Thursday, February 25, 2021

Free New Publication: Georgette Heyer, History and Historical Fiction

Edited by Samantha J. Rayner and Kim Wilkins, and published by UCL Press, Georgette Heyer, History and Historical Fiction was published today. It's available free for download at

https://www.uclpress.co.uk/products/130865

Here's a list of the essays it contains:


1. ‘Where History says little, Fiction may say much’ (Anna Barbauld): the historical novel in women’s hands in the mid-twentieth century - Kathryn Sutherland 

 
2. The not so silly ass: Freddy Standen, his fictional contemporaries and alternative masculinity - Geraldine Perriam 

 
3. Judith Taverner as dandy-in-training in Georgette Heyer’s Regency Buck - Laura George


4. Pride and prejudice: metafiction and the value of historical romance in Georgette Heyer - Kim Sherwood

 
5. Loving and giving: realism, emotional hypocrisy, and generosity in A Civil Contract - Jennifer Clement

 
6. Georgette Heyer and redefining the Gothic romance - Holly Hirst
 

7. Heyer . . . in Space! The Influence of Georgette Heyer on science fiction - Kathleen Jennings 
 

8. All’s Well That Ends Well: Shakespearean Echoes in Heyer’s Regency novels - Lisa Hopkins
 

9. Georgette Heyer, Wellington’s Army and the First World War - Vanda Wilcox
 

10. Georgette Heyer and the language of the historical novel - Tom Zille 
 

11. A reluctant movie? The Reluctant Widow on screen - Lucie Bea Dutton
 

12. Georgette Heyer – guilty pleasures - Amy Street
 

13. Data science: Georgette Heyer’s historical novels and her readers - Helen Davidge

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

History and Julia Quinn

I ended up writing a post which was far too long for here, on history, "social mentalities" and some comments by Julia Quinn about what (she thought) was and wasn't possible to write given the historical record and reader preferences. It's over at my personal blog: https://www.vivanco.me.uk/blog/history-social-mentalities-and-julia-quinn

Friday, February 12, 2021

The Romance Wiki's Back - and more online romance conversations

Dr Amy Burge has just announced that "the RomanceWiki is now back online, hosted by the University of Birmingham". You can find it here:

https://romancewiki.bham.ac.uk//index.php/Main_Page 

Amy adds that "As before, the RomanceWiki is open source and collaborative, so all contributors and contributions are welcome."

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A Georgette Heyer "Un-Conference" – February 25th 2021

2021 sees the centenary of the publication of Georgette Heyer’s first novel, The Black Moth, whose legacy UCL Press is recognising through the February 25th publication of a series of essays –  Georgette Heyer, History and Historical Fiction edited by Dr Samantha Rayner and Professor Kim Wilkins. 

Programme:

Publication Keynote: The Black Moth & Beyond
In Conversation with Biographer Jennifer Kloester & Professor Kim Wilkins


Guest Keynote: Philippa Gregory In Conversation


Writing Historical Fiction: What can we Learn from Heyer
with novelists Kate Forsyth & Alison Goodman. Chair: Professor Kim Wilkins

Heyer: The Nonesuch of her Time & the Original Influencer
with authors & Heyer aficionados including Katie Fforde, Lois McMaster Bujold, Harriet Evans, Cathy Rentzenbrink. Chair: Jacks Thomas


Georgette Heyer, History & Historical Fiction: A volume of essays brought to life with Tom Zille, Vanda Wilcox & Kathleen Jennings. Chair: Dr Samantha Rayner


Shelf-Healing Podcast: Carriages & Costumes: Regency Replicated & Reimagined hosted by Rebecca Markwick, with guests Zack Pinsent & Amy Bracey

All that information and more can be found here. Tickets cost £10 but Dr. Samantha Rayner tweeted "Please quote heyerfan when booking for free tickets!"

[Edited to add: a query was raised on Twitter with regards to how to do this and the answer is that the place to enter the code is:

on the first page, after you have clicked on 'tickets'. Above 'Georgette Heyer: An Unconference - 25 Feb 2021' you see the words 'enter promo code', click on that, and enter 'heyerfan'

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From Feminism to Orientalism: a Panel of Current Romance Research

On 26 February Pauline Suwanban (Birkbeck, University of London) and Ali Williams (University of Brighton) will be chatting online about their research. 

More details here.

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Forthcoming Online Romance Talks: Horror, Serial Killers and Race

Sunday 14th February - 10 am and 7 pm UK time

Romancing the Gothic

Dr Sam Hirst and Tanagra on "Horror, Race and Romance: Love Doesn't Conquer All."

We'll be talking Black British and US history and looking at fictional representations in romance and horror. We'll be looking at love in horror, love as horror and horror in love! Discussing Bridgerton, Candyman and Get Out.

Sign up form here.

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Thursday 25th February - 17:30 – 19:00 UK time

The University of Birmingham (UK)'s Romance Reading Group 

Katrina Jan "brings you 'Fifty Shades of the Ripper' & why the 19th-century serial killer is being reimagined as ‘sexy’ in the 21st-century contemporary novel."
 
More details here

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Thursday 25th February - 4 to 5.30 pm Eastern US time

Professor Jayashree Kamblé on "Whose London? Migration and Multiple Identities in K.J. Charles’s Queer Historical Romance Novels." This is

about London's racial geography in romance novels (focusing on @kj_charles An Unseen Attraction) on Feb. 25 (4:00 p.m. ET). Seems timely in light of conversations on race in the genre & #Bridgerton in particular

Andrea at ShelfLove says:

I had the pleasure of enjoying a version of this talk and it’s VERY relevant to contextualizing POC in London in the 19th century, from a geographical and social perspective. For anyone interested in actual recorded history of POC at the time (even if not dukes or rich).

More details and link to sign up here.

Friday, January 29, 2021

New Publications: Brazil, Nigeria, Scholarship, Resisting Objectification, Politics, Readers and Marketing

Andrade, Roberta Manuela Barros de, Erotilde Honório Silva, Ricardo Augusto de Sabóia Feitosa, and Thiago Mena Barreto Viana, (2020) Um século de romances de amor: A trajetória da literatura sentimental no Brasil (1920 - 2020). [Details here.]

Haruna, Alkasim Kiyawa, 2021. "Female Readers as Literary Critics: Reading Experiences of Kano Market Romance Fiction." International Journal of English and Comparative Literary Studies 2.1: 34-45. [More details here.]

García Fernández, Aurora and Paloma Fresno-Calleja, 2020. “Competence, Complicity and Complexity: Hsu-Ming Teo on the Pitfalls and Nuances of Reading and Researching Popular Romance.” Raudem, Revista de Estudios de las Mujeres 8: 261-280. [More details here.]

Kolmes, Sara and Matthew A Hoffman, 2021. "Harlequin Resistance? Romance Novels as a Model for Resisting Objectification." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. [This was online first, so the year may change and I don't have volume or page numbers for it. It is available for free here.]

Michelson, Anna, 2021. "The politics of happily-ever-after: romance genre fiction as aesthetic public sphere." American Journal of Cultural Sociology. [This was online first, so the year may change and I don’t have volume or page numbers for it. More details here.]

Nibafasha, Spes, 2020. “The politics of the popular: Definitions and uses of African popular fiction.” Hybrid Journal of Literary and Cultural Studies 2.4. 59-75. [More details here.]

Reyes, Daisy Verduzco, Annika C. Speer and Amanda Denes, 2021. “White Women and Latina Readers’ Ambivalence Toward Fifty Shades of Grey.” Sexuality & Culture. [This was online first so the year may change and I don’t have volume or page numbers for it. More details here.]

Saxena, Vandana, 2021. “Afterlives of Colonialism: Nostalgia, Reader’s Response and the Case of Noel Barber’s Tanamera.” The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. [Also online first, so I’m not sure if the 2021 date for it will change. It seems to be open access, so should be freely available. The novel discussed seems to be both a romance and a "saga" due to its length.]

Sutton, Denise Hardesty, 2021. “Marketing Love: Romance Publishers Mills & Boon and Harlequin Enterprises, 1930–1990.” Enterprise & Society. Online First. [More details here.]

Friday, January 01, 2021

Hoping 2021 is better than 2020

Romance is, after all, a genre of hope and

To cope with all the feelings of uncertainty that 2020 has brought, many have been turning to one place guaranteed to bring a happy ending and sense of optimism: romance novels.

Sarah Wendell, an author, podcaster, and co-creator of the romance community blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, has seen a 75% surge in traffic on her website since the pandemic began in March. Her site was so overwhelmed, in fact, that she had to upgrade to a new server. (Copeland)

Carolyn Copeland's article at Prism also offers a roundup of some of the romance activism that took place in 2020, most notably "Romancing the Runoff" which I haven't mentioned on the blog so far, I think, but which ought to be recorded here for posterity. It got a lot of coverage (including in the New York Times, but I couldn't read that because it was behind a paywall), and I've collected some of the items written about it below:

Bustle, Lily Herman, 24 November 2020

Entertainment Weekly, Maureen Lee Lenker, 25 November 2020

Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth, 25 November 2020

Newsweek, Katherine Fung, 25 November 2020

The Guardian, Lois Beckett, 25 November 2020

Kirkus Reviews, Michael Schaub, 27 November 2020

Slate, Rachelle Hampton, 7 December 2020

Vogue, Elena Sheppard, 8 December 2020

Just for the record, the last reference I saw to the total amount raised was (as of 17 December) $475k

Another thing I forgot to mention earlier in the year (but which maybe someone would like to contribute to as part of a New Year's Resolution) is that the Journal of Popular Romance Studies now has a new section.

This section will be a Notes and Queries section. It is meant to create a more immediate dialogue on issues and trends in the field. Moreover, it offers the opportunity for our community of scholars to share insights on aspects of popular romance that would not fit the scope and requirements of a more traditionally published academic article, but nevertheless, cultivates our shared knowledge and furthers our research.

You can find out more about it here. So if you have insights to share with romance scholars, please consider submitting to JPRS. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes up in the new section in 2021.

Monday, December 21, 2020

New at JPRS: Special Issue on The Sheik (and a bit about teaching romance in Sweden)


The final additions to issue 9 of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies have now gone online and are (as always) freely available to read, both on the website and in downloadable pdf.

[Edited to add: JPRS have just added another article to issue 9

 That was added on 22 December.]


In the Special Issue on The Sheik are:

Introduction to the special issue on The Sheik
Amy Burge

The Oriental Beast: The Sheik and Fairy Tales
Pauline Suwanban

Garçon manqué: A Queer Rereading (of) The Sheik
Jessica Taylor

Olive Skin Chocolate Eyes: Echoes of The Sheik on Descriptive Patterns of the Italian Romantic Hero in Harlequin Short Contemporaries
Francesca Pierini

Let’s Not Get Carried Away by The Sheik
Laura Vivanco

The Sheik and Modernism
Ellen Turner

The Depiction of Masculinity and Nationality in The Sheik
jay Dixon

In Defence of the Perverse: Reflections on The Sheik (George Melford, 1921)
Elisabetta Girelli

On Eligible Princes: The Medieval Modernity of Sheikh Romance
Amira Jarmakani

Review essay on The Sheik
Amy Burge and Rachel Robinson

On Teaching, Not Teaching, and Teaching The Sheik
Eric Murphy Selinger

Authors on The Sheik: A conversation with Liz Fielding
Elizabeth Cole

Friday, December 18, 2020

Congratulations and Recent Publications

First of all, I'd like to congratulate the 2020 winners of the RWA Academic Research Grant. The

RWA Academic Grant Committee has recommended and the RWA Board of Directors has approved Dr. Julie E. Moody-Freeman, an Associate Professor in African and Black Diaspora Studies at DePaul University, and Hannah E. Scupham, a doctoral student in Literature at the University of Kansas, as recipients of the 2021 RWA Academic Research Grant. 

and here are more details about the research for which they've received the grants:

‘Lift as We Climb’: Black Romance Writers, Social Justice, and Institution Building, Dr. Julie E. Moody-Freeman

Grant funds will be used to aid in her research that will examine black writers’ representations of racial uplift in which their romantic plots and produce one season of the Black Romance Podcast, which documents the history of the production and publication of Black Romance through Dr. Moody-Freeman’s conversations with writers, editors, journalists, and scholars.

 

Sensual Politics: Modern Romance Novel Reading and Reimagination of the Victorian Past, Hannah E. Scupham

Grant funds will be used to fund dissertation research. Scupham’s work focuses on how contemporary popular romance novels set in the nineteenth-century century seek to challenge and change modern readers’ imaginations of the nineteenth-century, specifically on issues of gender, sexuality, and race.

Here are some recent publications, one of which, by Caroline Duvezin-Caubet, touches on the same area of research as Scupham's, and it's free to read online.

Duvezin-Caubet, Caroline, 2020. "Gaily Ever After: Neo-Victorian M/M Genre Romance for the Twenty-First Century." Neo-Victorian Studies 13.1: 242-269.

Intan, Tania, 2020. "Formula Romance Dalam Perfect Romance Karya Indah Hanaco: Kajian Sastra Feminis." Alayasastra 16.2: 301-316. [More details here.]

Murias, Rosana, 2021. "In Grey and Pink: The Image of the Bride through the Spanish Postwar Novela Rosa." The Bride in the Cultural Imagination: Screen, Stage, and Literary Productions. Ed. Jo Parnell. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. 17-34. [More details here.]

Monday, November 23, 2020

An Award, Congratulations and Publications: Masculinity; Movies; Hercules; Interwar Magazine Fiction

If you've got an unpublished essay on romance, you might be able to submit it for the Francis Award, which comes with a $250 USD prize and publication (after any needed revisions) in JPRS. The annual deadline for submissions will be December 31 28 February 2021, and the winner will be announced in April. 

Conseula Francis’s work on popular romance fiction focused on African American authors and representations of Black love, and priority for the Francis Award will be given to manuscripts that address Black-authored popular romance fiction and other work on Black love. Manuscripts on the diversity of, and diversities within, popular romance and romantic love culture—e.g., diversity of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class, sexuality, disability, or age—will also be considered.

More details here: http://www.jprstudies.org/submissions/the-francis-award/

[Edited to add: "To encourage more submissions, the deadline for the Francis Award has been moved (this year and moving forward) to the end of February--in this case, Feb. 28, 2021."]

Congratulations to Inmaculada Pérez Casal on the completion of her thesis, Antecedents and Development of the Contemporary Romance Novel in English: A Study of the Contribution to the Genre by Rosamunde Pilcher and Lisa Kleypas (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela)!

Other newly completed works on romance are:

Allan, Jonathan A., 2020. “Mourning and Sentimental Heroism in Maureen Child's Lost in Sensation.” The Journal of Popular Culture. Online First. 

Allan, Jonathan A., 2020. “'And he absolutely fascinated me': Masculinity and Virginity in Sherilee Gray’s Breaking Him.” Journal of Popular Romance Studies 9. [Open access.]

Charlton, Michael, 2020. "Till Death Do Us Part: Romancing the Stone, Death Becomes Her, and the Romance Genre." A Critical Companion to Robert Zemeckis. Ed. Adam Barkman and Antonio Sanna. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. 17-29.

OKell, Eleanor Regina, 2020. "Hercules as Romantic Hero in Twenty-first-century Historical Fiction." The Modern Hercules: Images of the Hero from the Nineteenth to the Early Twenty-First Century. Ed. Alastair J.L. Blanshard and Emma Stafford. Leiden: Brill. 121–145. Here's the abstract:

This chapter will examine Hercules as a romantic hero in two distinctly different examples of the historical novel, which can be classified as chick lit.: Kate Mosse’s serious historical fiction Citadel, which is set in the Languedoc during the Second World War, and Stephanie Laurens’ romantic historical fiction The Truth About Love, set in Cornwall during the Regency period. Both these novels invoke Hercules by name and the hero provides contextualisation for the events and relationships therein. For example, in Mosse the myth of Hercules’ relationship with Pyrene underpins the whole landscape (it is an origin myth for the Pyrenees) and in Laurens the Garden of Hercules forms a frequently referenced part of the landscape which is of significance for events in the plot. In both novels the presentation of Herculean myth as a background prompts the reader to extrapolate from the legend of Hercules to the characters depicted and their struggles. The similarities of and differences between the two authors’ uses of Hercules demonstrates not only that twenty-first-century chick lit. is open to exploring facets of the ancient hero’s character which go beyond monster-slaying and into the realm of the romantic/erotic but also that the genre of chick lit. can exhibit qualities more commonly associated with ‘serious’ literary fiction.

Reed, Eleanor, 2020. ‘Romance in Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Weekly as Romance, 1918–39’, Journal of European Periodical Studies 5.2: 80–94. [Pdf available free online here.] The focus is on issues related to social class, but I thought this observation, that romance in these magazines functioned as a safe space within which to explore issues, relates to what I've described as romance's "pastoral care" function:

Interwar Woman’s Weekly fiction engages with issues including the rehabilitation of First World War veterans, marriage to a widower, frustration with housework, and single motherhood. Each story invites its reader to identify with a heroine whose experiences and dilemmas may parallel her own, and it is romance’s familiar, predictable structure that allows her to work through these potentially difficult or distressing issues. The guarantee of a happy ending establishes the story as a safe narrative space within which she can confront everyday problems. (86)

Friday, November 06, 2020

Thinking Outside the "Couple Norm"



The Tenacity of the Couple-Norm: Intimate Citizenship Regimes in a Changing Europe
by Sasha Roseneil, Isabel Crowhurst, Tone Hellesund, Ana Cristina Santos, and Mariya Stoilova (UCL Press, 2020) is a newly published (and freely available online for download as a pdf) book which raises an issue of relevance to popular romance fiction. The focus is on coupledom as a concept within society, which the authors refer to as the "couple-norm," defined as "the structure of affinity that is composed of an intimate/sexual dyad" (4) and the

book is about the ongoing strength of the couple-norm and the insidious grip it exerts on our lives as it defines what it is to be a citizen, a fully recognized and rights-bearing member of society. It exposes the construction of coupledom – the condition or state of living as a couple – as the normal, natural and superior way of being an adult. (3)

The book is not a rejection of coupledom, however. The authors argue that

coupledom is not in itself, necessarily, a social ill or a negative influence in people’s lives. Indeed, being part of [sic] couple can be one of the greatest sources of pleasure, fulfilment and security that life in a competitive, uncertain, fast-changing, sometimes dangerous, often precarious social world can offer. (232)

and they state that

There is a danger, identified by Biddy Martin (1996) and Robyn Wiegman (2012), that a relentless anti-normativity, such as that sometimes embraced within queer theory, can produce a somewhat superior, even contemptuous, hypercritical gaze that ‘fears ordinariness’ (Martin, 1996) and ‘names and shames’ ‘those normalities that are inhabited, desired and pursued within gay, lesbian, trans and queer discourses as well as outside them’ (Wiegman, 2012: 334), whilst idealizing practices that are regarded as transgressive of dominant norms. (26)

Rather, they are arguing that there is a need to examine the negative implications of the "couple norm" for those who do not form part of a couple:

The couple-form has historically been valorized and conventionalized, so that it is the very essence of ‘normal’. Whether a person is coupled or not is fundamental to their experience of social recognition and belonging: the good citizen is the coupled citizen, and the socially integrated, psychologically developed and well-functioning person is coupled. Being part of a couple is widely seen and felt to be an achievement, a stabilizing status characteristic of adulthood, indicative of moral responsibility and bestowing full membership of the community. To be outside the couple-form is, in many ways, to be outside, or at least on the margins of, society. (4)

Romances acknowledge the pressure exerted by the norm when protagonists complain about pressure from family to find a partner and, clearly, some popular romances already think outside the "couple norm." Could romance go further, however?

The authors of this book ask

What would it mean for an intimate citizenship regime to cease to promote coupledom and to work instead actively to attenuate the negative impacts of the couple-norm? (233)

What I ask is: what could romance fiction, as a genre, do, to normalise other forms of relationships in addition to coupledom, without abandoning the central love story and the happy ending?

I agree with Roseneil et al, that being in a "couple can be one of the greatest sources of pleasure, fulfilment and security that life in a competitive, uncertain, fast-changing, sometimes dangerous, often precarious social world can offer" (232) yet I feel that romance has room to expand in terms of the relationships it depicts. Indeed, romance has already been expanding, so that more individuals can see themselves and their lives reflected in the novels. The authors of the book found that their interviewees were

centring their lives around friendship, choosing to remain single, embracing solitude, forging non-cohabiting partnerships, sharing the raising of children outside the couple-form, resisting the romantic imperative, forming relationships with people from different backgrounds and defying monogamy. They were envisaging, and often finding, stability, security, love, intimacy, sex and domesticity in many different ways, outside the conventional couple-form. (233)

A choice to remain single would probably be a step too far for the romance, even if one could argue that, technically taking time to form a loving relationship with oneself could be the "central relationship" in a "love story" with an optimistic/happy ending. It is, though, already a possibility in chick-lit, I think. Non-monogamous relationships seem more easily adapted into the genre and, indeed, the genre already includes central sexual relationships involving more than two people and central couples who are not monogamous. What about "lives centred around close friendships" and "non-cohabiting partnerships"?

Monday, October 05, 2020

A short set of links: romance scholarship podcasts, LGBT+ issues, and some old Mills & Boon history

A few recent developments:
  • Eric's been at the Shelf Love podcast, discussing the history of romance scholarship. There's a transcript too, if you don't like listening to podcasts. There's mention of the Romance Wiki bibliography, which isn't now available but I've expanded on it at the Romance Scholarship Database. The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Romance Fiction is also mentioned, and the introduction to it can be found, free, here (click the "preview pdf" button).
  • Jayashree has been on the same podcast, discussing "the various ways romance can be studied. She gives a brief overview of the history of the romance genre and pop culture research, why she doesn't encounter the hierarchy of taste when teaching romance, and explains who romance scholarship is for." 
  • Queerly Chaotic M has written a document about ways in which the romance community needs to do better with regards to recognising the harms that it can cause when writing or discussing gender in exclusionary, binary ways.
  • Roan Parrish has announced she "will be writing the first on-page queer romance in any of the @harlequinbooks series romance lines!"

That qualifier about the "series" is a reference to the fact that, as Jack Harbon pointed out, the Carina Press imprint has been publishing more diverse romances for some time.

  • And on the topic of Harlequin/Mills & Boon history, at the other end of the spectrum here's a thread on Twitter about a scrapbook which "seems to have been the property of early Mills & Boon novelist Louise Gerard (1878-1970), and has cuttings from her first success in 1910 to the 1920s."

Friday, September 11, 2020

Black Romance Podcast

 Julie Moody-Freeman, of DePaul University, has started a podcast:

The Black Romance Podcast features conversations with Black writers, editors, and scholars of historical and contemporary popular romance fiction. Guests talk about a range of experiences: their difficulties trying to publish love stories with Black characters; their favorite books; writing and teaching about black romance fiction; traditional vs self-publishing; publishing queer romance fiction; the impetus for writing books that focus on inclusion and racial uplift themes; and their recently released books. These intergenerational voices of writers featured in this podcast are beginning to build a much needed archive on the production and publication of Black Romance.

You can find out more at @blk_romance, Apple Podcasts, Spotify.