Monday, November 19, 2007

Publishers Weekly on Romance

The cover story of today's edition of Publishers Weekly, titled "Textually Promiscuous: Romance readers definitely read around," by Sarah J. Robbins, takes a look at the many different romance sub-genres and has quotes from Pamela and Eric:
“The story of a courtship is something that all women go through—or imagine themselves doing so—but any way you look at it, love's not simple,” says Pamela Regis, an English professor at McDaniel College and author of A Natural History of the Romance Novel (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2003). “These books solve that problem, and at the same time, they put women at the center of the narrative more than in any other genre. You're not just the prize at the end of the hero's quest, the mother of the king, the arm candy... there's more.”
and on Jane Austen
“She was the first genius to write romance,” says Pamela Regis, an English professor at McDaniel College and author of A Natural History of the Romance Novel (Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2003). “And my contention is that she wrote only romances. I think Pride and Prejudice is the best romance novel ever written.”
“Romance readers really are in touch with one another and with authors. They're now able to get their voices heard by publishers and editors in a way that's never been true before,” says Eric Selinger, Ph.D., an English professor at DePaul University in Chicago and the co-chair for Romance Fiction of the Popular Culture Association. “There's simply a constant stream of feedback going on, a cycling back through that community.”

Selinger contributes to, a group site that offers a view of romance fiction from an academic perspective. The blog provides links to other like-minded online avenues, including [...]

“Because publishing is so much easier online, you have a proliferation of new genres and new mixings of genres,” says Selinger. “You have a lot of material that traditional publishers might be skeptical about, but in the case of Ellora's Cave, there was so clearly that market, the publishers jumped in.”
It's gratifying that the new wave of academic interest in romance novels is being reflected in the media coverage of the genre. The Publishers Weekly article discusses the various romance sub-genres, particularly inspirational romance, erotic romance, paranormal romance, historical romance and contemporary romance.


  1. Congratulations to all of you on a good article and some nice attention. From here, it looks like you're hitting a sort of critical mass, with enough published and online content to clearly demonstrate the turnaround in academic interest in romance.

    The PW article captured one of the current genre tensions that fascinates me--the subgenre explosion vs the "classic romance". I can understand why so many love the "straight romance" structure. I like crossing genres less because of the plot and setting differences than because they sometimes seem to lead to fresher *writing*. My hope is that what Kate Duffy sees happening in paranormals will transfer to other areas within the genre and all the *writing* will get more adventurous in terms of description, characterization, diversity, types of relationships:

    "'What's crossing my desk now is much more imaginative and risk-taking than three years ago,' says Kate Duffy, editorial director at Kensington."

    That's not to say those facets are weak across the board in romance now. But when I read some of the vivid description of setting in a good fantasy or the precise pacing in a good mystery, I want to see those qualities in more of the romances I read.

  2. Pamela's been in the papers before. She had an article in The Washington Post in 2004, for example. But yes, I do think that it's beginning to look as though we're "hitting a sort of critical mass", and the (albeit brief) mention of Eric being the "co-chair for Romance Fiction of the Popular Culture Association", as well as the mention of this blog, is an indication of that, since it suggests to the reader that there's a substantial group of academics interested in the genre.

    As for this being a time of particular innovation and change, I'm not sure. I can certainly see that it's a time when lots of new sub-genres and sub-sub-genres seem to be springing into existence, and perhaps the pace of change has accelerated, but as jay Dixon has shown, there's always been a process of change within Mills & Boon/Harlequin romances, and in the single-titles, we've seen the rise and fall of the gothic romances (e.g. Victoria Holt), the "erotic historicals" (e.g. Kathleen Woodiwiss, though she didn't like the term), the emergence of chick lit (which can sometimes be classified as romance, depending on the ending).

    I'm glad that this variety within the genre is being recognised. Far too often it's portrayed as being stagnant and homogeneous. That sort of attitude comes through in comments like McCracken's, mentioned below: "serial reading of formula romances, where one is consumed after another, means that it is unrealistic to treat each as separate." The PW article, by showing how much diversity there is within the genre, makes that type of argument much less convincing, I think.

  3. Oh, and since I mentioned "Eric being the 'co-chair for Romance Fiction of the Popular Culture Association'", I'd like to take the opportunity to mention that there's still time to submit a paper for the 2008 PCA conference in San Francisco. The deadline was extended to 30 November (more details here). Eric also says that

    Last year in Boston we had over 20 papers on popular romance, and the energy & sense of community was truly remarkable. This year we have a number of American romance scholars, authors, and editors already signed up to speak, along with three papers by Australian colleagues and at least two by recipients of the RWA's Research Grant Award, but there is still plenty of room for more.