Monday, March 14, 2011

CFPs: Speech and Time

Chris Eagle from the University of Western Sydney is
soliciting previously unpublished articles or essays for an edited collection on the topic of representations of speech and language disorders in literature, film, and popular culture. At present, there is a growing interest in the field of Medical Humanities regarding the portrayal of conditions like stuttering, aphasia, mutism, etc. Recent works like The King's Speech, Rocket Science, and Diving Bell and the Butterfly also speak to the growing concern in contemporary popular culture over the status of the Self in relation to language loss and language breakdown. Since speech pathologies are neither illnesses nor outwardly visible disabilties, critical studies of their representation have tended to occupy a liminal position in relation to other discourses in fields like literary theory, medical humanities, disability studies, etc. One of the primary aims of this collection is to address that marginalization, to position a cultural criticism of speech pathology as a subfield in its own right, by combining previous criticism with original work in order to bring this subject into greater prominence.

The working title of the collection is Talking Normal: Speech Disorders in Literature, Film, and Culture. The goal of this collection is to approach the issue of disordered or 'non-standard' speech from as many critical lenses as possible. So cultural studies, historicist, theoretical, sociolinguistic, formalist approaches etc. are all equally welcome. [...] Authors should submit an abstract of 300 - 600 words, along with a CV providing full contact information, by May 1st 2011.
More details can be found here. I immediately thought of Laura Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm:
The odd tidbit of original inspiration for Flowers came from a great-aunt of mine. When I was fairly young—7 or 8?—she suffered a stroke and lost the ability to speak. My grandmother, her sister, brought her to live at home for the next ten years. She would come up behind us kids and grab our hair or our arm, pinch so hard that it hurt, and say “No, no, no, no!” I thought she was nuts. Forgive me, I was young and afraid of her. My grandmother always insisted that she could understand what was said to her, and stood by her to the end.

Many years later, many—out of nowhere, the thought came to me that my grandmother had been right. That my great-aunt had been trapped behind a wall. It was a stunning realization.

I spent a fascinating period researching brain damage while writing Flowers from the Storm. Yes, for all those who’ve guessed or wondered, Christian suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. A one-time bleeding in the brain caused by a malformed blood vessel. He never had another one, I promise. I deliberately made him left-handed because left-handers have an atypical layout of speech centers in the brain, and often recover better from aphasic injuries.
I know Barbara Cartland's heroines often pause ... when speaking, but ... I don't think those pauses were intended to be read as representations of a speech disorder. Can you think of any romances other than Flowers from the Storm which depict "disordered or 'non-standard' speech"?

And here's another recent call for papers.This one made me think a bit about time-travel and historical romances:
Philament, the peer-reviewed online journal of the arts and culture affiliated with the University of Sydney, invites postgraduate students and early-careers scholars to submit academic papers and creative works for our next issue upon the theme of Time. [...] Submissions close April 30, 2011, although late submissions may be considered.
More details can be found here and the submissions guidelines are here. Please note that
Our definition of postgraduate extends to include recent graduates who have obtained their doctorate less than five years ago, and who are yet to secure permanent academic employment.
I recently read Susan Stephens' Ruthless Boss, Dream Baby , a contribution to a Harlequin/Mills & Boon mini-series titled
Arrogant and proud, unashamedly male!
Modern Romance with a retro twist ...
Step back in time to when men were men - and women knew just how to tame them!
Apparently the idea for the mini-series was inspired by the television programme Life on Mars:
For those unfamiliar with the show, in a nutshell a 21st century policeman is transported back in time to 1970s Britain, where he meets DCI Gene Hunt – a completely unreconstructed alpha male from days of yore! In the second series, Ashes to Ashes, the action moved to the 1980s, when a 21st century female is thrown back to meet the uncompromising Gene Hunt, and gradually tension of a different kind started to simmer, and this got us thinking…

What would happen if a 21st century Presents heroine came face-to-face with a completely unreconstructed Presents alpha hero from the past?

And that is how Men Without Mercy was conceived! Yes, we would need to include a little, (dare we say) time travel to make it possible, but as long as the story, relationship and passion was pure Presents – why not?
I'm pondering the implications of the phrase "when men were men" and wondering if this combination of a modern heroine and a setting in which men can be men, is one of the appeals of "wallpaper historicals." Vacuous Minx recently described these as
books where the characters are basically modern, but they wear period clothing, live in period houses, and refer to period events.There is no real pretense, by authors or readers who like the books, that these books represent serious attempts to depict a particular historical era. Think of it as going to a historical theme party: everyone dresses up in the theme, but they talk in their normal accents and use contemporary vocabulary and wear Spanx under their costumes.
In wallpaper historicals do the heroes seem as modern as the heroines, or are they the embodiment of what some modern women believe men were like in the days "when men were men"?


  1. About non-standard speech: Mia Ryan's novella "A Dozen Kisses" has a hero with a wartime head injury that affected his speech centers. So people think he's arrogant, boorish, and blunt, because the connection between the words in his mind and the words in his mouth always fails him. It was utterly charming.

    As for the wallpaper historicals, I admit I am a total Regency junkie. But I like it when the heroes are anachronistically open to the idea of, for instance, female equality or class mobility, just as the heroines often are. The historical background -- where most men are old-fashioned, oppressive alpha types -- makes them stand out more. And a proper hero always stands out. :)

  2. I am incredibly selective now about reading historical romance because virtually all of it is wallpaper. There are honourable exceptions (Jude Morgan) and also writers whose research and worldbuilding is excellent although they sneak through anachronistically forward thinking heroes (Nita Abrams, Janet Mullany, Jo Beverley). And that is about it. I read much more historical crime and historical fiction than historical romance because the wallpaper issue steams me up.

  3. Isn't the hero of Julia Quinn's The Duke and I a former stutterer?

    I can think of a few 'mute' stories - but in all cases, the character isn't really mute

    - Wild At Heart by Pat Gaffney (wild man - can't speak at first but recovers speech);

    - Sweet Everlasting by Pat Gaffney (woman pretends to be mute to keep the stepfather who raped her at bay)

    - the Wild Child (? I think) by Mary Jo Putney (unconventional woman pretends not to be able to speak to enable her to live as she pleases)

  4. Oh, and another recovered stutterer: Stuart Aysgarth from Untie my Heart by Judith Ivory

  5. "I like it when the heroes are anachronistically open to the idea of, for instance, female equality or class mobility, just as the heroines often are."

    That's not necessarily anachronistic, because

    By the eighteenth century ideas about marriage and the relations of men and women within marriage had changed. Earlier claims that families represented a microcosm of the commonwealth and that women must necessarily be subject to the rule of men, just as a king rules his subjects, had given way to an understanding that the relationship between men and women in marriage was contractual, in the sense of the Hobbesian social contract. Man's authority over woman was no longer considered to be derived from divine law. When the model of the hierarchical ordering of men above women, analogous to the ordering of kings above subjects, gave way to a contractual theory, then logic should have dictated the equality of men and women. And indeed just this was argued by Samuel Pufendorf (1632-94), a protestant German jurist, philosopher, and precursor to the Enlightenment. He claimed that natural law dictated an original equality between men and women which was then modified by state and civil society, and concluded that neither divine law nor superior strength gave males sovereignty over females. By the eighteenth century some, including William Paley, agreed, considering that 'nature … left the sexes of the human species nearly equal in their faculties, and perfectly so in respect of their rights'. Yet others disagreed. For example Jean-Jacques Rousseau firmly believed women were made specially to please men, and should be educated accordingly. [...]

    [Jeremy] Bentham's principle of utility, premised 'an original equality of all members of the human race, based on their common psychological structure', as Lea Campos Boralevi has aptly expressed it. It is certainly true that Bentham clearly made a connection between utility and equality between men and women in his later writings. For example, in 1830 Bentham made clear that the principle of utility dictated that when the legislator made laws for inheritance the rule should be equality between men and women. However Bentham's recognition of equality between men and women received its clearest exposition in his earlier writing on marriage, and in particular in his comments on short-term marriage. Bentham reasoned that given that physical love was a pleasure and devoid of moral sanction, why should sexual shame in temporary marriages attach to the woman and not the man?

  6. (cont.)

    In one of his books William Godwin (1756-1836)

    sketches his positive vision of the egalitarian society of the future, one which, having dispensed with all forms of organised co-operation, including orchestras and marriage, so as to ensure the fullest independence to each persons' judgment, will gradually witness the development of the powers of mind to the point that they gain ascendancy over physiological process allowing life to be prolonged indefinitely. (Philp)


    [Thomas] Paine was much more than a talented popularizer of advanced ideas, a megaphone for the enlightenment project against kingcraft, lordcraft and priestcraft. An original thinker far ahead of his time, he sought to redress poverty (seemingly endemic in advanced European societies) through an interventionist programme of welfare redistribution, including old-age pensions, marriage allowances and maternity benefits. (Belchem)

    Robert Owen (1771-1858)

    was closely involved with the factory movement (for the improvement of working conditions), Poor Law reform, public education, economic regeneration in post-Napoleonic War Britain, the relief of distress in Ireland, creating what he called ‘communities of equality’ in Britain and America, and, after 1830, trade unionism and cooperation. He supported religious toleration. He advocated sexual equality, marriage and divorce law reform, and alluded to birth control as a means of regulating population. (Open University)

    So you could have a hero from this period who holds egalitarian beliefs, but it would probably make him rather radical. In fact, it might make him too radical to appeal to many modern readers.
    Belchem, John. "Thomas Paine: Citizen of the World." BBC.

    Open University. "A New View of Society."

    Philp, Mark. "William Godwin." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

    Sokol, Mary. "Jeremy Bentham on Love and Marriage: A Utilitarian Proposal for Short-Term Marriage." The Journal of Legal History 30:1 (2009): 1-21.

  7. "people think he's arrogant, boorish, and blunt, because the connection between the words in his mind and the words in his mouth always fails him."

    Olivia, that does sound interesting. Since we're discussing historical accuracy, though, I was sad to see that it failed the AAR reviewer's historical accuracy test:

    As a rule, I don't notice anachronistic language or historical inaccuracies that other people do. But when I noticed an historical heroine who used words such as "swoony" and whose mother uttered "as if" - well, I didn't think Clueless aired in Regency England. The writing in this story simply sounded way too modern.

    Madeleine, I suspect you know a lot more about the Regency period than I do, and there are probably lots of anachronisms that I wouldn't notice. All the same, I still come across lots of characters who feel very modern in their expectations of life, and the ways in which they respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves.

    Tumperkin, I haven't read any of those except for the Ivory. I imagine that having a mute protagonist would be something of a challenge for an author to write because the usual kind of verbal dialogue wouldn't be possible. Since the protagonists you mention weren't really mute, though, did they start speaking fairly early on? If not, how did the author convey what they were thinking?

  8. Laura, I'd forgotten the 'as if.' That's too anachronistic, even for me.

    And while there was a lot more movement on the egalitarian front during the 18th/19th century, didn't much of it involve the idea of separate spheres? Or am I conflating my Regencies with my Victorians?

  9. And now I've gone and posted under my other name. Still not used to the pen name quite yet. :)


  10. From memory, it's a goodly way in to all three novels before the 'mute' protags speak.

  11. What, exactly, are men now? I know this is just marketing language, but you'd think a company that also publishes historicals would be more aware of shifting definitions of masculinity.

    "What would happen if a 21st century Presents heroine came face-to-face with a completely unreconstructed Presents alpha hero from the past?"

    Um, she'd fight back when "forcibly seduced"? Aside from a lessening of raptasticness, have Presents heroes really been reconstructed much?

    I loved Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, but there's so much more to them than implied here. I see those shows as, in part, like Mad Men (early '60s ad agency) in US, inviting viewers simultaneously to be appalled by the racism/sexism/etc. of our recent past and to indulge in "politically incorrect" enjoyment of same. Gene Hunt is a great character, but a horror as much as a hero (I think the show asks us whether an idealized past manliness is better or not).

    That's a fairly superficial response to a really good show--and maybe colored by me being a North American viewer--but I think Harlequin is missing the boat. Now if they published more Presents that really rethought and reworked the conventional tropes and traits of masculinity and femininity in that line, that parodied/paid homage to it the way Life on Mars does for 70s cop shows? THAT would be fun!

  12. That was meant to be "rapetasticness." Serves me right for coining a word.

  13. And while there was a lot more movement on the egalitarian front during the 18th/19th century, didn't much of it involve the idea of separate spheres? Or am I conflating my Regencies with my Victorians?

    I really haven't studied enough history to know the answer to this. I did find summary of a course at the University of Warwick which seems to answer the question:

    [Mary] Wollstonecraft's 1792 Vindication was an endeavour to apply the liberating ideals of the French Revolution to the position of women in Europe, a call to arms to change the subordinate position of women in society. But the Vindication was regarded as so revolutionary, that it was banned from every "decent" home, and it was not until the latter decades of the 19th century, in the 1880s and 1890s, that Wollstonecraft was rehabilitated with the emergence of new discussions and perspectives of feminism. In essence, following Mary's death [in 1797], there was a temporary rupture of feminist debate partly because of a conservative backlash following the French Revolution. This backlash against radicalism made any possibility of social reform difficult [...] when discussions about women's rights arose, they were generally tied to wider debates about female immorality, particularly following Godwin's revelations about the Pro-French Revolutionary Wollstonecraft's free sexuality. [...]
    This does not mean however that women did not agitate for changes to their social subordination. Beginning from the early 1800s, what became known as the "Woman Question" assumed greater urgency, as women [and some men] began to make known their dissatisfaction with the social, legal and political constraints that limited women‟s public opportunities, and to agitate for women‟s full citizenship. [...] Indeed, as Harriet Bradley argues [...], in many ways, women's lives became even further limited, as a result of social and economic changes wrought by the Industrial Revolution which, resulted in a major economic transition. The workplace and the home which had previously been the same, now began to separate. As the workplace moved outside the home, male and female spheres of activity also separated. [...]
    So, it was not until the decade of the 1820s, a period characterised by the renewal of interest in broad scale, political, social, parliamentary and legal reform that radical demands for women's emancipation began to be openly made again. Before then, few women in Britain were audacious enough to openly demand women's rights (for the notion of women's rights was generally linked to social fears of immorality etc.), and interestingly, many of the voices calling for women's rights in this early period emanated from male proponents of women's rights. [...]
    The ideal of separate spheres, with its emphasis on female domesticity, came to dominate social and political thought during the first half of the 19th century. [...] The idea of a woman's mission was the outcome of an evangelical revival of the late 18th century. Evangelicanism was a branch of Methodism/Protestantism that stressed the moral reformation of all sections of society, and women's morally superior qualities made them ideally suited for reform work within the public sphere.

    I'd better stop there; it's worth reading the whole thing.

  14. "Um, she'd fight back when "forcibly seduced"? Aside from a lessening of raptasticness, have Presents heroes really been reconstructed much?"

    Obviously a "forced seduction" is not something anyone should attempt in real life, because it would constitute rape. Within the boundaries of the romance genre, though, the distinction does seem to persist. As far as I can tell, the concept of the "forced seduction" seems to depend on heroes being able to mind-read (or body-read, given that it's often the heroine's "treacherous" body which "betrays" her by responding to him). Since I haven't analysed instances of "forced seduction" I don't know if they've got less common, but if I had to take a guess, I would say that they had.

    As far as rapes (as opposed to "forced seductions") are concerned, if there were a lot of them in Mills & Boons, then I've been lucky and avoided most of them.

    Jay Dixon mentions that "there were at least two Mills & Boon romances, both by [Louise] Gerard, which followed The Sheik by including a hero/heroine rape scene" (138). Those date from the 1920s and presumably this kind of behaviour subsequently went out of fashion in M&Bs for a while. Then, "In the 1970s, with the advent of Janet Dailey and Charlotte Lamb, and the eroticization, by Violet Winspear, of the Latin and Arab hero, the books became more sexual and violent" (142). Violet Winspear did say that her heroes "must be the sort of men who are capable of rape: men it's dangerous to be alone in the room with" (qtd in McAleer 257) but in the novels I've read by her, the heroes didn't actually rape their heroines.

    Dixon also gives some examples of books from the 1980s in which "the spanking becomes more sexual when it is made clear that it is used instead of forced sex" (142). Interestingly, she mentions that

    Owen's (1990) British readers, of the late 1980s, objected to aggressive heroes and violent sex, claiming that they were an American phenomenon. Frenier (1988), however, states that they are a British phenomenon, and that, for instance, Janet Dailey (an American author) only writes like that for her Mills & Boon romances and not for her American publishers. (143)

    There's currently quite a bit of variety among Presents heroes. I suspect that may always have been the case. Anne McAllister's George Savas, for example, is a physicist who is reunited with his wife because he's hospitalised after saving a child from being run over by a truck. He's not at all rakish (though his cousin was) and certainly not rape-ish.

    Dixon, jay. The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990s. London: UCL Press, 1999.

    McAleer, Joseoph. Passion's Fortune: The Story of Mills & Boon. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1999.

  15. I loved Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes, but there's so much more to them than implied here. I see those shows as, in part, like Mad Men (early '60s ad agency) in US, inviting viewers simultaneously to be appalled by the racism/sexism/etc. of our recent past and to indulge in "politically incorrect" enjoyment of same.

    I haven't seen any of those programmes, but over at her blog The Fancy Reader also mentions the racism:

    I still can remember men, like Gene Hunt of Ashes to Ashes, from the 1970s and 1980s who were obnoxiously, unapologetically and openly racist and bigot [...] I think men like him are exciting to heroines who don’t have to deal with the extra baggage. How would it be if, for instance, a woman of colour travels from 2010 to 1970s and meets someone like Gene Hunt? She’d probably have some awkward moments.

  16. Laura, thanks for the link! It's a perfect supplement to last week's reading: the first half of a lovely biography on Wollestonecraft. (And I'll be reading the second half as soon as I can cycle through the library's wait list again).

    And the rules for "forced seductions" have gotten much more stringent lately -- author guidelines for both Harlequin/Silhouette and Ellora's Cave emphasize the fact that the hero can't be a rapist, and EC specifically states that the heroine has to consent before there is penetration.

  17. the rules for "forced seductions" have gotten much more stringent lately

    That's good to know. In 2010 Jane at Dear Author found a rape in Sara Craven's The Innocent's Surrender:

    I was very excited to see that you had a new release out. You are one of my favorite Harlequin Presents authors. Sure, you have some rape books in your past, but this is 2010, and those are a thing of the past, right? Apparently not. [...]

    Alex never really apologizes or acknowledges that he has essentially raped Natasha and she herself does not treat this as rape. Alex excuses himself by telling Natasha that he wanted her badly. Alex does treat Natasha better after this incident [...].

    I think if that scene had been omitted, I would have enjoyed this story but I found the rape to be offensive particularly when it was, at best, excused, and at worst, unacknowledged.

    Jane was surprised to find something like this in a recent romance in this line. I haven't read the book myself, but I would also have been surprised (and upset) to come across the scenario she describes.

    Given that "the rape [...] was, at best, excused, and at worst, unacknowledged" I wonder if there are still some authors and editors who, like Whoopi Goldberg with her "it wasn't rape-rape" comment, have a more restricted definition of rape which leads them to consider certain kinds of rape to be not "rape-rape."

    I have the impression that this problem with definitions is part of why many anti-rape activists are moving away from the "no means no" slogan and towards advocating "enthusiastic consent":

    Enthusiastic consent is a principle that says that “no means no” is crucial – if a sexual partner says no, you have to stop – but it’s not enough. In order to ensure consent and prevent sexual violence, everyone, regardless of gender, has to make sure that their partner is enthusiastic about what’s going on.

  18. Laura, thanks for the linkage!

    The Ashes to Ashes/Mad Men link that Liz suggests is spot on, I think. The viewer simultaneously feels superior to the previous era's people and also admires aspects of that era. As if they didn't really come as a package. I really enjoyed Life on Mars but putting Gene Hunt front and center in AtA was a mistake, I think. Or I should say that it made dramatic sense (Hunt is a great character and Glenister plays him beautifully), but it conveys a disturbing message. In LoM I felt that Hunt's character was revealed to be more complex than his misogyny and racism at first indicated, and we see that change through Sam's eyes, but as the "hero" or at least male protagonist in AtA, those characteristics get a different valence.

    On history in romance, I was depressed to see that Jo Beverley's latest book got a C from AAR because the reviewer felt that it was a history book rather than a romance novel. Jayne at DA gave it a higher grade (I think a B+?), but then she likes historical richness in her romance novels! I haven't read it yet but while it's entirely possible that the romance wasn't well developed, JoBev's other novels have always struck me as balancing the two well. I'll have to read it and see, but I tend to agree with Jayne more than AAR.

  19. Has anyone else noticed that Mira has recently joined in the speech pathology exploration with both Diane Chamberlain's 'Breaking the Silence' and Margaret Leroy's 'The River House'? I was particularly interested in Chamberlain's treatment of the child's elective mutism in a family context, and this post inspired me to blog about the connections between the two books, as well as the popularity of special needs teacher Torey Hayden's books. Thanks, as always, for making me think!

  20. Stephanie, you write in your post that

    "the theme of the whole story is the question of when to speak and when to remain silent - a question which is explored in different ways by all three authors."

    It does sound rather Biblical:

    [1] To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
    [2] A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
    [3] A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    [4] A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    [5] A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
    [6] A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    [7] A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    [8] A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

    Would I be right in thinking that Breaking the Silence is romantic suspense? And how would you classify The River House?