Sunday, March 14, 2010

To Blog, or Not To Blog: That is the Question

Jessica at Read, React, Review will be attending the 2010 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference, and she's been thinking about blogging about the papers. However, last year when she did this she "ran into a few 'issues' so this year she's asking for some advice in advance of the conference.
Could blogging about conference presentations cause harm? [...]

1. Maybe someone reading this blog will scoop the presenter’s WIP, stealing her thesis and getting an article into print first. The presenter loses a publication and time spent on research. This could affect her chances for getting tenure (this would not be an issue for presenters who are presenting published or forthcoming work, of course).

2. Blog commenters are harshly critical of the presenter, in a way no one in an academic audience would be. They write things like, “That is just stupid” or “What a dumbass!”. It is hurtful to the presenter — not a reaction she was prepared for, and she worries it will devalue her work if it is the first thing that shows up in a Google search.

3. It is not the presenter’s best work. In fact, it is really not ready for prime time. She hates the idea that it is online for posterity, when she plans to radically alter or abandon the research post conference.
As regular readers of this blog will know, I blogged about the papers at this year's conference on Georgette Heyer, so Jessica's list of problems made me feel a bit worried. Did I do the wrong thing? Well, as far as 3. is concerned, the presenters may feel that way about their work but if they did, they didn't mention it to me. I contacted all of them either prior to, or just after, I published the posts so that they could offer corrections/objections. Problem 2. wasn't an issue here, and as for Problem 3., I may be wrong about this but I would have thought that blog posts of this kind make stealing less likely, since the author's name is attached to the summary of the work and provides an online record of the date on which she presented it.

My intention was to share some of the enthusiasm of the day, show what a vibrant area of study this is, and whet people's appetites for the full papers when/if they're published (the hope is that at least some of them will appear in a future issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, and I've heard that Jennifer Kloester's biography of Heyer will be published sometime next year). Jessica has come up with a few other reasons in favour of blogging about conferences:
Are there any ethical arguments in favor of blogging the conference? I tend to be skeptical about this in terms of my little blog, but here goes. Possibly the goods of disseminating information, and any ancillary goods that come from that, like contacts being made (someone reads this blog, finds out Julie Juniper is working on her topic, they get in touch, they collaborate or develop some other mutually beneficial exchange), or academics who were not able to attend the conference (maybe they were ill or couldn’t afford it) getting to stay updated in their field a bit, or nonacademics, i.e. most readers of RRR, benefiting by getting a glimpse into a different way of approaching their favorite books, and enjoying this or learning from it.
Personally, and perhaps very selfishly, I hope that Jessica does choose to blog about the PCA/ACA conference because I won't be there. Take a look at the following list of the romance-related sessions taken from the Conference program and see if you feel the same way!


Romance I: Romancing Bollywood

Session Chair: Eric Murphy Selinger, DePaul University

"'My Heart It Speaks a Thousand Words': Language, Race, and Romance in
Bollywood Cinema"‖ Pavitra Sundar, Dartmouth University

"Found in Translation: Hindi Cinema‘s Take on Romance in English Language
Film"‖ Jayashree Kamble, University of Minnesota

"Cinematic Time and the Fate of the Family in Classical Hindi Cinema"‖ Anustup Basu, University of Illinois

"Reading Bollywood Reading Romance: Jaane Tu Janne Na"‖ Eric Murphy Selinger

Romance II: The Dark Side of Romance: Rape, Serial Killers, and Power Dynamics
Session Chair: Sarah S. G. Frantz, Fayetteville State University

"Romancing the Rapist: The Myriad Uses of Sexual Force and Violence in Genre Romance"‖ Robin Harders, University of California, Irvine

"Alpha Male: Dominance, Submission, and Masculinity in Popular Romance Fiction"‖ Sarah S. G. Frantz

"Serial Killers Make Great Boyfriends?: Dexter and Dark Heroes"‖ Amber Botts, Neodesha High School

"Reality v. Writing: Walking the Tightrope of Reader Expectations, Personal Knowledge and Romance Tropes"‖ James Buchanan, Romance Author

Romance III: Nora Roberts: Food, Community, and Voice
Session Chair: An Goris, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven/DePaul University

"Recipes and Rituals: Food and Religion in Nora Roberts' Three Sisters Island Trilogy"‖ Tessa Kostelc, The George Washington University

"Lights, Audiobooks, Action!: The Recreation of Narrative Voice in Nora Roberts's The Circle Trilogy"‖ Glinda Hall, University of Arkansas

"Let's Keep It in the Family: Nora Roberts' Connected Books"‖ An Goris

Romance Area Meeting
American Center, Room 242 (2nd Floor)
Thursday, April 1, 5:00 P.M.
Chair: Sarah Frantz, University of North Carolina, Fayetteville, and Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University
Open discussion about the current state of romance studies, including: the progress of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, the publication of the first issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, IASPR's conference in Belgium in August 2010, the planned Popular Romance Studies Special Issue of the Journal of American Culture in 2013, and preliminary planning of IASPR's 2011 conference in New York City before the RWA annual conference. The meeting is open to all presenters and anyone interested in our area. Please join us and then join us for a Romance Area Dinner at a local restaurant afterwards.

Romance IV: Theory, Criticism, and Ethics
Session Chair: Jessica Miller, University of Maine

"Truly Our Contemporary Jane Austen: Popular Historical Romance and the Uses of Author(ity)"‖ Susan Kroeg, Eastern Kentucky University

"Building an Ethical Review Community: Dear Author"‖ Jane Litte, Blogger: Dear Author

"Love as the Practice of Bondage: Popular Romance Narrative and the Conundrum of Erotic Love"‖ Catherine Roach, University of Alabama

"Ethical Criticism of Genre Fiction: The Case of Romance"‖ Jessica Miller

Romance: Romance V: The Safe Spaces of Romance
Session Chair: Pamela Regis, McDaniel College

"Reading the Romance Now: Intersections of Gender, Genre, and Literacy"‖ Stephanie Moody, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

"Growing Intentional Communities: The Popular Romance Project"‖ Laurie Kahn, Brandeis University

"The Romance Community: A Room of One's Own and Écriture Feminine"‖ Pamela Regis

Romance VI: Romance Publishing: Canadian Romance, ePublishing, and Erotica, Oh My!
Session Chair: Crystal Goldman, San Jose State University

"'Can I set it in Canada?': CanLit and Romance Publishing"‖ Jessica Taylor, University of Toronto

"Romance Rebound: Further Comparisons in e-Publishing and Print Publishers by Erotica and Erotic Romance Authors"‖ Crystal Goldman

"Author Discussion: Print and Digital Publishing"‖ Amanda Freeman, Harlequin; Jeannie Lin, Harlequin Historical; Sela Carsen, Samhain Publishing

Romance VII: Romancing Vampires: Toothsome Heroes and Happy Endings
Session Chair: Sarah S. G. Frantz, Fayetteville State University

"Sexual Exchange and Submission in Dracula: A Precursor to Gay Erotica Romance"‖ Haley Stokes

"Taking a Bite Out of Love: Transforming Romance in Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga"‖ Jessica Lyn Van Slooten, University of Wisconsin, Manitowoc

"Twilight and Romeo And Juliet: The Portrayal of Love and Narrative Perspective"‖ Brent Gibson, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

"Sheep in Wolf's Clothing: Christine Feehan's Carpathian Heroes"‖ Kat Schroeder, University of Washington

Romance VIII: Exploring History, Genre, Media
Session Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

"American Roots of the Popular Romance Novel: Sentimental, Domestic, and Dime Novels"‖ Maryan Wherry, Black Hawk College

"Comparison of Romance Videogames to other Romance Media"‖ Jill Astley

"Crikey, It's Romance for Men: Australian Sports Novels and Westerns of the 1950s‖ Toni Johnson-Woods, University of Queensland, Australia

"Discovering Liminal Spaces: Gossip and Self-Exposure in Jennifer Crusie's Romances and Eighteenth-Century Amatory Fiction"‖ Kimberly Baldus, University of Missouri, St. Louis

Romance IX: So Classy!: High/Low/Middle Class/Culture
Session Chair: Sarah S. G. Frantz, Fayetteville State University

"Something New: Resisting the Coupling Convention in Contemporary Black Romantic Film"‖ Consuela Francis, College of Charleston

"Global Popular Culture and Class in Filipino Chick Lit‖ Trina Joyce Sajo, Brock University

"She quoted Shakespeare!: The inclusion of highbrow literature in popular romance novels"‖
Tamara Whyte, University of Alabama

Romance X: The Construction of Gender: (Killer) Heroes and Heroines
Session Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

"From Virgins to Rogues: Iris Johansen's Ten-year Love Affair with Loveswept‖ Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

"Neither True Nor Fair: An Exploration of Female Heroism in Popular Romance"‖
Angela Toscano, University of Utah

"Readers' Perceptions of Realism, Race, and Gender in Brockmann's Contemporary Romance Novels‖ Jim Haefner, University of St. Francis; Margaret Haefner, North Park University

"Wicked Symmetry: The Dangerous Compulsion of Attraction in Twilight and Ziska"‖ Jacob Lusk, University of North Florida; Marnie Jones, University of North Florida

The Vampire in Literature, Culture, & Film: Roundtable—Blood, Sex, and Love: Exploring Vampire Romance Novels and Their Impact on the Image of the Vampire
Moderator: Amanda Hobson, Ohio University
Jessica Miller, University of Maine
Heide Crawford, University of Kansas
Bloodsucking fiends no longer. While there is not a single, monolithic vision of the vampire, the predominant pop culture image of the vampire has morphed from the unapologetic horror figure with gleaming fangs waiting to drain your blood to the sexy sympathetic and tortured soul that would rather sweep you off your feet than hurt you. Vampire myth, folklore, and fiction have integrated romance and sexuality as core elements from the beginning. The sympathetic vampire has existed within the folklore along with the more horrific, but this apologetic vampire has found a massive following in the last decade, especially as romance novelists have begun major incorporation of the vampire into their novels. Authors in other genres have also integrated this more sympathetic and charming vampire. These novels utilize a belief that vampires are neither good nor evil but can be either or both, as they inhabit the grey area. A few series stand out as indicative of this current trend, such as The Black Dagger Brotherhood series, The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series, the Twilight Saga, and the Southern Vampire series (a.k.a. the Sookie Stackhouse series or True Blood). These series have demonstrated the evolution of the vampire's use of sex and romance to lure prey to a desire for companionship. This roundtable will offer a venue to discuss this phenomenon of the vampire romance, including an exploration of the following questions: have these romantic vampires defanged the traditional vampire, are these vampires indicative of the larger vampire narratives particularly beginning in the nineteenth century, and why the romance genre has embraced the vampire lover?

Romance XI: Happily Ever After: Romance Conventions In and Through Film and Fiction
Session Chair: Darcy Martin, East Tennessee State University

"Revisiting Medium and Message in Romantic Fictions: Character-motivated Happily Ever Afters"‖ Danielle Rubin; Sabrina Darby

"Is my Chemise Showing?: Playing with Cross-Dressing Conventions in Celeste Bradley's The Spy"‖ Mallory Jagodzinsky, Bowling Green State University

"Is Happily Ever After a Romance Imperative?"‖ Phil Mathews, Bournemouth University

"Comedy and Tragedy: Redemptive Happy Endings"‖ Barbara Samuel, Romance Author


So, have you got any advice (of a non-selfish variety) to offer Jessica?

Taken on the 28th of July, 1922, the photo is from the National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress) at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. It is available online and there are "No known restrictions on publication." I found it via Wikimedia Commons.


  1. I am from science background, so perhaps my comments may not be taking into account how humanities research is done. But, personally, I think these criticisms have no basis

    (a) Steal thesis. I don't see how blogging can contribute to that. Conference proceedings establish authorship. If anything, blogging would confirm ownership of ideas. In computer science, all conference papers are put promptly in the public domain, and it is not a problem - it means that people associate your name with your work, and that is good

    (b) Being harshly critical. Writing "That is stupid" etc. is a personal attack, and is not acceptable as a criticism of any blog article. It is a problem with blogging in general, and such comments are equally problematic if they come in response to a blog post about a news article, for example. But no one would suggest that a blogger should never refer to other published material on the web. Personally, I think moderating comments is the right idea for all blogs, but, in any case, there is nothing there that is particularly specific to blogging about academic presentations.

    (c) Not the presenter's best work. My first instinct is, if it is not good enough to be associated with your name, then you should not be presenting it. I certainly can see not wanting to put my name on a low-quality article, and that it can be embarrassing if it stays on the web forever. But still, irritating academics who see the presentation with low quality scholarship is a greater danger, in my opinion - so if it is so bad that it shouldn't be archived, then it shouldn't have been presented in public in the first place.

  2. "My first instinct is, if it is not good enough to be associated with your name, then you should not be presenting it."

    That would be my feeling too. I can understand people wanting to discuss new and untested ideas with colleagues, but I think that a presentation at a large conference is probably not the best venue or format for that sort of discussion.

    Maybe, though, as you say, expectations vary from discipline to discipline, and perhaps they even vary from conference to conference. I also think I'd expect some variation depending on the kind of presentation it was. For example, I'd certainly have different expectations when listening to a round-table type discussion (where the various people on the panel are interacting in an unrehearsed way) than when listening to a 20, 30 or 60 minute paper being presented.

  3. I agree - the advantages of blogging conferences outweigh the (potential) drawbacks. Laura - I thought your summaries of the Heyer papers were really useful, accurate - and positive! I often blog confererences - I don't think I've ever blogged about a paper I *didn't* like - I just focus on a few I found particularly engaging generally. If someone left a nasty comment about someone's paper on my own blog I'd probably delete it. I have no wish to do anything other than enhance the 'web presence' of my fellow academics. I've been thanked for blogging people's conferences on more than one occasion - so go for it!

  4. I'm very relieved you felt that way about my summaries of the Heyer conference, Sarah. Unfortunately, it seems that some people had a rather negative reaction to Jessica's summaries of the papers they presented to the PCA/ACA conference last year.

  5. Laura, I found your summaries of the Heyer conference excellent. They were accurate, they conveyed the atmosphere of the event, and they also gave rise to additional lively discussion here.

    Myrosia's comments above seem to me to be spot-on. Although conference papers are often, by their very nature, less complete, more condensed and sometimes more speculative than final publications, any report on them attributes them firmly to the speaker, and so nobody else shoudl be able to hijack the work with impunity.

    I can see just one potential problem: if there is a truly appalling paper it might be hard to know how to handle it in a blog report. This occurs to me only because I have spent the weekend just gone at a conference (on my own discipline -- nothing to do with romance!), and there was one paper so dire, so chaotically muddled, so ill-presented, so unscholarly in content and argument that it would have been a real embarrassment to say anything at all about it. Easily the worst paper I have ever heard at a serious conference; the whole audience was quietly cringing.

    But this problem is, happily, not a common one, and certainly did not apply to the Cambridge conference upon which you reported. I am in favour of reports. And if some people on the blog post remarks that are discourteous and do not observe the rules of scholarly debate, they embarrass only themselves.

  6. Thanks, Tigress.

    "they also gave rise to additional lively discussion here."

    I was really pleased about that. It felt like a way to keep the conversation going, long after the conference was officially over.

    "if there is a truly appalling paper it might be hard to know how to handle it in a blog report"

    As you say, thankfully this isn't very common. One solution would be, as Sarah suggested, to blog only about those one found "particularly engaging." Of course, you'd have to be a bit careful about that too, because if you produced detailed summaries of all the other papers it would make it a bit obvious which was the one paper you'd found so worthless you couldn't bring yourself to blog about it.

    if some people on the blog post remarks that are discourteous and do not observe the rules of scholarly debate, they embarrass only themselves.

    I completely agree with you.

  7. Late to the discussion, but thanks for hosting it here, Laura, and to others for sharing their insights.

    This year I plan to compromise by offering summaries, and keeping my own views out of it, positive or negative. I won't ask for consent for this.

    If I want to say more in more detail about any particular paper, I'll get permission first.

    I hope TMT readers will check out those posts beginning next Thursday, April 1.

  8. "thanks for hosting it here, Laura"

    In the context of a discussion about correct blogging etiquette, it did strike me at the time of posting that maybe I shouldn't post here about something already being discussed at your blog ;-) But linking and spreading debate and discussion around the internet does seem to be an integral part of blogging.

    "I hope TMT readers will check out those posts beginning next Thursday, April 1."

    I'll post links to them, Jessica, so that TMT readers can find their way across to you (if they're not already regular readers of RRR).

  9. I'm one of those non-academic readers who enjoys taking a fresh look at things and at books I love. That line up of papers sounds SO intriguing, and just a summary would be interesting to read about.

    I'm subscribed to Jessica's blog too, so I'll be keeping an eye out. :)

  10. For what it's worth, I am one of the presenters this year (and an inexperienced, non-academic one at that, I am quite nervous!), and I don't mind being blogged about at all. I'm worried about my paper's quality, but that's my own issue - I can't blame anyone for criticizing a paper that's presented to the public - if I wanted blind accolades, I'd only circulate it to friends and family.

  11. Hope it goes well, lijakaca, and that you have a great time!