Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Call For Papers: New Approaches to Popular Romance Novels

Eric and I are putting together a volume with the preliminary title, The Mind of Love: New Approaches to Popular Romance. We'd love to receive proposals from our TMT readers (or our TMT writers!). Herewith, the Call For Papers:

As is well-known by now, mass market romance novels constitute at least half of the domestic paperback market and an increasing percentage of the hardcover market. British, Canadian, and American romances are read all over the world, with many best-selling authors making most of their money from international sales; meanwhile, distinct national traditions of romance writing have developed, or continue to flourish, in Australia, India, China, and elsewhere. In all markets, the romance genre is undergoing substantial external and internal expansion: not only are traditional romance authors branching out into mainstream fiction, but the romance genre is also exploding with new sub-genres, each adding a romantic twist to previous niche markets. Online romance reader communities are power-houses of information and networking, and online erotica publishing houses are pushing sexual boundaries and thriving financially.

Sadly, academic criticism and theory of the romance—whether literary criticism, sociological analysis, editorial theory, or feminist scrutiny—has not kept up with the changes in the genre. Janice Radway's sociological evaluation of romance readers and literary analysis of the romance genre is more than twenty years out-of-date, written before any of the changes that define the modern romance had evolved. Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women, edited by best-selling romance author Jayne Ann Krentz, is an invaluable tool for the romance critic, but is now more than ten years old and never claimed to be academic. It is well past time for a volume of sophisticated, rigorous, and romance-positive academic analyses of romance.

We therefore call for essays for an academic volume of romance-positive criticism and analysis of the romance genre. We welcome essays on romance novels, authors, or the romance genre from any disciplinary or theoretical perspective, to include:

* History of the romance novel
* Heroes and heroines of the romance (construction, history, changes)
* Images of the body, representations of sexuality, and romantic ideals of men and women, masculinity and femininity
* Narrative structures and conventions (i.e., shifts from heroine-centered narrative to narratives shared between hero and heroine to the return of first person)
* Plot structures and conventions (their construction, history, changes, implications)
* Analyses of individual authors or even individual novels
* Non-traditional authors classed as romance (Diana Gabaldon, Laurell K. Hamilton, etc.)
* Romance series (category series like Harlequin Presents, or on-going single or multiple author series)
* Romances in the international market
* Category vs. Mainstream romance
* Sub-genres (history, narrative structure, expectations, formulae, changes): Western, Regency, Medieval, Generic historical, Christian or inspirational, Military, Paranormal (vampire, were, empath, etc.), Futuristic/time travel, Multi-cultural, Erotica, Gay/lesbian, Contemporary, humor, etc.
* Comparison with Chick Lit / Rise of Chick Lit
* A re-evaluation of a canonical text from a romance perspective
* Readings of romance texts as they allude to, incorporate, or ask to be read in light of canonical texts
* Romance using and/or rewriting literary archetypes, mythology, the Bible, fairy tales
* Encounters between romance fiction and philosophy or literary / cultural theory: i.e., queer, new historical, or cultural-studies readings of romance novels or the romance-novel industry; romance fiction and the philosophical study of eros, marriage, and love
* Psychology and romance fiction: are Freudian and post-Freudian models (Chodorow, Lacan, Kristeva) the best for understanding popular romance fiction? What can more recent research into the psychology of optimism, resilience, and happiness (e.g., the work of Martin Seligman) reveal about the genre? What psychological models and theories are visibly deployed by particular novels or novelists, and what do the works do with them?

We also welcome essays on the romance novel industry and the communities of readers that flourish around it, including:
* Professional organizations (Romance Writers of America, Romantic Novelists Association) and Industry conferences (RWA Annual National Conference, Romantic Times Convention)
* Romance reader response, individual reader blogs
* On-line romance communities (AAR, RRA, individual authors' Message Board communities, etc.)
* Romance review sites/blogs (Smart Bitches, Dear Author), romance review communities
* Transformations in romance publishing since the 1980s
* Rise of on-line publishing houses, especially on-line erotica/Romantica

Detailed abstract or draft essay and a short CV are due by June 1, 2007. Final essays will be due December 1, 2007. We are happy to answer any inquiries.

Dr. Sarah S. G. Frantz sfrantz@uncfsu.edu
Dr. Eric Selinger eselinge@depaul.edu


  1. How detailed an abstract do you want? How finished in other words?

    I'd like to submit something on my favorite topic (the captivity narrative), but June 1 is right in the midst of my law school graduation and bar exam prep.

  2. Hi, Robin! We'd love to have you submit something on captivity narrative (or anything else, for that matter).

    For the abstracts we've been thinking about 500 words. That's a page in single-space, two in double-space: long enough for us to get a good sense of what you want to do, but not so long that the work is "finished" in any real sense of the word.

    I hope that sounds possible in the time you have. Let us know--and good luck with the coursework, graduation, and bar exam!

  3. Your reference to Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women made me wonder if you're looking to have lots of relatively short essays, covering many different areas, rather than a lower number of much longer essays. Would that be a correct assumption or not?

  4. Hi, Laura! That's right--I think Sarah and I talked about pieces in the range of 4000-6000 words, in general, perhaps with a few on the slightly longer side.

    Sarah, feel free to weigh in if that's off, or needs tweaking!

  5. Sounds like a great call. I'll stew on a couple ideas with another linguist friend of mine and see if I can come up with anything - unlike last time.

    I did wonder a little bit about putting the "romance-positive" requirement on a Call. I understand the reasons for it. I'm not sure we need another diatribe against the romance genre, but at the same time, you would hope that quality scholarhip is quality scholarship no matter how it comes down in the end. It doesn't really affect me as I find most useful criticism to be positive and wouldn't bother to write unless I thought I had something constructive to say. Anyway, I'm babbling now. Is a CV customary in lit calls for papers? Never seen it in my linguistics/cog sci world.

    On a related note, what is the state of things with the Cruisie book?

  6. Pacatrue, a short CV is perhaps not SOP for CFPs, but it's not uncommon. I'm seeing it more and more for conference CFPs as well, which seems a little strange to me.

    I see what you mean about specifying romance-positive criticism, but Eric and I wanted to be as open as possible, right up front, about what we were looking for.

  7. Hi Sarah,

    As I said in my e-mail, I will begin to try to crystallize my ideas (in the psychology/romance area) and get back to you. I’m still a newbie in the romance novel area but have some expertise in the psychology of adult loving relationships – it could be an interesting challenge for me.

    ‘til then, thanks,


  8. Hello Pacatrue! The Crusie volume's coming along nicely. Thanks for asking. I was busily trying to edit my own contribution this morning but for some reason my wordprocessing programme kept freezing, so I had to take a break. That sounds like a creative excuse, doesn't it. ;-) I'll have to get it fixed.

    Bill, have you had a look at some of the items on the Romance Bibliography which are psychological in orientation? There are a couple in particular you might want to look at:

    Kramer, Daniela & Moore, Michael, 2001. ‘Gender Roles, Romantic Fiction and Family Therapy’, Psycoloquy 12.24 (you can read it here in a format which makes the tables come out properly).

    Wood, Julia T., 2001. 'The normalization of violence in heterosexual romantic relationships: Women's narratives of love and violence', Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 18.2: 239-261. (abstract here)

    Both of these suggest that romance novels encourage/depict violent relationships. I know that in the past some romances did depict heroes who were abusive towards heroines, but in general it isn't something I recognise as being present in modern romances and I thought that might make an interesting starting point for you, given that you're interested in looking at adult relationships as depicted in the genre.

  9. Thanks Laura -- I appreciate it and will check them out.

  10. Hi,
    I am a publisher of Indian romances from India.

    I know this is belated, but would love to contribute if this is ongoing.



  11. Dear Sandhya,

    This particular project is done--the book came out last year, from McFarland press--but you might be able to contribute something to the Popular Romance Project about your press and the books you publish. You can find the PRP at popularromanceproject.org; take a look at the sorts of pieces we have there, and send me an email at eselinge@depaul.edu. --Eric