Friday, April 29, 2011

Joanna Russ (1937-2011)

Having just learned, via Read React Review, that Joanna Russ has died, I thought readers might like to read, or re-read, K. A. Laity's guest post at Teach Me Tonight about Joanna Russ on slash fiction and Conseula Francis and Alison Piepmeier's interview with Joanna Russ which took place in May 2007 but was only recently published online in issue 1.2 of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies. Francis and Piepmeir
became interested in Russ because of her involvement in the early days of the Kirk/Spock slash fandom.

As feminists, academics, and slash fans we went in search of what had been written about this phenomenon—women writing sexually explicit, largely homoerotic stories about characters from film, television, and literature. What had others, particularly feminists, made of this? Russ, we found, wrote the first important feminist analysis of slash fiction. Her 1985 essay, “Pornography By Women For Women, With Love” helped to set the terms of the discussion for feminist scholars who followed, and it is widely cited in fan studies. Russ argues that fantasy has to be read in more complex ways than simply seeing it as an effort at one-dimensional wish fulfillment. She posits fantasy as something rich and metaphorical. She reads slash as a genre that tells us new things about women’s sexuality and sexual desire.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Romance in The Cambridge History of the American Novel

I'm very happy to be able to announce that there's an essay by Teach Me Tonight's Pamela Regis in The Cambridge History of the American Novel (2011). Leonard Cassuto, one of the editors of the volume, observes that
The Cambridge History of the American Novel pays more attention to genre fiction than previous histories of American literature, and it accords them the importance they deserve in the shaping of literary fiction and the history of the American novel generally. If all literary histories ask, “What is ‘literature’?” then this volume argues that the study of popular genres alongside more self-consciously literary productions will help us to answer that question.

The rise of genre fiction is a story that begins early. Eclipsed genres like the sea novel helped to shape books that we read today as literature [...]. And later genres such as the crime novel or science fiction, which flowered in the twentieth century, have cross-pollinated with so-called literary fiction and inspired novelists from Hemingway to Marge Piercy. We have also seen notable entries from within a genre take their places on the high cultural podium.

The critical study of genre fiction begins somewhat later, as it took awhile for scholars to acknowledge the importance of formula-driven fiction as art, or as a source of literary influence and cultural insight. This history devotes chapters to “strong genres”– so called because they register with particular clarity the collectively held beliefs, hopes, and anxieties of the context in which they are produced. (10)
One of those "strong genres" is romance, which Pam examines in a chapter titled ""Female genre fiction in the twentieth century." In it Pam offers the reader "a definition of the romance novel, some categories to advance its literary analysis, and a first effort to place it in literary history, especially in foundational relation to the sentimental literature of the nineteenth century" (848). She includes short analyses of a number of American romances: E.D.E.N. Southworth's Vivia; or The Secret of Power (1857); Kathleen Thompson Norris' Rose of the World (1923); Faith Baldwin's Week-End Marriage (1931); Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt (1952); Kathleen E. Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower (1972); Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me (2004); Beverly Jenkins' Indigo (1996); Ann Herendeen's Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander (2005); and Nora Roberts' Irish Thoroughbred (1981).
  • Cassuto, Leonard. "General introduction." The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Ed. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby and Benjamin Reiss. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. 1-14.
  • Regis, Pamela. "Female genre fiction in the twentieth century." The Cambridge History of the American Novel. Ed. Leonard Cassuto, Clare Virginia Eby and Benjamin Reiss. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2011. 847-60.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Contextualising Sex

Eloisa James has recently stated that
sex -- its practices, its customs and conventions, and prevailing attitudes toward it -- is a function of the historical, cultural and social conditions of a given time and place.
Similarly A. Dana Ménard and Christine Cabrera, in their article which I discussed last week, note that:
It has been well established that the attitudes and behaviours of consumers are affected by exposure to sexual content in the media (e.g. lifestyle magazines, television, movies) (Bielay and Herold 1995; Kim and Ward 2004; Ward 2002, 2003). However, in many cases, the specific messages about sexuality and sexual behaviours that are being promoted have not been studied. There has been a distinct lack of research on romance novels (Clawson 2005; Phillips 2006) and, in particular, on portrayals of sex and sexuality in these books, despite the widespread readership of these novels and their experimentally demonstrated power to influence readers’ attitudes and beliefs (e.g. feelings about condom use) (Diekman et al. 2000).
I discussed Diekman et al's study here at TMT last year, and quoted the abstract of their paper:
According to the sexual script portrayed in romance novels, true love is demonstrated by being “swept away” in passion. To the extent that this traditional romance script influences romance readers' own sexual scripts, readers may express greater reluctance to engage in precautionary sexual health behaviors, such as using condoms. We explored the relationship between women's reading of romance novels and their attitudes toward condom use, reports of past condom use, and intention to use condoms in the future. A systematic content analysis of modern romance novels documented the extremely low incidence of portrayals of condom use in initial sexual encounters. Study 1 demonstrated that high levels of romance reading were associated with negative attitudes toward condoms and reduced intent to use condoms in the future; Study 2 showed experimentally that including safe sex elements in romance stories increased positive attitudes toward condoms and marginally increased intent to use condoms in the future.
Condom use doesn't seem to be a particularly controversial and recurring topic of discussion in the romance community, but rape/"forced seduction" is. Just recently there have been a couple of posts about it at Dear Author. Today at Dear Author Janet is attempting to answer the question "Is there Such a Thing as Feminist Sex?" It's an interesting article and I'd encourage you to read it in its entirety but I'd like to pick out just one of the questions Janet raises:
If we had no inequality between men and women, we would not see sexual submission or dominance as symbolic of that inequity. But because we do have so much inequity, it’s easy to see sexual behavior and sexual desire through that same lens. However, isn’t it possible that these two things are completely separate? That we can enjoy equity in the boardroom and power plays in the bedroom?
Accepting that this is the case might require people to negotiate with each other and discuss their sexual preferences, and perhaps some people are reluctant to negotiate "in the bedroom." After all, Diekman et al found that in "the sexual script portrayed in romance novels, true love is demonstrated by being “swept away” in passion"; it seems likely that for some people negotiation would seem as lacking in passion and spontaneity as condom-use.

However, much as Diekman et al found that it is possible for romances to incorporate condom-use (and, indeed, Ménard and Cabrera found that in the romances they sampled, "books from 2000 to 2009 included contraception usage in 57.9% of scenes"), there are certainly ways to incorporate explicit consent into a range of sexual fantasies in romance novels. In the following scene from Jules Jones and Alex Woolgrave's The Syndicate, for example, the protagonists discuss whether or not to have sex and they then begin to set the scene for their rape fantasy:
"Now," murmured Vaughan a moment later, pulling a straw out of his mouth, "I've dragged you into this haystack completely against your will, Allard, and I'm going to have my wicked way with you whether you like it or not." [...]

"You're not going to make a sound as I ravish you," said Vaughan, "because there are loads of people a few feet away from this haystack, and you don't want them to know what's happening to your maidenly virtue."

Allard did his best to remember when he'd had maidenly virtue (about twenty years ago) and decided that being quietly ravished had distinct possibilities.
It seems to me that some of those who find rape/"forced seduction" troubling in the romance genre may do so not because we believe "rape fantasies" or BDSM sex are inherently wrong or anti-feminist, but because they have so often appeared in scenes which, unlike that in Jones and Woolgrave's novel, have little or no consensual context.

Jessica at RRR recently linked to a post by Thomas MacAulay Millar in which he paraphrases Violet Blue:
She said the rise of rough sex and sort of BDSM-by-any-other-name in gonzo porn wasn’t a good thing: that it brought with it the physical and psychological aspects of BDSM (I’m paraphrasing here) and popularized them with a mainstream audience, but didn’t normalize all the ethical tools of negotiation and communication that should always go with that stuff.
Similarly, when a romance hero rapes or "forcibly seduces" his heroine, this is generally not separated out from their other interactions and marked as a "power play in the bedroom." Although Janet has suggested in another of her posts that it is possible to read rape/"forced seduction" scenes as sexual fantasy, a sort of unmarked BDSM scene in which all the negotiation and consent issues are negotiated in the reader's head, it seems clear that not all romance readers read the scenes this way. These readers therefore find themselves in a situation similar to the one MacAulay Millar and Blue discuss: situations in which they are watching/reading sexual activity which is not explicitly placed in the context of negotiation and consent. Blue writes that when she watches porn and finds "sex acts, or acts in sex, that are typically practiced consensually in BDSM" "in every DVD, without context, as part of a senseless formula" she finds this "creepy." The creepiness arises not from the acts themselves but from the lack of a consensual context which would clearly mark the scenes as safely negotiated acts of sexual play/fantasy.

This lack of context may be particularly important if it shapes viewers/readers' "sexual scripts." In romance novels protagonists who engage in unsafe sex rarely if ever contract diseases. Nonetheless, this fictional behaviour is not unproblematic if, as Diekman et al found, it encourages "negative attitudes toward condoms and reduced intent to use condoms in the future." Is it possible that heroes who override a heroine's lack of consent may also shape readers' behaviours? Could they be reinforcing a sexual script which discourages negotiation and "enthusiastic consent"?

That sexual script certainly exists, and Jaclyn Friedman has a few things to say about it:
many folks raised female have been taught that we ought not to have sexual desires, and certainly if we have them we shouldn’t talk about them, lest anyone think we’re slutty or something (and we all know what happens to sluts.) And lots of male-type folks are taught that they’re supposed to know what their partner wants without even having to ask, or else they’re not “real men.” So there’s stuff to overcome here, for sure. But I’m here to testify: it’s super-worth overcoming it. Because when you become able to talk about sex while you’re having it, not only do ensure that nobody’s raping anybody, but you have way, way better sex. You know more about what you’re partner wants in the moment, and your partner knows more about what you want, and, well, everybody gets more of what they want.
It seems, then, that as Lena Chen has stated,
Feminist sex doesn't have to be vanilla or very PC. But what differentiates it from your run-of-the-mill sexual encounter is that it recognizes the importance of satisfying everyone's needs. [...] And of course, feminist sex also means that we keep in mind how fluid sexual identity and experience can be. There isn't only one way to have sex, nor is there a "best" way.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sampling Sex

Psychologists A. Dana Ménard and Christine Cabrera recently set out to
gain an understanding of how sex and sexuality are portrayed in contemporary romance novels and to determine whether these portrayals have changed over the last 20 years. It was hypothesized that most depictions of sexuality in romance novels would adhere to Western sexual scripts (Gagnon 1977; Gagnon and Simon 1973; Simon and Gagnon 1986, 1987) and that this would not change over time. The sample consisted of books that had won the Romance Writers of America award for best contemporary single-title romance from 1989 to 2009. A quantitative content analysis revealed that hypotheses were supported with respect to characterization of the male and female protagonists, characterization and context of the romantic relationships, and order and nature of sexual behaviours.
I'm a literary critic, not a statistician, but it seems to me that sample size does matter if one is going to try to draw conclusions about an extremely large genre. The findings which Ménard and Cabrera report in "‘Whatever the Approach, Tab B Still Fits into Slot A’: Twenty Years of Sex Scripts in Romance Novels" are based on an analysis of
20 books and a total of 46 sex scenes. It is possible that some findings were non-significant because the relevant statistical tests were simply under-powered.
My own essay about bodies and sexuality in romance novels (which I co-wrote with Kyra Kramer), draws on only 26 primary texts; obviously I do think it's possible to use a sample of this size to demonstrate that certain character types and patterns of behaviour have been present in the genre for a very long time.

If, however, one wants to draw more precise conclusions about how common they are, I think one might want to use a much larger sample. Another important factor to consider is whether the sample is representative. Ménard and Cabrera state that
Rita award winners were chosen because it was thought that these novels might be considered especially representative or prototypical examples of the genre. They may also represent ideal romance novels that other authors might strive to emulate. In addition, the books included in this research sample all sold numerous copies [...]. Selecting Rita award winners may also have enhanced the comparability of books across time.
Single-title contemporary novels (i.e. released individually and taking place after 1945) were chosen because these books were thought to be the most likely to reflect the social mores regarding sex and sexuality at the time of their publication.
Clearly Ménard and Cabrera had some valid reasons for choosing these romances but it might have been wise for them to take a look at at least some erotic romances, lesbian romances, m/m romances, African-American romances and interracial romances. These are subgenres which have not tended to be recognised by the RWA's Rita awards but are nonetheless important parts of the genre.

As it was, their sample was "100% heterosexual," "95.0% non-discrepant (both Caucasian)" and "deviant sexual behaviours (e.g. use of lubrication, masturbation, anal stimulation, BDSM-inspired behaviours) were rarely depicted."

Had Ménard and Cabrera included erotic romances in their sample it seems highly unlikely that they would have concluded that
The total number of sex scenes was surprisingly low, given the lay reputation of romance novels; several books published recently included no sex scenes at all. These results may indicate an increasing trend towards less explicit sexual content in romance novels.
Indeed, that last statement makes me wonder if they were even aware of the existence of erotic romances.

It's important to note that Ménard and Cabrera do show some awareness of the limitations of their sample:
Given the small number of books, and the fact that all were Rita award winners, the generalizability of findings from this study is limited to English-language, North American, single-title contemporary romances. [...] It is possible that there may be more diversity in other romance sub-genres; future investigators may wish to compare and contrast sex, sexuality and gender roles across a variety of romance sub-genres (e.g. historical, paranormal, suspense).
The trouble is, there are plenty of erotic romances, lesbian romances, m/m romances, African-American romances and interracial romances which can also be classified as "English language, North American, single-title contemporary romances" and those sub-genres are not even mentioned here. I would urge "future investigators" working in this area to be aware of these sub-genres (and other relevant sub-genres which may emerge in the future).

  • Ménard, A. Dana and Christine Cabrera. "‘Whatever the Approach, Tab B Still Fits into Slot A’: Twenty Years of Sex Scripts in Romance Novels." Sexuality & Culture, Online First™, 3 April 2011.
The photo of the 21 ice-cream cones containing white ice-cream was taken by Thomas Hawk and is available at Flikr under an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic licence.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Minerva Press Novels and the Modern Romance Genre

Jessica from Read React Review recently co-presented a paper on “Re-Reading Authorial Intention and Imagination over Two Centuries: the Romantic-Era’s Minerva Press Novels and Today’s Popular Romances.” As Jessica notes, although Minerva Press novels "were not technically romances" they "definitely have elements that make them comparable to romance." If you've read Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey you'll have encountered the titles of some Minerva Press novels.
John Lane, the proprietor of the Minerva Press, was both the leading publisher of gothic fiction in England and the principal wholesaler of complete, packaged circulating libraries to new entrepreneurs. Consider the seven gothic novels on the list that Isabella Thorpe gave Catherine [in Chapter 6], for example: Mrs. Eliza Parsons's Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) and her Mysterious Warning (1796), Regina Maria Roche's Clermont (1798), Peter Teuthold's translation of Lawrence Flammenberg's Necromancer of the Black Forest (1794), Francis Lathom's Midnight Bell (1798), Eleanor Sleath's Orphan of the Rhine (1798), and Peter Will's translation of the Marquis of Grosse's Horrid Mysteries (1796). The Minerva Press issued all of them with the exception of the novel by Lathom, who later published several novels with the press. [...]
Many people opposed circulating libraries and especially their encouragement of young women in reading novels. In Northanger Abbey, Austen notes that even novelists had joined "with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages with disgust" (5:37). (Erickson 582-83)
Austen also offers a defence of novels:
Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which the press now groans. Let us not desert one another; we are an injured body. Although our productions have afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than those of any other literary corporation in the world, no species of composition has been so much decried. From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost as many as our readers. And while the abilities of the nine–hundredth abridger of the History of England, or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized by a thousand pens — there seems almost a general wish of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them. “I am no novel–reader — I seldom look into novels — Do not imagine that I often read novels — It is really very well for a novel.” Such is the common cant. “And what are you reading, Miss — ?” “Oh! It is only a novel!” replies the young lady, while she lays down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame. “It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda”; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best–chosen language. (Chapter 5)
Jessica and her co-presenter explored "some of the commonalities between Minerva press novels themselves, their production, their authorship, and their readership, and contemporary romance novels." You can read Jessica's summary of the talk, including the slides she used, over at her blog. My favourite quotes from the summary are:
Both Minerva Press novels and romance novels are subject to a bizarre juxtaposition, of being repetitive and boring, yet somehow at the same time, too exciting and salacious.
I discussed the import, from a feminist point of view, of not viewing romance novels as books. If they are not books, the 26 million women who read them regularly are not readers. This is not just constructing romance readers as passive. It is effacing them.
I'd encourage you to go and read the whole post.
  • Austen, Jane. Northanger Abbey.
  • Erickson, Lee. "The Economy of Novel Reading: Jane Austen and the Circulating Library." Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 30.4 (1990): 573-590.

I found the image at the Historical Romance UK blog.

Friday, April 08, 2011

It's Conference Season!

As Sarah is saying over at Romance University today, this is conference season for romance scholars as well as for romance authors and fans. Eric was the organiser of a session on "Foreign Affairs: Romance at the Boundaries" at the American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)'s World Literature, Comparative Literature conference, held from March 31 – April 3, 2011. Among the papers on offer were:
  • Eric Selinger, DePaul U: “Shards of Lyric, Tales of Love: The Poetry of Popular Romance”
  • Pamela Regis, McDaniel College: “Pamela Crosses the Atlantic”
  • An Goris, U of Leuven: “Otherness and Self: Body, Mind and Romantic Love in Nora Roberts’ Popular Romance Novels”
  • Guy Foster, Bowdoin College: “What to Read When Your Inner Tomboy is a Homo: Exploring Feminine Pleasure in M/M Gay Romance Fictions”
Still to come, there's the joint 2011 Popular Culture Association (PCA) and American Culture Association (ACA) conference, being held in San Antonio from April 20-23, 2011. There will be a number of sessions on romance. Where there is no summary for the whole session, I have included a very short summary of each paper and linked to the full synopsis.

Alternative Historicals: Sheikh Romance
Session Chair: Amy Burge
  • Dr Hsu-Ming Teo, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia: "Middle Eastern Realities and Orientalist Romances: History, Imperialism, and Regional Crises in Late Twentieth-Century Sheik Romance Novels."
  • Emily A. Haddad, University of South Dakota: "Harlequin ‘Presents’ Anglo-American Involvement in the Middle East at the End of the George W. Bush Administration."
  • Amy Burge, University of York, UK: "Dangerous Desire: Sexuality, Ethnicity and Miscegenation in Contemporary Sheikh Mills & Boon Romance and The King of Tars"
The title of the panel, ‘Alternative Historicals: Sheikh Romance’ is intended to indicate the unique ways in which sheikh romance deals in and with history and is suggestive of the idea that sheikh romances might be considered as a kind of ‘alternative’ historical, precisely because of its use of ‘history’. Furthermore the three papers each consider historical aspects of sheikh romance: Hsu-Ming Teo is looking at the relationship between conflict in the Middle East and the growth of the sheikh genre; Emily Haddad is considering the sheikh novel in a post-9/11 historical context; and Amy Burge's paper compares sheikh romance with a Middle English romance,The King of Tars.
Romance From the Past: Genre, Race, Rape, and Narrative Structure
Session Chair: Sarah Frantz
  • Christine Bolus-Reichert, Associate Professor, University of Toronto: “Knight-Errantry for Women: Du Maurier’s Romances Reconsidered.” Bolus-Reichert will be reassessing "the popular romances that kept Du Maurier’s name alive and her books on the shelves of public libraries: Jamaica Inn (1936), Rebecca (1938), and Frenchman’s Creek (1941)."
  • Katherine H. Lee, Indiana State University: “Love, 'Oriental'-Style: Reconsiderations of the Romance Novel and Early Asian American Literature.” Lee focuses on the work of Winnifred Eaton, a Canadian-born author "Of biracial descent (Chinese-British)" who published under the pseudonym "Onoto Watanna" and whose novel, "A Japanese Nightingale, [...] sold 200,000 copies, was published in France, England, and Spain, and adapted for the Broadway stage. It was the second in what would be a total of seven similarly-themed novels, published between 1898 and 1922."
  • Angela Toscano, University of Utah: “To Suffer a Sea-change: shipwrecks, pirates and the precondition of adventure in romance.” Toscano looks "at three examples of shipwreck and piracy as instances of the relationship between seascape and adventure [...]: Heliodorus’ Aethiopika, Laura London’s The Windflower, and Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows."
  • Sarah Frantz, Fayetteville State University: “The Rapist Hero and the Female Imagination.” Sarah Frantz begins "the process of examining the construction, history, contexts, transformations, power, and appeal of the hero of modern popular romance novels" and will "posit the rapist hero as a historically-specific, nationally-situated response to the social upheaval in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s."
Formula and Conventions: Cover Art, Nora Roberts, Translations and Happy Ending
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
Genre and Romance: Young Adult Literature, Westerns, Urban Fantasy, and Gaming
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
Beauty and the Beasts of Romance, Real and Imagined: Animal Studies, Bestiality, and Fairytales
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
  • Linda J. Lee, University of Pennsylvania: "Shifting Codes of Difference: Stigmatizing the Beautiful and the Monstrous in Popular Romance." Lee will "examine the way that monstrosity and beauty are recontextualized in romance novels where monstrosity is overtly cast as disfigurement."
  • Taylor Moorman, Montana State University: "The Pleasures of Tension: The Erotic Attraction of the Beauty and Beast Dichotomy in Popular Romance Novels." Moorman will "focus on Linda Jones’ DeButy and the Beast from the Lovespell’s Faerie Tale series, Silhouette’s Nighttime Sweethearts by Cara Colter and Teresa Medeiros’s, The Bride and the Beast. These texts center around notions of compromise, healing, and the breaking down of perceived barriers, concepts nearly as central to the romance genre as an emotionally fulfilling ending."
  • Nadine Farghaly, University of Salzburg, Austria: "Claiming the Human: Bestiality and Zoophilia in Romance Novels." Farghaly states that "it needs to be acknowledged that there is one trait that seems to belong dominantly to paranormal romance fiction, zoophilia. Using Katie MacAllister’s Silver Dragon and Aisling Grey series and J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series this paper analyzes how these authors reshape and reinterpret the aspects about bestiality in their stories."
  • Antonia Losano, Middlebury College: "Must Love Dogs: Animals in Romance and Romance in Animal Studies." Losano "wish[es] to [...] explore here the representation of love of companion animals (mainly dogs, although this is part of a larger project which thus far looks at dogs, cats, some horses, and one marten) in 20th century mainstream heterosexual romance fiction, using Heyer, Roberts and Crusie as exemplars."
Nudity, Infidelity, Celibacy, and Kink in Popular Romance Media
Session Chair: Sarah Frantz
  • Patrycja Wawryka, University of Ottawa: "Making Ripples: Women and Infidelity in Sex and the City 2." Wawryka will be asking "how important is fidelity in achieving a successful relationship? As a highly accessible and popular source of entertainment, what general messages can be discerned from the film about “making ripples” in a relationship?"
  • Amber Botts, Neodesha High School: "It IS Just Like Riding a Bike: Showalter and Cole’s Sexy & Celibate Immortal Heroes." Botts wonders why heroes who "are celibate for centuries (sometimes up to thousands of years). A few are even thousand-year-old virgins" are so popular: "Feminist role reversal serves as one answer. Jung’s connections between fairy tales and the collective unconscious offer another, and sociological study of constructed meanings of romantic love and virginity offer a third reason why these immortal heroes can be both celibate and sexy."
  • Claire Dalmyn, York University: "The Gimp in the Relationship: The Troubled Romance of Kink and Popular Culture." Dalmyn "will focus in particular on ways representations of kink in mainstream media both stigmatize and celebrate the experiences and values of kink people as deviations from a “vanilla” norm, and ways that kink communities in turn embrace or refute particular representations."
The Study of Romance: Aesthetics, Aca-Fandom, Theories, and the Structure of Romance
Session Chair: Eric Selinger
  • Catherine Roach, The University of Alabama: "Aca-Fandom and Deep Participant-Observation: Negotiating the Insider-Outsider Tension in Popular Romance Studies." Roach "identifies and analyses tensions among various subsets of the romance fiction community (as constituted primarily around the organizations Romance Writers of America and the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance), in order to explore the question of how an academic interested in popular romance fiction may best study the genre."
  • Eric Selinger, DePaul University: "Dead Women are Not Romantic: When Popular Romance Meets Literary Tradition." Selinger thinks it is "time to attend to the self-conscious engagements with literary and artistic tradition in popular romance fiction—not just as the sites of socio-political resistance, but as instances of a heretofore underappreciated aesthetic complexity" and will therefore "detail the metatextual pleasures to be found in [...] Welcome to Temptation, by Jennifer Crusie, and Natural Born Charmer, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips."
  • Theresa Stevens, Romance Professional: "Lost in Austen: When a Romance is Not a Romance." Stevens believes that Lost in Austen is "a useful tool for examining the competing theories of romance" because "No matter which of the several romance structure models we apply to Lost in Austen (including those proposed by Pamela Regis, Leslie Wainger, and Billy Mernit, among others), ultimately, the story can’t be held to conform to any of them."
  • Barbara Cicardo, University of Louisiana at Lafayette: "Infrastructure Reversed: Extratextuality in Kasey Michaels’s St. Just Series." Cicardo examines Kasey Michaels’s Maggie Kelly series, in which "one modern literary theory on textuality is turned outward from itself. The omniscient narrator sets the plotline first, cognizant of him/herself? as writer. Then Maggie Kelly, fictional author and protagonist of the novel, begins the actual story."
Identity Crises: Heteronormativity, Social Conventions, and Gender
Session Chair: Darcy Martin
  • Meredith Faust, DePaul University: "A 'strange, primitive feeling of lust': Heteronormative Rigidity in Herendeen's Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander." Faust "plan[s] to demonstrate that within the confines of Herendeen’s novel, and more specifically within the sex scenes of the novel, that the gender portrayals are not entirely subversive, but that they are more complicated than a representative / subversive binary."
  • Jayashree Kamble, University of Minnesota: " 'I Don't Know What That Means': Temperance Brennan as uncomprehending romance heroine in TV's Bones." Kamble argues that Temperance Brennan's "incomprehension of the demands of romance narrative is portrayed as evidence of clinical dissociation, i.e., as a symptom of a behavioral personality disorder related to childhood trauma. This move allows the imperative of eros interruptus that is vital to television drama to stave off the pressure to make Brennan a romance heroine."
  • Ashley Festa, Our Lady of the Lake University: "Selling That Loving Feeling: Who Are Romantic Advertisements Really Targeting?" Festa observes that "Some advertisements [...] appear to use romance to sell products to men, either speaking directly to men or promoting products only men can use. In my research, I will analyze whom these ads are effectively targeting and whether advertisers are aware of whom their ads are hitting. I believe women are the audience these types of commercials are affecting, whether or not they were intended for women."
Queering the Romantic Heroine: Past, Present, and Future
Session Chair: Katherine Lynch
  • Katherine Lynch, SUNY Rockland: "One Small Step for Romance: The Evolution of the Queer Female Hero."
  • Ruth Sternglantz, Editor, Bold Strokes Books: "Where the Wild Things Are: Contemporary Lesbian Romance and the Undomesticated Queer Hero."
  • Lynda Sandoval, Romance Author: "The Queer Heroine as a Reimagined Reflection."
  • Len Barot, Founder/President - Bold Strokes Books: "Queering the Alpha."
Dr. Katherine E. Lynch will trace the evolution of the queer romantic heroine in print, television, and film. Within the past decade, the rise of the queer female hero as a viable love interest reflects the rapidly changing landscape of sexual identity politics in early twenty-first century America. In “Where the Wild Things Are: Contemporary Lesbian Romance and the Undomesticated Queer Hero,” Dr. Ruth Sternglantz and Carsen Taite will argue that while the domestication of dangerous women in traditional romance (going back to the medieval period) was designed to diminish their queerness and bring them in line with societal expectations, in contemporary lesbian romance love enables queer women to embrace every aspect of their queerness. In “The Queer Heroine as a Re-imagined Reflection,” Lynda Sandoval will explore the ways in which queer heroines both converge with and diverge from their heterosexual counterparts within the genre of traditional romance. And in “Queering the Alpha,” Len Barot will map the ways in which contemporary female heroes in the sub-genres of lesbian intrigue and paranormal romances have adapted the characteristics of the alpha male of the traditional heterosexual romance.
There will also be an

Open Forum: The State of Popular Romance Scholarship
Open discussion about the current state of romance studies, including: the progress of the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance, the past and future publication of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, IASPR's conference in New York City in July 2011, in Toronto in October 2012, and in Istanbul in 2013, the planned Popular Romance Studies Special Issue of the Journal of American Culture in 2013, and current Call For Papers for popular romance-themed anthologies or academic monographs.
and a

Special Session: Authors and Performers
Romance professionals -- both authors and performers -- discuss their careers, their motivations, the highs and lows of their experiences in their industries, and why they wouldn't do anything else.
After that there's the annual IASPR conference. This year it's taking place in New York from the 26th-28th of June.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

CFP: Midwest PCA Conference 2011

2011 Midwest Popular Culture Association Conference

Friday-Sunday, October 14-16, 2011
Milwaukee, WI
Hilton Milwaukee City Center

(Conference info: )

Deadline for submission: April 30, 2011.

The most prevalent narrative structure of popular romance is an integral element of any story, regardless of forum: film, television, fiction, manga, advertising. Not only is romance exceptionally popular, it is so pervasive as to become ordinary and overlooked. As the popularity of romance increases, so too does the need for serious scholarship of the genre in all its incarnations. We are interested in any and all topics about or related to popular romance and its representations in popular culture (fiction, stage, screen-large or small, commercial, advertising, music, song, dance, online, real life, etc.)

Proposals may be for individual papers or 3-person panels.

Topics can include, but are not limited to:

* critical approaches, such as readings informed by critical race theory, queer theory, postcolonial studies, or empirical science
* depictions in the media and popular culture (e.g., film, television, literature, comics)
* literature and fiction (genre romance, poetry, animé)
* types of relationships (marriage, gay and lesbian)
* historical practices and traditions of and in romance
* regional and geographic pressures and influences (southern, Caribbean)
* material culture (valentines, foods, fashions)
* folklore and mythologies
* jokes and humor
* romantic love in political discourse (capitalism)
* psychological approaches toward romantic attraction
* emotional and sexual desire
* subcultures: age (seniors, adolescents), multi-ethnic, inter-racial
* individual creative producers or texts of popular romance
* gender-bending and gender-crossing

Please send 250-word abstracts on any aspect of popular romance to Maryan Wherry, Black Hawk College.

Please include name, affiliation and e-mail address with the 250-word abstract.