Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Recipients of RWA's 2011 Academic Research Grants

The Romance Writers of America have announced the recipients of the 2011 RWA Academic Research Grants, and I'd like to congratulate them. They are:

Dr. Heather Schell, George Washington University

Harlequins in Translation: the Turkish Experience of the American Romance Novel

Dr. Schell's project will examine the popularity of Harlequin romances in Turkey which, while a country with a secular government, is predominantly an Islamic culture. Schell will survey and interview Turkish women who read the romances in translation to learn how they receive and perceive these novels written by and for North American women. She intends to study this data and seek the answers to questions such as: “What accounts for the appeal of these books? Do relationship-dominated books challenge or reinforce international readers’ expectations of gender norms? Do they shape the readers’ beliefs about U.S. culture? Are these books seen as supporting or challenging Turkish cultural values?”
It's quite possible that Schell is going to focus exclusively on the reception of Harlequin romance "novels written by and for North American women" but that description doesn't apply to all Harlequin Mills & Boon romances.

Harlequin's partner in Turkey is Ekip A.Ş and having taken a look at the website advertising Turkish Harlequins, it seems safe to say that not all of the authors whose works they are publishing are from the US. I can see titles by, among others, Kelly Hunter, Miranda Lee, and Nicola Marsh, all of whom are Australian. In the light of Juliet Flesch's From Australia with Love, which claims that Australian romance authors "speak with a voice that is distinctively Australian" (296), I'd be intrigued to discover whether Turkish women, reading the romances in translation, distinguish between or show a preference for, particular settings, or for authors of a particular nationality.
Drs. Joanna Gregson, Pacific Lutheran University, and Jennifer Lois, Western Washington University Craft and Career: the Gendered Culture of Romance Writers

Employing an ethnographic methodology that involves field work, observation and interviews, Gregson and Lois are amassing data that they will then study to uncover the ways “writers construct romance, gender, and sexuality through their writing as well as how they experience their careers as women in ‘the most popular, least respected literary genre’ (Regis 2003: xi). This topic is one facet of their larger study, which Drs. Gregson and Lois position as the first social-scientific study of romance writers. “The primary objective of our research will be filling this gap in the scholarly literature by giving writers’ experiences the systematic, social-scientific attention they warrant.”
  • Flesch, Juliet. From Australia with Love: A History of Modern Australian Popular Romance Novels. Fremantle, Western Australia: Curtin U Books, 2004.
  • Regis, Pamela. A Natural History of the Romance Novel. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2003.

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