Saturday, March 29, 2008

PCA 2008: Romance V

This is the point during the conference at which I started to get very tired (I had a bad cold and laryngitis through all of the conference, and it really caught up with me here). And the papers in this particular panel were very brilliant and layered and complicated, and I just KNOW that I don't do them justice here. These summaries are short and disjointed, and I apologize for that. Please know that the papers were fabulous and interesting and much much better than what I have below.

Romance Fiction V: Friday 2:30-4:00pm
Recurring Figures, Enduring Debates

Chair: Eric Selinger, DePaul University

"Rape as Memory: Re-examining Sexual Violence in Romance Fiction" Jayashree Kamble, University of Minnesota
The presence of rape in romance reflects the reality of life during the time the romance is written. Jayashree examines the use of rape in the 1970s and 1980s bodice rippers, then looks at how rape is used in JD Robb's In Death series. In the older novels, the heroes raped the heroine. Nowadays it's usually other people raping the heroine. Robb's novels show the heroine's rapist as her father, which separates rape and romance, reflecting a new social outlook about rape and romance. The rapist as the heroine's one true love shows the cultural idea that women were afraid to report rape for fear of the loss of their reputations. Romance fiction has understandably been a lightening rod for issues of rape and romance, however, novels like the In Death series forces reconsideration of romance's use of rape. Modern romances document the end of the conspiracy of silence around rape. Early romances did not challenge rape, but they reflected the reality of the time. They did not provide a moment of revolution but did still provide a moment of critique. Now, in Robb's books, the father/patriarch is being accused and symbolically punished for the abuse of the heroine. The genre is a "scribe" of the victimization of women to violence by men and provide an indictment of the legal system that holds everything else higher than protecting women. In one In Death novel, Roarke is coerced as well in the one instance that he has sex with a reluctant Eve. Sharon Stockton's argument show that men are acting in a pre-existing script at the will of patriarchy, as well as heroines, that they are victims in the act of raping as women are in being raped. Romances rewrite the patriarchal script to make us uncomfortable with it.

"Harems and Houris: Literary Antecedents of Orientalist Historical Romances" Hsu-Ming Teo, Macquarie University
Hsu-Ming is (I think) primarily an historian. She also talks very quickly, with very full PowerPoint slides, so I got lost in a lot of the detail when trying to take notes on her talk. It was brilliant, I hasten to add, and informed us all about a fascinating sub-genre, but I missed a lot of it, as my paltry notes below reveal. I apologize!

The 1920s and 1930s were host to a huge outpouring of desert romances, which then died after WWII until the 1990s. The modern romances provide a very positive representation of middle eastern characters. The tropes of the sub-genre include virgin heroines, abduction, orientalist characteristics, opulence of the east, hybrid heroes (ethnically muslim/culturally western), romantic love and conversion. Historical harem romances started in the 1970s. There is a strong connection between the Orient and sexuality which arises from the historical evolution of the western vision of the East. There is a sophisticated history of love poetry in the Middle East in which enslaved English virgins conquer the head of the seraglio. Byron's oriental poetry, starting with the The Giaor, leaves a long legacy for romances to continue.

"Deconstructing Desire, Reconstructing the Bodice: Romance Novels and the Paradox of Love" Angela Toscano
The romance can be defined as a story about journeys, with each protagonist on a quest. Why is a marriage a happy ending? Is it merely a convenient trope? Binaries always lead to hierarchies and the HEA subverts hierarchies, by giving equal weight to the journeys of both protagonists. Protagonists are separate subjects. The heroine's cleverness puts her at odds with the world. Beneath the outward opposition between the hero and heroine lies a sense of commonality. In Georgette Heyer's Devil's Cub, both Vidal and Mary are proud—Vidal can flout authority, Mary always runs away to avoid obligations to other people. Mary shooting Vidal is the cataclysmic violence of the story, where Vidal finally sees Mary as she really is. Angela also analyzed The Devil's Waltz by Anne Stuart. Romance is to literature what counterpoint is to music and marriage is contrapuntal paradox.

"'The Measure of a Lady?' Representations of Gender in 21st Century Christian Romances" Joanna Fedson, University of Western Australia
Joanna provided a history of Christian romances, including definitions of Christian romance as novels in which violence and sin are not used to titillate. Inspirational romances are heavily regulated by publishers, writers, bookstores, and readers, but are also a rapidly expanding genre, which began with Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly (1979). Lynn S. Neal's Romancing God focuses on women readers, rather than on the texts themselves. Lee Tobin McClain argues that romances are significant in the ways that they are conservative, but also in the way that they are not. Inspirational romance provides a gentle Christian feminism. Rivers' Redeeming Love is a watershed romance because it departs significantly from the traditional Inspirational. Hosea is the passive character who stays home, takes care of the heroine, cooks, looks after the house and garden. The heroine runs away, the hero stays home. There is a very strict idea of what IR is, but this definition is growing and expanding to include new romances and authors as appropriate. Inspirational Romance novels are changing because they're fully engaging in evangelical culture and that is changing, too, caused by changes in the family unit, an increase of evangelical women in the workplace, and generational changes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

PCA 2008: Romance IV

Romance Fiction IV: Friday, 8:00-9:30am
The Romance as Transformation (Special Session/Author Conversation)

"Romance as a Practice of Freedom" Lynn Coddington

This presentation was a chapter of Lynn's dissertation from the late 1990s. It discusses the conservation and transformation of one writer's practice as a writer. Lynn wrote her first romance in her first year of her Ph.D. program and, in doing so, discovered the most exciting community of readers and writers. She was surprised at how strongly writers were committed to improving their craft, and to marketing for and sharing with readers. Academic studies back in the late 90s just didn't "get" romance at all. She asked an RWA group how romances had changed their lives and was stunned at the variety of positive responses: one woman had started a book store that specialized in romances, one had switched gender roles with her husband so that he stayed at home and took care of the kids, and one had left an emotionally abusive relationship because of what romances had taught her. Romances are an amazing explorations of bell hook's claim that love is a practice of freedom. Academics looking at romance completely missed the power and beauty of romance novels. Lynn decided to do a small ethnographic study of a romance writers group between 1993-1997 for her dissertation. The basic theoretical frame of previous romance analysis was the belief that traditional forms of genre fiction don't invite or excite radical transformations of social change and that romances in particular didn't give women a chance to show truly transformative social realities. The theories of literacy that Lynn was working with needed to focus on personal and social transformation, not on a sweeping scale, but on a much smaller scale, and looking at romance in this way revealed many more examples of transformative, although not sweeping, social change, including the garden variety workings of changes of gendered power dynamics. Lynn asked how writing/reading romance was both conservative and transformative. She examined one writer in particular, "Katie," a 34 year old, married, college grad, RWA writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Katie had sold her first three books on one contract, and was in the process of negotiating her second three book contract. She had received lots of support from her editor and publisher but had a mediocre agent, who negotiated standard advances and boilerplate contracts and seemed to be scared to ask for anything more. Katie had just attended a local chapter meeting about negotiating with publishers and was struggling specifically with the patriarchal construction of power relationship with editor and agent, because she felt like the recalcitrant child when she was talking with them, and knew she needed to change that view. The novel "Katie" wrote during negotiations embodies the transformation that Katie was looking for in her contract negotiations. She was focusing on the emotional transformation necessary to gain power in the situation while also trying to protect that spark of validation and affirmation that writing gave her, which was why she wasn't more hard-headed about the contract negotiations. While she didn't seem overtly "feminist" from the outside, she was making choices and engaging articulately with the process, both emotional and business-wise of how to institute change in herself and her life.

"Transformation and Resistance" Kate Moore

Kate is coming at romance analysis from three different practices: teaching, reading romance, and writing romance. She has always seen romance as part of a much larger body and tradition of literature and believes that romance is connected to marriage plot (Chaucer and Homer would recognize this plot) rather than connected to fairy tales. Kate works with adolescents and from the outside one can see the potentiality for change between an 11 year old who enters her school and the 18 year old who leaves it, but the kids themselves are very suspicious of the process of change. Heroic teacher stories depend for their narrative success on the transformation of the resistance of the child who doesn't want to be educated. The narrative usually follows the path of the advantaged teacher delivering to the disadvantaged student access to the power that they hold in trust for the students. Critics say that the romance narrative does this, with the powerful, advantaged hero tutoring the disadvantaged heroine, but it's usually the opposite, with the hero being the resistant individual who doesn't want the power of love and the narrative following the transformation of the resistance to acceptance. Sophie Jordan's One Night With You had a very resistant hero and a heroine who is completely devalued and restricted in every possible way, although she has female friends who give her a ball dress to attend a masked ball, defying convention to seek her own pleasure. The heroine has tried to unite the two selves she is, trying to effect her own transformation, but it puts her back in an abject position of marriage without love. The hero makes very clear his rejection of the heroine's self, the person she is. He says over and over that he'll lose control and identity if he falls in love. When he continues to refuse to change, the heroine leaves him, refusing to be with him without transformation. He tries to fall back on the convention of the marriage of convenience, but finally has to admit, "I will cease to exist without you," claiming that the heroine has saved him. Liberation has to be mutual. In Laura Kinsale's The Dream Hunter, the heroine gains a certain amount of freedom she wouldn't have otherwise because of her disguise. She is more valued as a Bedouin boy than as a virgin aristocrat, but she wants to be Victorian lady. Her outward transformation doesn't effect an inner transformation and the hero ends up searching for her under her Victiorian lady trappings. She thinks he just sees the Bedouin boy and can't see the woman she has become. They connect in dream states. The biggest barrier between them is the contract negotiations over their marriage. The thing that gets them together is her realization that she is the only one who knows what he is and if she abandons him, he'll be lost to humanity.

I completely failed to do justice here to Kate's very nuanced interpretations of these two books, and to her discussion of transformation and resistance in the hero and heroine of romance and the power behind it. So please know that the almost telegraphic nature of this summary is all my fault, and by no means a problem in Kate's original paper.

"Parallel Scenes and Transformation: Scene Structure in Austen and Kinsale" Alicia Rasley

Alicia is very interested in how romance novels are structured and examines here parallel scenes that bracket a situation or issue in a novel; the parallel structure demonstrates the change that the characters have undergone from one scene to the parallel scene later in the book. The parallel scene doubles the issues and themes in the scenes, which is so right for romances as the genre that meshes two people into one. Parallel scenes are very similar to foils as a character device. Again, romance comes out of the same traditions as classical literature, all the way back to the Odyssey. The heroine is hugely important, obviously, but there are two protagonists, and we give the guy his time in the sun, too. Why are all the examples of male transformation? Because we're women and want the guys to change. The first example Alicia chose was the two proposal scenes in Austen's Pride and Prejudice. In the first scene, love has overcome him Darcy, an invasion of who he is. The love is presented as symbolic rape, both of him and his assault on Elizabeth, presented with no foreplay, no preparation. They both think the other is trying to make them something they're not. The letter after proposal is the first time Darcy presents himself as HIM, which starts the transformation that transforms both of them. Her change is dependent on his change. There is a change in how he presents himself, even though it goes deeper than that. Conflict is potential in a novel; the more the conflict, the more the potential for change. Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm deals with issues of identity. Jerveulx's identity is stripped away from him. The parallelism in the first and last scenes are about babies that show the transformation he undergoes because of love. Both times, Jerveulx notices before the women that there's a pregnancy. The first scene is with his mistress, the second scene is with his wife and a ghostly staghound. In the beginning, he's a total rationalist; in the end he can recognize the miracle of love and family. Finally, Alicia used a quick example of Dorothy Dunnet's Lymond Chronicles, which starts with Game of Kings: the first words of the novel are "Lymond is back" in the crowd's point of view. The parallel scene comes at the very end of the six book series, from the heroine's point of view, showing the transformation of Lymond's family's acceptance of the hero. Even in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Spike is first introduced knocking down the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign, while at the end, the crater that opens up when he sacrifices himself for Buffy eats the replacement of the same "Sunnydale" sign, indicating his sacrifice for a love he could never have imagined at the beginning of the show.

Overall, it was great to see three such smart women--romance writers, romance readers, and recovering academics or analytically inclined--who loved the genre they were analyzing. And they had such smart, interesting things to say about how romances were constructed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PCA 2008: Romance III

Romance Fiction Open Forum: Thursday 6:00– 8:30pm

The program said, "The Romance Fiction Area Chairs, Eric Selinger and Darcy Martin, invite conference attendees to an open forum on romance fiction. We have in attendance a fascinating and eclectic group of romance writers writing in every genre of romance fiction, publishers of romance, romance scholars, and others interested in the genre participating in the panels. This Special Session affords attendees the opportunity to participate in an informal discussion of a variety of topics of interest to the attendees. Please join us."

We had a wonderful time. We got together in a circle rather than in "typical" panel format of a front table and audience chairs. We went around the circle, introducing ourselves, our interests in romance, our research/writing, and then we discussed what we thought the field of romance scholarship might need in the future to remain a thriving concern.

One highlight for me personally was meeting Lynn Coddington. Years ago, as a baby graduate student, I read Foucault's The History of Sexuality in a graduate seminar my first year of graduate school, and I wrote a paper on how his formulation of confession spoke to why popular romance fiction is so popular. Then in my second year of graduate school, I decided to write a paper on heroes who breast-feed from their heroines during the course of the novel. I wrote/posted to RRA-L and to AAR and asked all the readers and writers there to recommend books that have this scene in them and their response to the scene. I got many responses back, which was wonderful, and the paper, combined with my use of Foucault's theories, went on to be published as "'Expressing' Herself: Romance Novels and the Feminine Will to Power" in Scorned Literature. But one of the responses was an email each from Lynn and Jenny Crusie saying words to the effect of, "You're not alone, even though you feel like you might be. There are more academics who study romances out there than you might think. Keep at it." Lynn told me privately that they also emailed each other, speculating as to whether I was serious about studying romances positively. So it was doubly great to meet her, so that I could thank her for that long-ago encouragement and prove to her that I was serious about what I was doing and that I'm still doing it.

More generally, it was wonderful to see so many diverse interests coming together under the hat of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. We had writers and editors, graduate students and professors, librarians, teachers, and readers there. We discussed how to raise the reputation of romance novels, from trying to get librarians not to rely solely on donations for their romance collection, but to buy them outright, to going into libraries and book clubs and presenting on individual romances, as well as volunteering ourselves for high school teacher inservice days to talk about romances. We also speculated as to what the field of romance criticism needs, including more books (general introductions to the romance, books on individual authors, and on major issues like colonialism and race), awards (still slightly confused by that one), a journal dedicated to popular romance fiction, and more conferences, both within the US and internationally. People offered their services for contacts with authors, publishers, readers, and RWA. Finally, we discussed mentoring of graduate students, and Eric and I (Sarah) would both love to have it known that we would be very happy to be outside dissertation readers for US-based graduate students. Neither of us are (yet) at schools that have Ph.D. programs of their own, but we'd love to help as much as we can from the outside. In fact, another need that was discussed was the need for a graduate program that was "the place" for graduate students to go who were interested in doing Ph.D. work on romance novels, but that's mostly out of our hands.

Plans were made and reputations were ruined….no, no, we wouldn't do that. It was an affirming, fascinating conversation that continued through dinner at a fabulous Indian restaurant within walking distance of the hotel. I don't think anyone could have come out of that thinking that romance scholarship wasn't vibrant and exciting and set to take over the world!

  • Frantz, Sarah S. G. "'Expressing' Herself: The Romance Novel and the Feminine Will to Power." Scorned Literature: Essays on the History and Criticism of Popular Mass-Produced Fiction in America. Eds. Lydia Cushman Schurman and Deidre Johnson. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2002: 17-36.

PCA 2008: Romance II

Romance Fiction II: Thursday, 10:00-11:30am
Histories and Rediscoveries

Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

"Australia Doesn't Have to Rhyme with Failure: Australian Romance Pulp Fiction of the 1950s" Toni Johnson-Woods, University of Queensland
Toni was reporting on her new research grant, detailing the information about Australian Popular Fiction to 1959 that will be posted on over the next few months and years. She is focusing solely on Australian authors, because it's a government grant to see how much influence Australia and Australian products (both books and authors) have had on the international market. After 1939, cheap pulp fiction that came from US was taxed by the Australian government as a protectionist measure. As a result, Australian-produced pulp fiction only took off after 1945. Researchers have mostly ignored the US influence on Australian fiction, focusing instead on the British influence, but pulp fiction shows how much the US influenced the Australian market as well. Australian pulp novels are worth hundreds of dollars on eBay nowadays (Toni brought some with her to show us, but made us promise we'd give them back!). The novels had a hybrid format: double-columned with comic book-style pictures. The covers kept changing, from comic book covers in the 1940s, to artistic photos in the 1950s, and paperback-style covers in the late 1950s and the 1960s. One very prolific author was Gordon Clive Bleek: he published 300 books in 20 years, 40 of which were romances. He epitomizes the Australian amateur writer; he was a working class man who looked on writing as a way to supplement his income as a postal worker. He wrote a daily diary with details about his writing, his publisher, and his earnings. In 1951 there was a surge in interest in romance, which resulted, if nothing else, in a disjunction between the covers and the plots due to the factory style production. Interestingly enough, females on the covers can meet the gaze of reader, but men are often not seen from the front but instead in profile or from the back. And men were sometimes much smaller on the cover. In 1959 the tax on imported materials was removed, resulting in a flood of US material into the Australian market, although Australians still wrote a lot of Westerns. The University of Queensland bought Juliet Flesch's romance collection, and Toni is currently scanning all the covers and posting them on the web, although in a password protected format.

"1960's Chick Lit., Female Desire and Empowerment: Rereading Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls" Jennifer Woolston, Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Chick lit as seen as emergent or as part of the larger romance genre. Studies either look at older authors like Austen, or at new writers like Helen Fielding. Jennifer looked at Jacqueline Susann as part of the chick lit tradition. Susann's Valley of the Dolls is still in the Guinness Book of World Records as the best-selling title ever. Written in the language of common speech, in modern language, it focuses on the drives and the feelings of its characters, acting as a template for all women to discover and identify with it. The book's expression of women's sexual desire, the fact that it wrote openly about female desire, was enthralling to its reader. The patriarchal view of sex was instilled in the character Ann by her mother and was used as excuse for Ann to seek to leave her small hometown. The novel as a whole seemed to be looking for an outlet for female desire in a male-dominated literary world. The depiction of lesbianism shows female sexuality as fluid in nature. Susann unwittingly depicted a poignant social commentary of the feminist criticism of patriarchal culture and its effects on women in society and condemning Susann for not writing an obviously feminist novel is anachronistic. The fact that she focused on female sexuality and female subjectivity is a feminist act in and of itself, even if was not meant to be. One can easily make a connection between modern chick lit and Susann's huge bestseller, because she questioned the dominant power structure, just as chick lit does today.

"Romance for the Masses: The 'Dime Novels' of Bertha M. Clay" Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University
Darcy discovered Bertha M. Clay in a sale of books (can't remember if it was a library sale or a second-hand bookstore, or what). She decided to do some more research on who this woman was and why her books were so popular. Bertha M. Clay was actually a "stable" of authors with 500 novels to her name. She started as a real person, Charlotte Brame, but she died when she was 49, and her name was continued by her publisher. She was born in 1836, and from 1870 to her death, there's 70 manuscripts that are hers. She wrote the dime novels that had their heyday between 1860-1915 and were the direct ancestor of modern popular genres. Rural women, especially, were the audience and fiction came more and more to focus on women's sphere: home and family. With sensation fiction, they were the prototype for the modern soap opera and were the ultimate example of the trivialities produced for "mindless, passive" consumers. George Eliot particularly condemned the "oracular" novels Bertha M. Clay wrote, novels that she wrote to forward her particular, conservative moral view with simpering, pure heroines. Dora Thorne is the most popular and long-lasting novel under Bertha M. Clay's name. Three silent films were made. The story housed three love stories in one: Dora Thorne and Ronald Earl, an earl's heir. [Bathroom break—sorry! I came back in at the very end.] We should be looking at novels that were popular precisely because they were enjoyable to the readers, no matter how strange they may be to us today.

"Eleanor Sleath: A Writer Rediscovered" Carolyn Jewel
Unfortunately, Carolyn was not able to attend the conference.

This panel shows us some of the exciting new research that is being done around the popular novel for women, if not necessarily around the modern romance novel.

PCA 2008: Romance I

Well. So, not so much on the live blogging. I apologize for that. The main issue was time. What with the panels and needing to eat three times a day (someone needs to change that!) and spending time with my colleagues and with my mother and son, the blogging didn't get done. But the other reason is because I wanted to do the papers justice. The bare-bones notes that I took at the panels needed fleshing out (and I somehow actually found it more difficult to take notes on the computer rather than with pen and ink and I'm still trying to figure out why that is—although the computer notes allow for quicker editing rather than transcription into blog posts, so that's good), and that editing process is taking considerable time, actually. The straight text below each title is a summary of the panel. I hope I did a decent job, but the presenters and other attendees should PLEASE feel free to correct me. The text in italics are my comments about the presentations, the presenters, and how the paper might fit into the larger scheme of scholarship of popular romance fiction, if and when applicable.

I'll post panels individually and create a master post when I'm done, linking everything together, as Laura did for the Virgin Slave, Barbarian King extravaganza. So without further ado:

Romance Fiction I: Thursday, 8:00-9:30am
The Romance Industry: Authors, Editors, Translators, Readers

Chair: Eric Selinger, DePaul University

"Romance Novels in France: Another World?" Severine Olivier, Université Libre de Bruxelles
Severine is a graduate student in Brussels and a quiet, wonderful person who kept apologizing for her English. While her accent was strong, she was completely understandable and amazingly articulate, and as Darcy said, "Sorry about our French!"

US, UK, Canadian, and Australian romances are translated to target French readers and add a French touch by the French romance publishers, Harlequin and J'ai Lu. The publishers claim that the French authors are not as good as English language writers, and as such, native French authors have few incentives to write romances. Economic strategies influence romance production and the novels are transformed, cut, and adapted so much that original novels are about one third shorter when translated. Changes that are made include narrative and aesthetic changes—repetition and cultural turns of phrase are deleted, because the fluidity of text is of primary importance. Additionally, there is a focus on main plot at expense of subplot and digressions; no suspense subplots are allowed and style is less important than story. Authors as such are unknown and unimportant in France (except Cartland and Roberts), so the authors' names are in tiny print on the cover and their forewords and acknowledgements are never included. This raises questions of who is the author of the novel in France: the author? The publisher? The translator?

Any novel too removed from French experience is not chosen to be translated. Additionally, English-language novels are culturally adapted. The quality of the adaptation depends on individual translators and editors because there are no explicit guidelines. The main modifications made to the originals when translated are to cultural representations of love and sexuality, which are the nodal areas of cultural expression. In the French translations, the heroine's thoughts are emphasized in love scenes. Heroes are made colder and more mysterious than in the original novels. In the French translations, the heroines are more naïve, less combative. The French translations of the original romance novels have to be a little bit more conventional, especially those that target older readers. Irony, insults, and swearing are not kept or are sanitized. The way to write about sex is codified in French, much less explicit than in English. Love scenes in the original are seen as much pornographic than erotic when represented exactly in French. In order to make them acceptable in French, translators add much more cliché, making the reading process easier. French translations of romance novels are more utopian, less pragmatic than English-language romances. The function of French-language romance novels are primarily to encourage dreaming. Overall, concepts of escapism and fantasy depends on national imagery, as is shown in comparisons between English-language and French-translated romances.

This paper was amazing. Last year, An Goris told us informally about translated romances in Europe and how they did not match up the original novels, but to have Severine analyze the differences so astutely and draw conclusions about the cause and effects of cultural constructs around notions of love, romance, and sexuality was incredible to hear. One thing that is so heartening about the current state of romance scholarship is the truly international nature of our community. Having Severine and An and the Australian contingent (Glen Thomas, Hsu-Ming Teo, Toni Johnson-Woods, Joanna Fedson) there added to the Romance Area of PCA immeasurably.

"A Genre of One's Own: Popular Romance Writers Create Community and Heritage" Glinda Hall, Arkansas State University
It was wonderful to see Glinda again. She and Eric were two of the original three who were put on a PCA panel together in 2006 (just two years ago!) because there was no Popular Romance Fiction Area. We can blame them for everything that happened since then, because they were the ones who decided that This Shall Not Do. Glinda is very close to defending her dissertation and will be venturing out onto the market after that. Good luck!

Glinda claimed that her paper was almost in opposition to what Severine argued. It is a condensed version of the last chapter of her dissertation. For her dissertation on Heritage Studies, she was originally planning to focus on very traditional stories and memoirs of Southern women. A theorist of her field claims that a sense of place creates identity and that is what she wanted to analyze. One day she picked up a novel by Jennifer Crusie and discovered in it a voice, narrative, and community that called to her. She also could see connections between Crusie's fiction and Raymond Williams' ideology. As a result, she ended up deciding to write instead an ethnographic study of romance writers in the South.

There is an intrinsic search for meaning in a community. In order to understand the shared and coded language, ideologies, and symbols one needs to be part of the group, rather than merely a dispassionate observer. Glinda had found herself becoming part of the romance reader community, which is what precipitated her dissertation topic, and she started contacting the RWA writing communities in her area. There were groups willing to speak with her, but one group was extremely resistant to her and wary and skeptical of her academic perspective, assuming she was going to be negative about romances. Her pass into all the groups was admitting that she was a reader and fan of romances, just like them. She participated in one group in particular (River City Romance Writers of Memphis) both as an academic, but also as a friend of most of the writers, who accepted her into their homes and lives. She was trying to discover intentionalities in the romance novels the authors produced that would support her own research agenda, but interviews and interactions went in different and fruitful directions. For example, the writers specifically wanted to talk about the publishing world. Additionally, she was interviewing Southern writers and wanted to know how they were Southern in their writing, but many of the writers were resistant to that label—they wanted to be universal.

Romance is an all inclusive group and its heritage has created common ground and communities that accept and celebrate differences. The writers she interviewed expressed the compulsion to tell stories, but were also concerned about dealing with trends (for example, some author hate writing sex scenes and resist the need to be more graphic). Writers claim that RWA is a very feminist and supportive community, which is all about mentoring and sharing and a lack of hierarchy, even within the hierarchy. Glinda titled her paper "A Genre of One's Own" after Virginia Woolf's room because her research has shown her that the genre is a private and safe space to create a female community, and a fiction where women become the subject, the actors. "History" becomes "Her-story."

"Romance Unbound: Comparisons in E-Publishing and Print Publishing by Erotica and Erotic Romance Authors" Crystal Goldman, University of Utah
Crystal is an academic librarian and an erotic romance author.

In her The Natural History of the Romance, Pamela Regis defines the romance as focusing on a single relationship between a hero and a heroine. This is no longer true in the erotic romance industry, with m/m romances and ménage novels. Erotic romance started online at the e-publishing houses and has since moved to New York print houses. (New York publisher means that all works published in paper format, with some potential e-publishing. On-line publishers means all works published in electronic format, with some potential print publishing.) There is an assumption is that NY pubs are more conservative than the on-line houses. Crystal interviewed many erotic romance writers about the differences between their experiences with e-publishers and NY publishers, incuding Kate Douglas, JC Burton, Sasha White, and Evangeline Anderson (those were the names I could catch in a very long list of authors). The first issue that came up was that promoting print book is different from promoting e-pubs. Kate Douglas claims that presses do the minimum amount of promoting possible. Tawny Taylor invests all of her advance in her promoting, which other authors claim is "insane." The issue of earnings arose quickly too, with authors claiming that they make more actual money on print pubs, but that e-pubs are more lucrative for them, although it varies for each author. Douglas said that because the different types of presses pay the authors so differently (NY royalty checks come once to four times a year, e-pubs pay every month), it's actually difficult to say which makes more for the author. As a whole, the e-book market has not lived up to its potential or expectations for it, but the erotic e-book market is the only e-book area actually making money. Lynne Pearce claims in Romance Reading that niche markets become evermore specialized, mainly based on the inclusion or not of sex. Authors claim that they are encouraged, implicitly or explicitly, to push the sexual boundaries: some like it, some call it pornographic. Most authors claim they hadn't experienced any prejudice because of their writing. They claim that, on the whole, the only group they'd experienced prejudice from were other romance writers. Erotic authors claim that this is because the traditional romance authors resent the raised heat requirement across the board. A letter in RWA Report (Jan 2008) calls raised erotic content "prostituting" romances. In general, the "boy meets girl" format has changed. Eden Bradley claims that what is taboo for one reader or writer is different for others. There's a difference between "taboo" being forbidden but titillating and being completely unacceptable, but that line is different for each person and each publishing house. Right now, fem-dom and f/f stories not being bough by the e-publishers. Print publishers will always lag behind e-pubs in innovation and trends because the lag time to turn a book around is much longer in traditional publishing.

This was an interesting paper because there are so many rumors, especially on the internet boards, about the differences between print and e-publishing, and it was wonderful to have Crystal, with her many contacts in the erotic romance industry, give us some insights into the confusing world of publishing.

"Romancing the Reader: Romance Authors on the Web" Glen Thomas, Queensland University of Technology

Technologies have always changed the way communities can be formed, and contemporary technologies, especially the internet, are no exception. The internet and its systems of networks have created communities that could never have been available even ten years ago. Authors are increasingly using personal websites to foster relationships with readers, which allows readers to get a sense of engagement with authors as well as with their work. The online presence of authors seems to create a "personal insight" for the reader on the world and life of the authors. Authors have become very market-oriented with publishers cutting back on marketing, and now see an internet presence and close connection with readers as part of what it means to be an author, although some authors do it with a sense of "well, I supposed I've got to," rather than with a real desire to create that connection. Janet Evanovich's website is a master of marketing that includes competitions that increases traffic to site hugely. She claims a million hits a week. Increasingly authors are willing to discuss the creative process with readers in order to keep material at the site current and regularly updated, which means that readers can now track a book from inception till they hold it in their hands, which changes the relationship between producer and consumer considerably. As a result, readers' relationship to consumption has changed: you can read what you like, when, where and how you like in ways like never before. Technology enables readers to go beyond simply and only consuming printed book. However, most author promotion is largely self-funded, especially with Harlequin. There is authorial recognition that romance market is a crowded place and they have to generate their own name recognition, a situation that seems to be unique for romance authors. They can't simply wait for market to come to them, they have to go out and find market. This new entrepreneurial spirit is good for authors, but of course fabulous for publishers, because they don't have to pay for promotion any more. New technologies have created new field for creative entrepreneurs which changes the capital-R Romantic idea of the reclusive author genius who is misunderstood. The Web, according to Stephen Fry, creates "reciprocity" and "interactivity" in a two-way process, which allows the readers to have an increased investment in the final product. The Dogs and Goddesses site by Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich, and Anne Stuart includes a blog that actually posts scenes for instant reader feedback, creating a broadened collaborative creative process, between both authors and authors, and authors and readers, allowing readers an insight into production of work itself. Writing, then, has become a public practice and the engagement with new technology changes the idea of what it means to be a writer. However, everyone is still very much attached to the physical book. There are two major issues that arise with an online presence. The first is the time that it takes to keep material current (an author Glen knows calls it feeding the blog monster). The second is the potential for attracting the crazy people. Anna Campbell's Claiming the Courtesan, with its discussion of rape, culminated for her in death threats through her posted email address on her website. Without the technology, that immediate contact would not have been possible. New technology can foster anger that can be vented right away—the loss of the buffer that is so attractive normally goes both ways. Readers also get angry when an author's work goes in different directions than expected. Over all, the bottom-up movement of author-driven marketing made possible by the new technology of the Internet is very different from publisher-paid book tours, indicating how publishing is changing in this new world of ours.

Taken together, these four papers that made up the panel discuss ways in which romance publishing changes and is changed by novels, authors, readers, and new technology. It indicates how romance publishing is an international industry, even when local concerns are important too. It also indicates how romance is at the cutting edge of innovations in technology, reader interaction, and change.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Ways of Teaching: Opening up the Classroom

As we all know, teaching requires certain aids. A blackboard and a piece of chalk is a good start (after all, you don't want to make your students cry when you talk about, say, Llewelyn ap Gruffydd ). Add to that an overhead projector and transparencies. A beamer and a PowerPoint presentation. A blog (like this one). Music, films, perhaps even a plastic rat that you throw across the classroom in appropriate moments (e.g., when introducing the subject of the Black Death). If you're desperate you might even try to sing -- all to keep your students entertained and make them remember (some of) the stuff you've been discussing in class.

At Mainz University one of the hot subjects currently is using new media to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Thus our univserity offers digital handouts, e-mail loops, and message boards, but some teachers are also experimenting with chats and podcasts. And last night I joined their ranks.

For quite a while now I've been thinking about doing a podcast to accompany some of my courses and to help my students with revisions. Yet I also see podcasting as a chance to open up the classroom and get more people interested in literature, in books they might have never read otherwise. Therefore I launched Books, Cats and Me: Literature for Everyone last night and uploaded the first episode. In the following weeks I'm first going to talk about British History (aka From the Ice Age to Maggie Thatcher in Nine Weeks) and will then spent the rest of spring and summer discussing Thackeray. And of course you're all invited to listen and chime in with thoughts and questions!

I know it's not romance as such, but at least we'll move to the Regency era (and to the early Victorian Age) with Thackeray: there'll be a romantic hero, villains, noble noblemen, musings in bay windows of gentlemen's clubs, love, marriage (more than one), intrigue (ditto), a duel, a broken heart (or two) and a happy ending (well, sort of anyway). Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Popular Culture Association Annual Conference, 2008

Well, we're off to the Popular Culture Association Annual Conference. In San Francisco! ::big wide grin:: It's going to be an absolute blast.

I'll be trying to live blog the romance panels as they happen, posting it after they're done, depending on the hotel's wireless coverage. Otherwise it'll have to wait till I get back to my room. But I'll definitely be updating throughout the conference.

The program is a HUGE PDF. Really huge--my computer dislikes opening it. So here's the Romance Area panels:


Thursday, 8:00-9:30am
152 Romance Fiction I: Golden Gate Hall Salon B1
The Romance Industry: Authors, Editors, Translators, Readers
Chair: Eric Selinger, DePaul University
* “Romancing the Reader: Romance Authors on the Web” Glen Thomas, Queensland University of Technology
* “Romance Novels in France: Another World?” Severine Olivier, Université Libre de Bruxelles
* “A Genre of One’s Own” Glinda Hall, Arkansas State University
* “Romance Unbound: Comparisons in E-Publishing and Print Publishing by Erotica and Erotic Romance Authors” Crystal Goldman, University of Utah

Thursday, 10:00-11:30am
189 Romance Fiction II: Golden Gate Hall Salon B1
Histories and Rediscoveries
Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University
* “Eleanor Sleath: A Writer Rediscovered” Carolyn Jewel
* “Romance for the Masses: The ‘Dime Novels’ of Bertha M. Clay” Darcy Martin
* “Australia Doesn’t Have to Rhyme with Failure: Australian Romance Pulp Fiction of the 1950s” Toni Johnson-Woods, University of Queensland
* “1960’s Chick Lit., Female Desire and Empowerment: Rereading Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls” Jennifer Woolston, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Thursday 6:00– 8:30pm
330 Romance Fiction Open Forum
Golden Gate Hall Salon B1
The Romance Fiction Area Chairs, Eric Selinger and Darcy Martin, invite conference attendees to an open forum on romance fiction. We have in attendance a fascinating and eclectic group of romance writers writing in every genre of romance fiction, publishers of romance, romance scholars, and others interested in the genre participating in the panels. This Special Session affords attendees the opportunity to participate in an informal discussion of a variety of topics of interest to the attendees. Please join us.


Friday, 8:00-9:30am
402 Romance Fiction III: Golden Gate Hall Salon B1
The Romance as Transformation (Special Session/Author Conversation)
Chair: Lynne Welch
* “Romance as a Practice of Freedom” Lynn Coddington
* “Transformation and Resistance” Kate Moore
* “Parallel Scenes and Transformation: Scene Structure in Austen and Kinsale” Alicia Rasley

Friday 2:30-4:00pm
502 Romance Fiction IV: Yerba Buena Salon 10/Salon 11
Recurring Figures, Enduring Debates
Chair: Eric Selinger, DePaul University
• “Rape as Memory: Re-examining Sexual Violence in Romance Fiction” Jayashree Kamble, University of Minnesota
• “Harems and Houris: Literary Antecedents of Orientalist Historical Romances” Hsu-Ming Teo, Macquarie University
• “Deconstructing Desire, Reconstructing the Bodice: Romance Novels and the Paradox of Love” Angela Toscano
• “‘The Measure of a Lady?’ Representations of Gender in 21st Century Christian Romances” Joanna Fedson, University of Western Australia

Friday 4:30-6:00pm
538 Romance Fiction V: Yerba Buena Salon 10/Salon 11
Beyond the Straight and Narrow: Power Exchange and Gay/Lesbian Romance
Chair: Sarah Frantz, Fayetteville State University
• “BDSM to Erotic Romance: Observations of a Shy Pornographer” Pam Rosenthal
• “Lesbian Romance: Identity, Diversity, and Power” Len Barot
• “Queering the Marriage Plot? Love and Heteronormativity in the Queer Romance Novel” Shruthi Vissa, Emory University
• “Power Exchange in Popular Romance Fiction” Sarah Frantz

Friday 6:30-8:00pm
574 Romance Fiction VI: Yerba Buena Salon 10/Salon 11
When Boy Meets Boy: It’s All About the Story (or) This is Not Your Father’s Homoerotic Romance (Special Session/Author Panel)
Chair: Sarah Frantz, Fayetteville State University
James Buchanan, Matthew Haldeman-Time, Raven McKnight, Stephanie Vaughan
Erotic romance editor Raven McKnight, popular authors James Buchanan, Matthew Haldeman-Time, and Stephanie Vaughan will take their cross-genre style and focus it onto m/m romance, one of today’s most popular subgenre elements. Addressing the particular importance of including the romantic element and character/plot development in m/m-inclusive stories, they will lead a discussion of m/m fiction, its critical elements and the importance of striking the balance.


Saturday 8:00-9:30am
625 Romance Fiction VII: Yerba Buena Salon 10/Salon 11
Filling an Information Gap: Preparation & Development of the Encyclopedia of Romance Fiction – an Interactive Presentation
Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University
• Doug Highsmith, California State University, East Bay
• Kris Ramsdell, California State University, East Bay

Saturday, 10:00-11:30am
656 Romance Fiction VIII: Yerba Buena Salon 10/Salon 11
New Critical Approaches
Chair: Eric Selinger, DePaul University
• “Reading Romance through a Darwinist Lens: The Sylph and Indecent Proposal” Jonathan Gross, DePaul University
• “Romancing the Genre” An Goris, Ku Leuven
• “Beyond the Kitsch Mirror: Chick Lit and the Culture Industry” Laura Gronewold, University of Arizona
• “Nothing but Good Times Ahead? Romance, Optimism, and ‘Authentic Happiness’” Eric Selinger

Non-Romance Area Panels and Presentations that might be of interest:

WEDNESDAY 12:30 – 2:00 p.m.
034 Eros, Pornography, and Popular Culture I
“Ten Cent Sex: The Homosexual Dimestore Romance in Mid-Century America” Joelle Del Rose, Wayne State University

WEDNESDAY 2:30 – 4:00 p.m.
069 Eros, Pornography, and Popular Culture II
e-Romance as Electronic, Erotic, and Postmodern: Exploring New Forms of Third Wave Feminism and Gender Peformance in Internet Romance Communities” Kerrita Mayfield, Vassar College

WEDNESDAY 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.
083 Film IV: Jumbled Genres–Western, Romance, Caper
Chair: Daryl Lee, Brigham Young University
“Analysis of the Balance of Genres in Films: The Western” Jule Selbo, California State University, Fullerton
“Abundant Loving in Housesitter” William Krier, University of Notre Dame
“Art Imitating Art” Michael Genz, Edinboro, University of Pennsylvania
“`Got No Imagination’: Kantian Poetics in the Heist” Daryl Lee, Brigham Young University

THURSDAY 10:00 – 11:30 a.m.
185 Film and History VI: Representing an Era on Film
“‘The ‘New Woman’, Star Personas, and Cross-Class Romance Films in the 1920’s” Stephen Sharot

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

One Ugly Sister, and Cinderella Goes to the Ball

Well, one ugly sister, and romantic fiction gets to attend the Oxford Literary Festival. I'll start with the ugly sister, and another reworking of the Cinderella fairytale. This one's written by Joanne Harris and is called "Ugly Sister (aka Grimm up North)." As the Ugly Sister says, "We - my sister and I- were born somewhere in Europe. Accounts differ. In any case, no-one cares much about our history. Or, for that matter, what happens to us when the curtain goes down. There's no ever-after for an Ugly Sister, let alone a happy. " But for those who do care, and who would like to know about her ever-after and whether she gets a happy, this is your opportunity to find out.

As for romantic fiction, she's getting a chance to take her place in the spotlight. "The Mills and Boon Centenary Debate: How Heroes and Heroines Have Altered in the last 100 Years" will be one of the many events taking place at the Oxford Literary Festival this year. Mills & Boon are sponsoring the debate as part of their centenary celebrations. On the panel are four authors of romantic fiction:

Nicola Cornick, who this year is celebrating 10 years and 25 novels with Harlequin Mills & Boon. Her Lord Greville's Captive was shortlisted for the RNA Romance Prize 2007.

Matt Dunn, who "is the author of two best-selling romantic comedy novels, Best Man and The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook. He's also written on life, love, and relationship issues for a variety of publications, including The Times, Guardian, Sun, Cosmopolitan, Company, and Woman" (RNA). His The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook was shortlisted for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2007.

Katie Fforde, who "awards the Katie Fforde Bursary in March of every year to a member of the New Writer's Scheme whom she feels is very close to being published" (RNA). Trashionista describe her as "One of the UK's best writers of country tales." Kathleen Bolton at Writer Unboxed has described Fforde's novels as "effervescent and bubbly, and above all, fun. [...] Katie’s novels on the trials and tribulations of women trying to find love manage to straddle the line between whimsy and heartache."

Joanne Harris, who in addition to being the author of "Ugly Sister (aka Grimm up North)" is rather better known as the author of Chocolat. As mentioned on her website, "Her books are now published in over 40 countries and have won a number of British and international awards. In 2004, Joanne was one of the judges of the Whitbread prize [...] and in 2005 she was a judge of the Orange prize."

The debate will take place on Thursday 3rd April 2008 at 6.30pm and will last about an hour. Tickets are £7.50 and include a glass of wine, to be drunk after the end of the debate. More information here, and details on how to order tickets here.

The picture is an illustration taken from a nineteenth-century edition of the Cinderella story. The other illustrations in the same book can all be found at Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

RFI: Female Dominant Romances

The US Military calls it a "Request For Information" and I guess I have one today. I'm currently writing a paper about BDSM romances, but specifically about female dominant BDSM romances. And I have a list of those romances, but it's a short one, so I was wondering if anyone else out there could add to it.

Non-BDSM Romances with Female Dominant characteristics:
*Loretta Chase's Lord of Scoundrels.
*Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible:
Her mouth left his to make heat trails over his face and down his neck. Meanwhile her hands stoked down over his chest under his shirt. There was no hesitation, no unsureness: he was hers for the taking, and she knew it. He fell back against the wall, to brace himself, because she made him weak-kneed and because he wanted everything at once: he had to have her then and there that instant, yet he didn't want to move, to do anything to interrupt the sensations coursing through him. He had no names for what he felt. He might be dying, for all he knew. The pleasure was beyond anything. Let it kill him.

She was welcome to kill him with heat and pleasure or torture him. So long as she wanted him, she could take him any way she liked. He was strong; he could bear whatever she did to him, and happily, too. But he wanted her, too, and he couldn't wait forever.
*Laura Kinsale's For My Lady's Heart and Shadowheart (although Shadowheart is much more obviously and overtly BDSM than FMLH).
*J.R. Ward's Lover Unbound toward the end.
*And apparently Lydia Joyce's Shadows of the Night.

Female Dominant BDSM Romances
*Joey Hill's Natural Law, Holding the Cards, Mistress of Redemption and her print Vampire series, and, to a lesser extent, Mirror of My Soul and Ice Queen.
*Stephanie Vaughan's Cruel to be Kind.
*Diana Whiteside's The Switch, although that obviously is not pure FemDom.
*Emma Holly's Top of Her Game, although I have major issues with it.

And that's all I've got. I know more are out there, but I just haven't had the courage, time, energy, or money to buy ebooks without being able to look through them.

I know there are WAY more male dominant/female submissive romances out there, as there are male dominant/male submissive books (got lots of those), but I was looking specifically for ROMANCES with female dominant traits.

Thanks! Here's hoping y'all know more than I do! If you do have one, could you list title and author, as well as a little about the story , if it's femdom all the way through, and what you think of its quality, I'd very much appreciate it!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

RWA Research Grant

As announced by Fayetteville State University, Sarah's been awarded the 2008 - 2009 Romance Writers of America Research Grant. She's a lot happier about it than the lady on the left seems to be about her pile of money. Congratulations, Sarah!

Details of previous recipients of RWA research grants (including Eric) and the projects they worked on, are available at the RWA website.

And this means that the competition for the next RWA research grant is now open (closing date 1 December 2008):
The objectives of the program are:
1. To support theoretical and substantive academic research about genre romance texts and literacy practices.
2. To encourage a well-informed public discourse about genre romance texts and literacy practices.


The RWA Research Grant Program is open to faculty at accredited colleges and universities, independent scholars with significant publication records, and dissertation candidates who have completed all course work and qualifying exams. No candidate need be a member of the RWA.
More details can be found here.

Edited to add: Eric heard from the RWA that, in a departure from the conditions that applied in previous years, "the 2009-2010 RWA Research Grant is not restricted to American scholars; however, the maximum total funds granted will be 5,000 U.S. dollars."

The painting, "Lais Corinthiaca" is by Hans Holbein the Younger, and this photo is from Wikimedia Commons.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Frustration and Emotional Rollercoasters

For a long time I'd been a bit puzzled by the popularity of romances in which the protagonists seemed to spend most of their time tormenting each other or otherwise causing each other a lot of suffering. Then, not that long ago, on a blog not so very far away, Smart Bitch Sarah wrote a grade D review of a Charlotte Lamb novel, The Boss's Virgin, and in response Tumperkin recommended Lamb's Frustration (Lamb is a favourite of Tumperkin's). I decided that as part of my general research into the genre, I needed to read some of Lamb's novels and obtained copies of both The Boss's Virgin and Frustration. Both involve a domineering hero who forces himself on the heroine repeatedly until she finally admits both her desire and her love for him. Or, as Smart Bitch Sarah put it,
Not only are there an abundance of punishing kisses (ow) but there’s a great deal of insistence on the part of the Insane Hero that she likes it: “You little liar! You love it when I kiss you!” That pretty much sums up the hero, that sentence right there. [...] The [...] heroine vacillates between spineless - or possibly unconscious - and strong enough to run away from a hero who scares her. Insane Hero You Love It When I Kiss You is autocractic, demanding, and, dare I say, punishing in his affections, which he declares immediately and presumes she returns based on… well, based on what evidence I have no idea. Perhaps falling in love for him is based on the idea that if you insist upon it enough, it will come true? The plot goes in loopy circles that don’t spell out so much forward progression as they do plain old loopyness, and yet. I. Cannot. Put. It. Down.
I could easily have put them both down. But I make noble sacrifices in the name of research, so I read on, hoping to discover what it was about these books that appealed so much to Tumperkin and rendered Sarah unable to Put. It. Down. Finally Tumperkin very kindly gave me an explanation:
I did not concern myself with [...] judging the hero's actions against 'reality'. And I think that that is the case for a lot of romance readers (although I appreciate you are reading romance as an academic - I am not). You talk about the definition of the romance novel as being two characters/ love story/ HEA. That's all well and good, but I don't think it follows that just because that is what the story is 'about' that readers (or all readers) are concerned with the authenticity of the central relationship. My own view is that for many readers, it's more about the journey - the roller-coaster if you like. A story arc contains highs and lows that deliver an emotional punch to the reader. A story with a very dark hero (abusive in the real world) might deliver a much more satisfying journey for certain readers. I tend to think of the more lurid examples of this type of story as 'emotional porn'.
So it's a high adrenaline ride with a plot that performs multiple loop the loops which, if viewed logically, seem a repetitive and rather inefficient way of getting from point A to B. But then, with a roller coaster, getting to point B really isn't important. As Tumperkin said, it's all about the journey.

I began to wonder if maybe there was some correlation between reading preferences and the personality continuum which runs from Big T to Little T personalities: "Type T personality is a personality dimension which characterizes individuals along a continuum ranging from those who are stimulated by risk-taking, stimulation-seeking and thrill-seeking (Big T) to those who are risk, stimulation, and thrill-avoiding (Little t)" (from the abstract of a paper by Knutson and Farley). Certainly
research suggests that high sensation-seeking reaches into every aspect of people’s lives, affecting engagement in risky sports, relationship satisfaction before and during marriage, tastes in music, art and entertainment, driving habits, food preferences, job choices and satisfaction, humor, creativity and social attitudes.

[...] Probing further, Zuckerman has found evidence for both a physiological and biochemical basis for the sensation-seeking trait: High sensation-seekers appear to process stimuli differently, both in the brain and in physiological reactions.

High sensation-seekers, who crave novel experiences, are at one end of the scale, while low sensation-seekers, who actively avoid excitement, are at the other end. Most people fall in the middle, with a moderate inclination to seek out new experiences, but a disinclination to push too far, he says. (Munsey, Monitor on Psychology)
In photographs, television, films, and reading, the high sensation seekers show a greater interest than the lows in morbid and sexual themes, whereas low sensation seekers find these themes distasteful and avoid them. High sensation seekers are more likely to be found among those attending sexually explicit (X-rated) movies and horror films. There is some evidence that the high sensation seekers may habituate more rapidly than lows to scenes in horror films. (Zuckerman 223)
What do you think? Do you enjoy an emotional roller coaster? Do you think there's any correlation between your reading choices and your personality type?

  • Zuckerman, Marvin. Behavioral Expressions and Biosocial Bases of Sensation Seeking. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1994.
Photo from Wikipedia, of Corkscrew, "a roller coaster at the Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio. When built in 1976, it was the first roller coaster in the world with 3 inversions" (Wikipedia).