills & Boon Vintage Covers, New Frontiers, and more

I'm going to start with the two new articles in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies for the entirely biased reason that one of them is by me.

There have been a couple of podcasts that I thought would be of interest to readers of this blog:

In the first, Lucy Hargrave gives an overview of her PhD research:

In other news, Angela Toscano has joined forces with Molly Keran (a PhD student) and Candy Tan (who I think is the same Candy who used to be half of Smart Bitches Trashy Books) and in this first episode they're discussing bodice rippers:

The University of Reading has been cataloguing their Mills & Boon romance collection and as part of that process they've been digitising many of covers. You can find them here, mostly sorted by decade:

New Frontiers in Popular Romance: Essays on the Genre in the 21st Century, edited by Susan Fanetti, appears to be available now as an ebook but is still forthcoming in the print version. It includes:

  • "Healing Toxic Masculinity in Sweatpants Season by Danielle Allen" - Jonathan A. Allan
  • "From Darcy to Dickheads: Why Do Women Love the Bad Boy?" - Ashleigh Taylor Sullivan
  • "Tingles and Shivers: First Kisses and Intimate Civility in Eliza Redgold’s Historical Harlequin Romances Pre–and Post-#MeToo" - Debra Dudek, Elizabeth Reid Boyd, Madalena Grobbelaar, and Rose Williams
  • "I Thought You’d Never Ask: Consent in Contemporary Romance" - Courtney Watson
  • "“Say, could that lass be I?” Outlander, Transmedial ­Time-Travel, and Women’s Historical Fantasy" - Ashley Elizabeth Christensen
  • "“Place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture”: The Recasting of Jane Eyre" - Lucy Sheerman
  • "“The Realness” in Jasmine Guillory’s Sista Lit Rom Com Novels" - Camille S. Alexander
  • "Eating Disorders and Romance" - Ellen Carter
  • "The “Grandly and Inhospitably Strange” World of Autistic Heroines in Romance Fiction" - Wendy Wagner
  • "Women Policing Whiteness: Deviance and Surveillance in Contemporary Police Procedural Romance" - Nattie Golubov
  • "“I’m a mehfil, I’m a gathering to which everyone is invited”: Reading “Outcast” Romances in Arundhati Roy’s Fiction" - Lucky Issar
  • "The System That Loves Me: The State of Human Existence in ­Web-Based Romantic Fiction from ­Post-Socialist China" - Jin Feng
  • "Original Slash, Romance, and C.S. Pacat’s Captive Prince" - Maria Albert

You can find an excerpt here and the publisher's page about the book is here.

Two other new items are:

  • Frederick, Rhonda D. (2022). Evidence of Things Not Seen: Fantastical Blackness in Genre Fictions. Rutgers University Press. [One of the chapters reads Colin Channer's Waiting in Vain as a romance.]

As always, I've added the details about all these new items to the Romance Scholarship Database. I thought I should just mention that I do also sometimes find and add items which are new to me but which are older, and I don't usually post about those here at Teach Me Tonight.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

New (and one forthcoming) publications: Comics, Masculinities, Love, Readers, Happiness, Heyer and more

The Observer published an article about British romance comics of the 1950s and 60s, with mention of a forthcoming publication on the topic: 

Here are the new publications:

Eirini Arvanitaki's
 Masculinities in Post-Millennial Popular Romance (New York: Routledge) was published in mid May.

Belk, Jaime (2022). Save Our Love. Creative Writing Masters Thesis, Liberty University.

Fekete, Maleah (2022). "Confluent Love and the Evolution of Ideal Intimacy: Romance Reading in 1980 and 2016." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 11.

Gehrmann, Susanne (2022). "Varieties of Romance in Contemporary Popular Togolese Literature." Routledge Handbook of African Popular Culture, ed. Grace A. Musila. Routledge: London.

Golubov, Nattie (2022). "La promesa de felicidad: la novela rosa y el placer de la lectura afectiva." El placer de la lectura: cuerpos, afectos, textos. Ed. Nattie Golubov. Ciudad de México. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 65-94.

Hernandez, Carmen E. (2022) Romance and Revolution. Master of Arts dissertation, Texas State University.

Jan, Jariah Mohd and Diana Abu Ujum (2022). "Negotiating Conflicts amongst Muslim Female Characters in Malay Romance Novels: A Narratological Perspective." Muslim Women’s Writing from across South and Southeast Asia. Ed. Feroza Jussawalla, Doaa Omran. Routledge. New York.

O'Brien, Lee (2022). "Telling Gaps and Domestic Tyranny: Georgette Heyer’s Regency Romances." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 11.

Friday, May 20, 2022

In Memoriam: Gwendolyn E. Osborne

Image of Gwendolyn E. Osborne from AALBC

Late yesterday

AALBC, to which Gwen Osborne contributed, had long had a profile of her in which it was stated that:

Gwendolyn Osborne (a.k.a “The Word Diva”) is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She is a hopeless romantic and an unabashed book junkie. She prefers to be called “Gwen,” but unapologetically uses the longer version in her bylines “because it takes up more space in print.”
Gwen began her journalism career as a reviewer for The Detroit Free Press. Her work has also appeared in several national publications including Book Magazine, Mode Magazine and The Crisis, the organizational publication of the NAACP.

As Wendy stated, however, she has been a particularly important figure in the romance community, and not just as a reviewer. Some of Osborne's contributions to the study of romance and romance readers were recognised by the Black Romance Bibliography which was published only a few days ago by the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. More extensive discussion of her contribution to romance scholarship appears in the Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction (2021). There, Julie E. Moody-Freedman notes that:

Throughout the early 2000s, Gwendolyn Osborne’s articles contributed to the documenting the evolution of the African American romance publishing industry. Osborne’s articles about the production aspect of the romance industry provide foundational information about the industry which scholars like Markert have referenced in publications. Her articles “How Black Romance Novels, That Is—Came to Be” and “Love in Color” document the development of the industry. “How Black Romance Novels, That Is—Came to Be (romance)” documents the evolution of African American romance between the 1960s and 1990s by pointing out the contributions Frank Yerby’s novels, True Confessions magazine, Bronze Thrills, and Black Romance and Jive have made to the genre through their publication of established romance writers Donna Hill and Francis Ray. “Love in Color,” a 2006 publication in Black Issues Book Review, discusses the acquisition of BET books by Harlequin in November 2005. (238-239)

Moody-Freeman added that,

As I have noted above, Gwendolyn Osborne’ publications have contributed to understanding the production of African American romance in the early 1990s and 2000s. However, her publications also focus on readers’ responses to romance fiction. In a 2004 book chapter “‘Women Who Look Like Me’: Cultural Identity and Reader Responses to African American Romance Novels,” Osborne reports her findings based on a study of romance readers to answer “what it is about Black romance that draws so many African American book buyers to the romance sections of the nation’s bookstores”[...] 

Osborne’s article “It’s All About Love: Romance Readers Speak Out,” written for the AALBC two years prior to her book chapter, also uses reader response to discuss African American romance, but in this article, Osborne interviews readers as well as writers and editors to understand romance novels’ appeal to Black readers. (240-241)

In the same volume, Jayashree Kamblé stated that "Gwendolyn E. Osborne's 2004 essay is the only study that briefly touches on romance covers with African American characters" (288).

In addition to making a direct contribution to the study of African American romance through her own writing, Osborne also helped others. In the acknowledgements section of the ground-breaking Black Women's Activism: Reading African American Women's Historical Romances (2004) Rita B. Dandridge expressed her thanks to

Gwendolyn E. Osborne, reviewer for Romance Reader, who facilitated my contacts with the writers and bought and sent me a copy of Gay G. Gunn's Nowhere to Run. Thanks, Gwen, for introducing me to a writer I did not know existed.

[Edited to add: Here's an obituary, giving more details about Gwendolyn Osborne's life, by Cheyanne M. Daniels of the Chicago Sun Times. An archived version can be found here.

Another, from the perspective of a fellow romance reviewer, Wendy the Super Librarian, can be found here. Among other things, she writes that

Words like "trailblazer" and "pioneer" get thrown around a lot, but Gwen truly was both. She sprang from the womb a reader, but had an awakening in the 1990s when she discovered Arabesque Books. A light bulb went off for her when she discovered romance novels written by Black authors featuring Black men and women falling in love...she was hooked.  And from that moment on Gwen was an evangelist for Black Romance.

You have to understand the time in which Gwen was beating this drum. Black Romance was relegated to segregated "African American Interest" areas of bookstores and distribution was the pits on top of that. The romance genre as a whole got next to zero mainstream attention other than sneering, but Black Romance? You could hear a pin drop.

That's archived here.]


Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (1999) "Our Love Affair with Romance." Black Issues Book Review 1.4, Jul 1999, pp. 40-44.

Osborne, Gwendolyn (2002). "How Black Romance--Novels, that is--Came to be." Black Issues Book Review 4.1, Jan 2002, pp. 50.

Osborne, Gwendolyn (2002). “It’s All About Love: Romance Readers Speak Out.” African American Literature Book Club, 1 Feb. 2002.

Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (2003). "In Search of Women Who Look Like Me: A Brief History of the African-American Romance." The 2000-2003 Proceedings of the SW/Texas PCA/ACA Conference. Ed. Leslie Fife. 2020-2044.

Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (2004). “‘Women Who Look like Me’: Cultural Identity and Reader Responses to African American Romance Novels.” Race/Gender/Media: Considering Diversity Across Audiences, Content, and Producers. Ed. Rebecca Ann Lind (Boston: Pearson). 61–68.

Osborne, Gwendolyn E. (2006) "The COLOR of LOVE." Black Issues Book Review 8.1, Jan 2006. 14-15.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

New Issue of JPRS on Black Romance, and other new publications

Issue 11 of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies features a special issue on Black Romance, edited by Margo Hendricks and Julie Moody-Freeman. Among other items, it includes the following articles:

Other recent publications about romance are:

Abrahamsson, Elin (2022). "Rättvisemärkt romantik: Feelgood, flärd och feminism i samtida svensk romance." in  Speglingar av feelgood: Genre, etikett eller känsla? 185-230.

Bilodeau, Isabelle (2022). "How Romance Translators Write Themselves and Their Readers into Afterwords." Departmental Bulletin Paper 47:81-98.

Deng, Yiwei (2022). "The Aesthetic form of Childhood Sweetheart: I Love You, None of Your Business." Frontiers in Economics and Management 3.4: 625-629.

Larson, Christine and Elspeth Ready (2022). "Networking down: Networks, innovation, and relational labor in digital book publishing." New Media & Society. Online First.

Nankervis, Madison (2022). “Diversity in Romance Novels: Race, Sexuality, Neurodivergence, Disability, and Fat Representation.” Publishing Research Quarterly. Online First.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

New Publications: Comics, Second Hand Bookshops, Islands, Hispanisms, Race, Young People, Fatness, Radway and Chinese Readers

Brunet, Peyton and Blair Davis (2022). Comic Book Women: Characters, Creators, and Culture in the Golden Age. Austin: University of Texas Press. [Chapter 8 is about romance comics:]

Farooqui, Javaria (2022). "Romance in an Old Bookshop." The Bridge Magazine 1:66-69. [This is available freely online. It discusses the distribution of second-hand romances in Pakistan and the connection with social class.]

Fresno-Calleja, Paloma (2022). “Repurposing Fantasy Island: Lani Wendt Young’s Telesā Series and the Politics of Postcolonial Romance.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies.

González-Cruz, María-Isabel. 2022. Hispanicisms in Romance Fiction. An Annotated Glossary. Lewiston, New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. [Details from the publisher.]

Hendricks, Margo (2022). Race and Romance: Coloring the Past. Arizona State University. [This is available to read for free online. This includes discussion of two novels by Beverly Jenkins and also Margo Hendricks's own romance novels (written as Elysabeth Grace).]

Herrera, Carolina M. (2022). Examining the relation between media engagement and developmental outcomes in adolescents and emerging adults: an exploration of engagement with and impact of young adult literature media among youth. PhD thesis, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. [Discusses romance reading.]

McDavis-Conway, Shana (2022). “Self-conscious, unapologetic, and straight: fat protagonists in romantic fiction.” Fat Studies.

Stetson, Suzanne (2022). "Reconciling Reader Response and Feminism in Late Twentieth-Century Erotic Historical Romances." INCITE: Journal of Undergraduate Scholarship 13.

Tang, Ning (2022). "Reading Online Romance Novels Is Related To Chinese Readers' View of Love." Academic Journal of Humanities & Social Science 5.2:32-45.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Good News/Bad News: Eric Selinger, Margo Hendricks, Book Bans

Eric Selinger has made most of his romance scholarship available for free online in pre-print form. That includes:

Margo Hendricks'
Race and Romance: Coloring the Past  has been published by Arizona State University Press and is available to read for free online.

As reported by Sarah MacLean, in Enid & Garfield County, Oklahoma the target of book-banning is getting wider:

[From the Facebook page of the Public Library of Enid & Garfield County: "In light of recent changes to program and display policies at the Public Library of Enid and Garfield County, 2 programs have been canceled for the month of April.
The Sexual Assault Awareness program/display and the Shameless Romance book club discussion have been canceled. Displays or programs that focus on sexual content are not allowed at the library. The library respects the authority of the library board to set library policies. Community members who would like to be heard on the subject of library board policies are encouraged to contact the library board, city council or the mayor."]

As Molly Keran commented:

Not sure who this is supposed to protect but it sure isn’t women, or children, or survivors. While the SA awareness stuff is obviously most terrible here, I do think these are two sides of a coin. Not only does literature & resources dealing with SA help people recognize abusive dynamics they may experience but literature that centers pleasure & consent can do the same. We need to be able to discuss a wide range of experiences and narratives of sex (good, bad, nonconsensual, consensual, straight, queer, fictional, nonfictional, etc etc) because ignorance, silence, and shame create the conditions for exploitation and abuse.


Saturday, April 16, 2022

PCA/ACA roundup

As far as I know, the PCA/ACA conference, which ends on 16 April, no longer releases abstracts online. However, there were some tweets of them, and Jodi McAlister made a TikTok version of her paper. I'll embed the links below.

And here's the link to Jodi McAlister's TikTok of her paper for that panel.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Non-Text Academic Commentary: Margo Hendricks (on Beverly Jenkins) and Val Derbyshire (on Penny Jordan)

Professor Margo Hendricks' Masterclass "Those Purple Hands Really Intrigue Me" on Beverly Jenkins' Indigo is now available on YouTube

Dr. Val Derbyshire has discussed Penny Jordan on The Categorically Romance Podcast:


New Publications: Disability, Folklore, Gender, Literature, Linguistics, Sexuality

The 2022 volume of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies is now being published (articles etc. are published throughout the year). At the moment, there is only one article available (by Bonnie White, see below) but there are also some book reviews.

Here's my round-up of recent publications:

Allan, Jonathan A. (2022). “ ‘A Most Unlikely Hero’: Disability, Masculinity, and Sexuality in Harlequin Superromance Novels.” The Male Body in Representation: Returning to Matter. Ed. Carmen Dexl and Silvia Gerlsbeck. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. 215-235. [Abstract here]

Garber, Linda (2021). Novel Approaches to Lesbian History. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan. [This is not just about lesbian historical romance, but there is a discussion which is particularly focussed on romance in the chapter titled "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lesbian Sex* *But Only In Historical Fiction." An excerpt can be found here.]

Ivanski, Chantelle, Marta M.Maslej and Raymond A. Mar (2022). "Empirical Approaches to Studying Emotion in Literature: The Case of Gender." The Routledge Companion to Literature and Emotion, Ed. Patrick Colm Hogan, Bradley J. Irish and Lalita Pandit Hogan. London: Routledge.  [See for links. At the time of writing, the chapter was available in full via Google Books.]

Lecercle, Jean-Jacques (2022). "Interpellation and Counter-Interpellation in the Novel." The Rhetoric of Literary Communication: From Classical English Novels to Contemporary Digital Fiction. New York: Routledge. [Excerpt here.]

Pierini, Francesca (2021). " “Sharing the Same Soil:” Sally Rooney’s Normal People and the Coming-of-Age Romance." Prospero. Rivista di letterature e culture straniere :141-166. [It argues "for the importance and validity of a genre and the field of expertise attached to it – scholarship of the (popular) romance – that has developed, during the last decades, and especially since the beginning of the current century, important analytical tools for reading and understanding the representation of love in literary as well as popular narratives. Despite the undeniable revitalisation generic forms of literature are currently undergoing, the romance – and its critics – tend to remain excluded from academic debates concerning such revival."

Šmídová, Monika Markéta (2021). Five Thousand for Justice: The Use of English Folklore in the Novels of KJ Charles. Masters thesis, Masaryk University.

van Halteren, Hans (2022). "Automatic Authorship Investigation." Language as Evidence: Doing Forensic Linguistics.  Ed. Victoria Guillén-Nieto and Dieter Stein. Palgrave Macmillan. 219-255.

White, Bonnie (2022). "Freedom, Sincerity, and the Modern Woman in the Interwar Romances of Berta Ruck." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 11.