Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Hey, Pointers--it's an All '80s Weekend!"

More syllabus musings....

After much fretting, I've settled on an opening sequence that runs from The Sheik to The Flame and the Flower. I'll add Mistress of Mellyn, and possibly swap in Regency Buck for Devil's Cub, but am now thinking to stick with the latter, and hand out a sort of "reader's guide" before we begin. (My students had some trouble keeping track of the characters, or at least those with titles, as they're named various ways at various times. Dominic, Marquis of Vidal, is sometimes Dominic and sometimes Vidal; his father is sometimes "Monseigneur," sometimes "Avon," etc. Easy, once you understand the conventions, but baffling for some, initially.)

I'm now stuck on what I should teach right after The Flame and the Flower (1972). Last time I leaped ahead to the present, or close enough, turning from the first Woodiwiss to a mid-career Crusie, Welcome to Temptation, in the context of Crusie's defenses of the genre and arguments with critics from the 1980s. This time, I'd like to forge ahead chronologically, moving from '72 into the early or mid-1980s with a book that does a few things all at once:
  • Represents one or more "characteristic" features of romance from the period, either in terms of characterization or sexual politics or evolution of the genre.
  • Remains in print.
  • Makes for an interesting dialogue with mid-'80s romance criticism (esp. Modleski & Radway & Thurston)
  • Reads so well that it will, like the books before and after it, command the respect or affection of some of my students. (You can't please them all every time, but I don't want to teach something that won't please anyone, after all!)
A tall order, and maybe the job for more than one book? I should say that I'm thinking of following this with Bird's The Boyfriend School, which looks back from 1989, but I'm not wedded to that.

This decade's too big a gap in my course and my sense of the genre, and it's time to fill it! Help a romprof out, anyone?

(This seemed the appropriate soundtrack, somehow. Enjoy, as you reflect!)


  1. I'm going to suggest Deveraux's River Lady. (1985) Though it's not perfect, I still heart this book. For one thing, the first sex? Has all the early genre date rapeyness and the heroine *DOESN"T LIKE IT*. There's no swooney 'til she likes it section, and the hero has to over come his idiocy later in the book.

  2. Hrm. Going through my list of favorites, I'm discovering they're all 1990s books (Gaffney, Quick, Feather, even Roberts).

    Ah-hah! Johanna Lindsey, who is totally a fixture in the field, with a career spanning from the 1970s. My secret, hidden, shameful pleasure are her two books: Silver Flame, which is a harem narrative, and Secret Fire, whose hero is a Russian prince who kidnaps what he thinks is a servant girl and then uses a powerful aphrodisiac to get her to do what he wants. Except although he has sex with her in the throes of the drug, she still refuses him afterwards. All the raperating is condemned by all and sundry. Definitely see the changes in the genre.

    They're both really quick reads, both originally published in 1987, both really dated and yet really good stories.

  3. Jayne Ann Krentz's Harlequins under her name and Stephanie James are all being reprinted. There are some good ones that have the elements of many 80's romances- alpha male, woman trying to make it in career, dated conventions. It would make a nice contrast to the stronger heroines in a later Krentz or a Crusie novel.

    Elizabeth Lowell also has a number of books being reprinted from this time- you would just need to be careful of how much revision she did in some for the reprint edition.

    Diana Palmer, Nora Roberts, and Sandra Brown are also authors whose 1980s books are being reprinted.

  4. I was going to suggest Catherine Coulter but then I realized one of the caveats was that at least some of the students would like it. She's a little bit more '70's than '80's in any case.

    -sighs- If only The Windflower was back in print, eh? Could we start a petition on that?