Saturday, March 31, 2012

Personality Tests

"I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too"

There's been quite a bit of theorising and discussion about readers' personalities and preferences which I wanted to see if I could piece together. Since I'm going to touch on controversial topics and describe reader responses which are not my own, comments which offer clarification and corrections will be particularly gratefully received.

Which of these two columns best describes your personality?

Column One
Column Two
  • Very independent
  • Not at all emotional
  • Very objective
  • Not at all easily influenced
  • Very dominant
  • Likes math and science very much
  • Very active
  • Very competitive
  • Very worldly
  • Very direct
  • Very adventurous
  • Can make decisions easily
  • Almost always acts as a leader
  • Very self-confident
  • Very ambitious
  • Very talkative
  • Very tactful
  • Very gentle
  • Very aware of feelings of others
  • Very religious
  • Very interested in own appearance
  • Very neat in habits
  • Very quiet
  • Very strong need for security
  • Enjoys art and literature
  • Easily expresses tender feelings
[adapted from Broverman et al,  page 63.]

If you're a woman who feels as though you ought to say column two, but would really like to let loose the column one characteristics you've repressed, perhaps you’re the kind of reader whom Laura Kinsale and Linda Barlow describe in their essays in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.
In “The Androgynous Reader,” Laura Kinsale asks
What does it mean to a woman to feel – to want keenly to feel – what the male character feels as she reads?
I think that, as she identifies with a hero, a woman can become what she takes joy in, can realize the maleness in herself, can experience the sensation of living inside a body suffused with masculine power and grace [...], can explore anger and ruthlessness and passion and pride and honor and gentleness and vulnerability [...]. In short, she can be a man. (37) 
Kinsale believes that what many readers “savor [...] is the freedom to expand into all the aspects, feminine and masculine, of their own being” (40). In “The Androgynous Writer: Another View of Point of View,” Linda Barlow, who is
not ashamed to admit that I’ve always been one of those die-hard fans of the old-fashioned, hard-edged romances which feature a feisty heroine who falls into love and conflict with a dangerous hero with sardonic eyebrows and a cruel but sensual mouth. (45)
argues that this type of romance hero is actually “a significant aspect of feminine consciousness itself” (46) and she adds that he provides female readers with
the means of facing and accepting the angry, aggressive, sexually charged components of our personality that we have been taught to associate with masculinity. From childhood, males have more outlets for their aggressions – sports, horseplay, roughhousing, the rite of passage schoolyard fight and resultant black eye that parents (especially fathers) seem willing to tolerate. They also have more outlets for their sexuality, the expression of which is not only tolerated but encouraged. Females, on the other hand, are instructed from childhood to control, repress, or even split off their aggressive and erotic drives. (49-50)
In other words, he embodies the traits in column one. If Kinsale and Barlow are right, then while romances which pair ultra-feminine (albeit feisty) heroines with ultra-masculine heroes ostensibly endorse gender stereotypes, they simultaneously allow readers to experience a fuller range of emotions and behaviours than they are permitted by gender stereotypes.
Recently there have been discussions about how "the m/m genre is in a very large part, hostile to (fictional) women" (Voinov) and there has also been controversy (beginning here and continued here and here) about readers of m/m romance who really only want to read cis-m/cis-m romance. ["Cis" is a term used to "refer to someone who is comfortable with the gender assigned to them at birth. Same for cissexual. If you’re comfortable with the sex assigned to you at birth, you’re probably cissexual" (Bran).]
Neither Kinsale nor Barlow discuss m/m romance but I can't help but think about their theories on androgynous readers and wonder if trans* protagonists are being rejected for similar reasons to those which cause some readers and writers to turn to m/m fiction. Could it be that the presence of a heroine would serve as a constant reminder to an "androgynous reader" that women are still expected (to a greater or lesser degree) to express the characteristics in column two? And is it perhaps possible that a trans* protagonist in a m/m romance would also make explicit issues of gender which the "androgynous reader" would rather not deal with when attempting to "realize the maleness in herself"?
Joanna Russ once observed that female authors writing m/m slash are
in disguise. They’re disguised as a man. I once noticed that in slash there are so many references to these characters’ penises that it’s like a little label that says “Hello, I am” and the name. [...] I think it’s something like this. As I said, the characters are not exactly male. They’re disguises of some sort, kind of like “I have the proper genitals so I am male, please remember that.” (Francis and Piepmeier)
Could it perhaps be that some "androgynous" authors and readers feel that the anatomy of trans* protagonists would not serve so well as a disguise for female authors and readers? In addition could the "abhorrence of what's called 'girly bits' or 'girl parts', or 'vay jay'" (Voinov) in m/m romance and a marked preference for cis-male protagonists, stem from the cultural associations of different types of genitalia? Braun and Wilkinson "posit that experiences of the biological body are constructed by social/cultural/historical context and that interpretations of bodies need to be considered within context" (18). Part of that context is that
The vagina is often represented as part of the female body that is shameful, unclean, disgusting. [...] Women 'are brought up in a society which tells us that our bodies smell' (Smith, 1987, p. 21). Genital slang often invokes smell (e.g. stench trench) (Braun & Kitzinger, 1999a; Mills, 1991); to be called a 'smelly cunt' is a horrible insult (Smith, 1987). Laws (1987, p. 13) noted that 'many women hate their discharges, and find them very smelly and unpleasant . . . These attitudes come from our culture’s making out that women’s bodies are dirty, mysterious, oozing strange fluids - different from men’s, therefore wrong.’ (21-22)
In contrast, as Kyra Kramer and I have noted,
while “generally ethnographers have concluded that few men actually equate their manhood with their genitalia, nonetheless many studies indicate that they are a favorite point of reference” (Gutmann 396). Regardless of the cause of the conflation,
The penis is what men have and women do not; the phallus is the attribute of power which neither men nor women have. But as long as the attribute of power is a phallus which refers to and can be confused […] with a penis, this confusion will support a structure in which it seems reasonable that men have power and women do not. (Gallop 97)

Perhaps to some readers and authors no less than two penises capable of provding the reader with a "money shot" can symbolically ward off "shameful, unclean, disgusting" femininity and allow access the access to the personaity traits in columnn one?
  • Barlow, Linda. "The Androgynous Writer: Another View of Point of View." Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Ed. Jayne Ann Krentz. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1992. 45-52.
  • Braun, V. and S. Wilkinson. "Socio-cultural Representations of the Vagina." Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 19.1 (2001): 17-32.
  • Broverman, Inge K, Susan Raymond Vogel, Donald M. Broverman, Frank E. Clarkson, and Paul S. Rosenkrantz. "Sex-Role Stereotypes: A Current Appraisal." Journal of Social Issues 28.2 (1972): 59-78. 
  • Francis, Conseula and Alison Piepmeier. "Interview: Joanna Russ." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 1.2 (2011).

  • Kinsale, Laura. "The Androgynous Reader: Point of View in the Romance." Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Ed. Jayne Ann Krentz. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1992. 31-44. 

The image is of "The Gripsholm Portrait, though[t] to be Elizabeth I of England" (via Wikimedia Commons). The caption is taken from a speech she gave in 1588 as the Armada approached England's shores.

Friday, March 30, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (7)

Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:45am - 11:15am

Vampire Diaries' Damon and True Blood's Eric: Dicks or Dreamboats?
Amber Botts - Neodesha High School/Independence Community College

The Vampire Diaries' Damon and True Blood's Eric  both display a number of traits that are typical of alpha heroes. However, they go beyond romance scholarship's definition of traditional alpha behavior with extremely violent and unredeemably bad behavior that often risks more than the heroine's virtue or loyalty to her more typically "good" boyfriend. Still, fans passionately advocate for these ultra-bad boys to be paired with the heroines.  The question is why.  The answer lies in the complexity of their appeal, which stretches the old alpha/beta hero delineation. In romance scholarship, writers Tami Camden, Caro LaFever, and Sue Viders observe that today romance heroes have gone beyond previously defined divisions of heroes into alphas and betas, and they have defined eight archetypes of heroes.  Of these, Damon and Eric still do not fit any one archetype, but instead, fit several (the  Chief, Bad Boy, and Lost Soul, with a dash of Charmer); thus, they create a new kind of hero, the Dick Dreamboat.

New Editions and TV Movies: A Methodology for Decoding the Romance Novel Genome
Jayashree Kamble - University of Minnesota

When a mass-market romance is adapted for a new edition or a new medium, it changes fundamentally. In effect, an adaptation destabilizes the hybrid form termed “romance novel.”

When a romance novel is adapted for a new edition, its alterations involve a change in the “romance” half of its composite identity. For instance, when Lisa Kleypas’s New Orleans-set historical romance Only in Your Arms (1992) was reissued as When Strangers Marry (2002), it had its hero renounce his slave-owning life in a conversation with the heroine; in the ten years between the two editions, the author-publisher apparently decided that the narrative could not be romantic without fixing the hero’s culpability in slavery. Such an adaptation, though a rarity in the genre, helps examine the evolution of the “romance” strand of the “romance novel”. On the other hand, the transformation of a romance into a movie is not just a step away from the written medium, but more specifically, from the narrative conventions that have been collectively termed the Novel since the seventeenth century. When Nora Robert’s romances are scripted into tv movies for Lifetime, for instance, it is not the new medium that prevents their being effective representations of the books--it is the absence of the Novel conventions that are privileged highly by the “romance novel” and are an inextricable part of its identity.

Movie adaptations may thus retain the “romance” yet diverge from the “novel”, while new book adaptations preserve the novelistic elements and medium while offering a changed conception of “romance.” Each transformation exposes the hinge between the two individual concepts that have been yoked together under the nomenclature “romance novel.” Studying adaptations is therefore useful because they are mutations that reveal the genre’s constructed nature and the role of its two strands of DNA, so to speak.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (6)

Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm

The “Noble Savage” and “Happy Darky”: Race and the American Popular Romance
Maryan Wherry - Black Hawk College

This paper examines the use race in the American popular romance. Rather than focusing on “the Black Romance,” I’m interested specifically at the presence and treatment of Blacks and American Indians as secondary characters and in subplots and how this racial tension confronts (or not) the American cultural narrative.

“He Didn’t Seem Indian”: Exploring and Analyzing the Construction of Race in Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows
Mallory Jagodzinski - Bowling Green State University

Historical romance novels, as a whole, tend to be overwhelmingly white, especially those set in England.  There are few characters of color in these novels and often are not privileged to be either the hero or heroine in the central love story of the novel.  Meredith Duran’s The Duke of Shadows, however, subverts this tendency by making her hero a native of India “whose blood [is] one-quarter native” (16).  This paper explores the ways in which Duran’s English heroine encounters and experiences race under the British colonial regime in India and during the rebellion of 1857. Throughout the novel, the heroine’s views on race and what is moral are challenged by the hero and his status as an individual with double consciousness.  In this paper, I will use textual analysis to analyze Duran’s portrayals of race and colonialism in order to suggest that the way she represents colonialism demonstrates that she is interested not only in depicting the reality of colonial violence, but also in making the reader uncomfortable with hierarchical systems of reality by depicting the reality of its effects.  I will be utilizing the theories of Frantz Fanon and Lola Young, each of whom discusses the process of colonization and what it does to both to the white colonizers and the colonized individuals; Young’s work in “Imperial Culture: The Primitive, the Savage and White Civilization” will be of utmost importance to my essay as she engages with issues of history and representation.  In addition to these theorists, I will make use of works that address issues of creating racial progressives such as Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s Racism Without Racists to argue that Duran constructs her heroine as a woman who becomes aware of her white privilege through the understanding of her inferior position in the colonial system due to her gender.

Protest Like an Egyptian: Tracing Erotic Investments in the Middle East through Desert Romances
Amira Jarmakani - Georgia State University

The spring 2011 Arab uprisings provoked an interesting set of engagements in the U.S., such as the placards at the Wisconsin rallies to save unions from demolition, which read “Protest like an Egyptian.”  One particular engagement, the blog “Gay Girl in Damascus,” received substantial media attention for its brazen deceitfulness – many readers had been following the story of a Syrian lesbian facing persecution by the secret police only to find out that the blogger behind the story was a heterosexual white man from Georgia (USA).  Though it may be tempting to understand these kinds of investments in the Middle East as a new phenomenon, they have been clearly prefigured by the steady rise in popularity of desert romances since 2001, and, indeed, by their longstanding position within the genre as a whole.  Particularly given the ongoing “war on terror,” how can one account for the rise in desert romances as viable fantasy narratives?  Groping toward an answer to this question, I focus on the roles of fantasy and violence in both the film Sex and the City 2 (a type of desert romance, I argue, though it lacks some of the elements) and contemporary desert romances. Through mimicry, which tends to enact a kind of violence to the other (in its desire to subsume the other) and menace, which tends to play on the fear of violence from the other, I argue that the two together underscore a potential reason for the salience of the Middle East in the contemporary context: both represent actual and phantasmatic violences that perhaps psychically or subliminally connect to the violence inherent to the process of identification.

Saving China: The Transformative Power of Whiteness in the Interracial Romance
Erin Young - SUNY Empire State College

This project examines the novels of Elizabeth Lowell (Jade Island, 1998) and Katherine Stone (Pearl Moon, 1995), both of which explore romantic relationships between a white hero and a mixed-race Asian (and white) heroine.  I argue that these interracial romances invert the conventional romance formula by featuring white heroes who domesticate their Asian heroines, and in turn, the family-owned companies they represent, thereby “modernizing” corporations that are portrayed as overtly patriarchal, regressive, and anti-capitalist.  Lowell’s and Stone’s respective narratives reveal that a racial and nationalist hierarchy is potentially (re)affirmed in the formulaic conventions of popular romance.

In their negotiations of interracial romantic relationships, both novels construct conflicts between Orientalist conceptions of “East” and “West.”  The Asian heroines have been traumatized by a particular depiction of Chinese culture and its anti-capitalist leanings.  The Chinese family and community functions as a regressive past in which individual desires and feelings are painfully oppressed, and defined roles are marked by an extreme enforcement of gender inequality.  Lowell and Stone construct “Chineseness” as something that must be rescued from itself; Jade Island and Pearl Moon are essentially narratives of progress, in which the Chinese community may offer security at the expense of freedom, but the British and/or American corporation has the ability to offer more satisfactory versions of both.  The hero, who represents the (white) British or American corporation, introduces the Chinese heroine to a “domesticated” workplace—one that is specifically racialized and nationalized—and she is transformed in the process.  The conventional (white) heroine’s gendered victory is reconfigured as a racial and national victory for the heroes of interracial romance.  These novels reveal that whiteness, despite its invisibility in the majority of romance novels, is central to the formulaic conventions of the genre.  More importantly, perhaps, they suggest that the contemporary romance alleviates particular racial and national anxieties that emerge out of a global economy.    

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gaudeamus Igitur


First there were Dr No and Dr Who. Today, at long last, they are joined by Dr Allan, who has successfully defended his thesis on "The First Time and the Mourning After: A Study of Love, Loss, and Virginity."

The image from the Dr No trailer came from Wikimedia Commons, the poster of Dr Who's sonic screwdriver was created by Jacob Fredrickson, who made it available at Flikr under a Creative Commons licence. The final image came from Wikimedia Commons.

PCA/ACA 2012 - (5)

Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 9:45am - 11:15am

Looking at Character and Conflict in Popular Romance through the Johari Window
Chryssa Sharp - Lindenwood University

As the discipline of Popular Romance studies grows, one question is what models and theories can other fields contribute to the discussion of Romance studies?  Since one of the central elements of a romance novel is that, “the main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work” (“About the Romance Genre”), one way to analyze the romantic story is to focus on the factors which influence the nature of the relationship between the hero and heroine (or hero/hero; heroine/heroine).  In this regard, the field of Organizational Behavior can provide some unique perspectives through which to do this analysis.  Organizational Behavior is the study of how people behave in organizations.  For the purposes of this paper, “organization” will be defined as the community within which the hero/heroine function.

The Johari Window is a tool for analyzing interpersonal interactions as well as people’s perceptions of themselves and others.   The four quadrants of the Johari Window are derived from the idea of what information is known to the “self” and to “others” with the different quadrants being classified as open (known to both), blind (known to others, unknown to self), hidden (known to self, unknown to others) and unknown areas (unknown to both)  (Luft).   This information could pertain to values, attitudes, beliefs, experiences, goals, desires, needs etc., in short, the many internal building blocks of both characterization and conflict used by Romance authors to build a story.   (A diagram of the Johari Window is attached.)

Awareness grounded in the ideas of the Johari Window can help people become more comfortable with each other and/or identify and explain sources of conflict.  It is this latter point which could be of particular interest for scholars of Romance fiction.  What techniques are authors using to build inter-personal conflict and tension into the Romance?  How are these conflicts resolved?  What roles do the people around the couple – friends, family and co-workers – play in shifting the frames of the Johari Window, thus aiding or hindering the couple on their path to romantic resolution?

On a more meta level, do certain authors favor particular positioning of their protagonists?  How do these authors move both protagonists to the Open Area – the quadrant which helps support a relationship?

Eternal Love: representations of the "post-HEA" in Nora Roberts' and J.R. Ward's popular romance fiction
An Goris - University of Leuven

The Happy Ever After – or HEA – is often considered one of the most salient narrative characteristics of the contemporary popular romance novel, which traditionally ends on this happy note of promised everlasting romantic happiness. Yet in recent years, in part due to the proliferation of narrative series in the romance genre, popular romance novels increasingly frequently contain scenes that are located in what I call the “post-HEA” – i.e. the time in the fictional world after the HEA has been established. In this paper I explore the representations of such post-HEA scenes in paranormal romance series by Nora Roberts and J.R. Ward, two of the genre’s most popular authors. While post-HEA scenes are extensively featured in both Roberts’ and Ward’s paranormal series, a number of significant differences between these representations exist. In this paper I suggest that an analysis of these differences provides crucial insights not only into Roberts’ and Ward’s respective authorial voices, but also into how the complex conceptual functioning of the HEA in the romance generic narrative is complicated and potentially subverted by the narrative representation of the post-HEA. As such this paper then contributes to a better understanding of the romance’s happy ending, which is not only one of the genre’s most crucial but also one of its most maligned characteristics.

Romancing the Adaptation: The Princess Bride as a Classic Tale of True Love
Lindsay Hayes - University of Oklahoma

It’s been said that there are two kinds of people- those who love The Princess Bride and those who have not seen it. 25 years after the film’s release, its status as a cult classic is unquestioned.  But what about the novel upon which the film is based? This paper will explore The Princess Bride as an adaptation.

Portrayals of romance in the book and film will be explored. What elements of plot and character are depicted as being particularly romantic or the ideal of romance?  The characterization of love will also be examined. What makes this a story of “true love?”  How is love shown by one character for another? Differences in depictions of romance and love in the novel versus the film are discussed. The novel and film as metanarrative will also be considered.

Other subsequent adaptations will also be explored in brief.

A Union Heart: Josie Underwood's Civil War Romance
Amelia Serafine - Loyola University, Chicago

“He is not the hero of my heart with his disunion ideas!” This quote comes to us from the Civil War diary of Kentucky slave-holding unionist Josie Underwood. Underwood speaks of her frustrating secessionist beau, a theme which is recurrent and intermingled with descriptions of the sentimental romantic literature she both consumed and imagined for herself. This diary, and others like it, offers a rich and nuanced understanding of the expression of female lives, and through an understanding of the language and tropes utilized, their political expressions as well. As a wealthy Southern woman raised in leisure, novel reading was an emotionally and intellectually important part of Underwood’s life. Her diary illustrates the manner in which Underwood articulated herself through the familiar medium of sentimental literature, and integrated her politics into that medium in ways specific to the crisis of disunion.
This presentation is part of a larger work which explores Southern women’s expressions of self during the Civil War. In the case of Josie Underwood, her sense of self was articulated through sentimental romance, a language which both complicated and realized her political beliefs. Ultimately, Underwood married her romantic ideals with her Union politics, spurring the much-beloved Tom Grafton. For Underwood, the novels she read gave her a language in which to imagine romantic sentiment as political action. Her diary speaks to the utilization of romantic elements in women’s political choices, and suggests that for many, romantic literature was or could easily become a political tool.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Quick Quotes: Autonomy and Agency

Over at Read React Review, Jessica has been posting about the concepts of autonomy and agency which she's teaching in her course on feminist philosophy. She notes that one way of defining "autonomy" would be to think of it as being “realized by the right sort of reflective self-understanding or internal coherence along with an absence of undue coercion or manipulation by others.” Later, she adds that
it is conceptually impossible for there to be autonomy without agency. Agency is the bare capacity to act. It’s not a normative conception. A brainwashed person is still an agent, for example. I think in romanceland and everyday speech, “agency” means something more along the lines of autonomy, but that’s not how I use the terms [...]. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the conflation of agency and autonomy in romanceland is predictable given the general reluctance to look beyond individual psychology to structural, social conditions of choice and action.
Thinking about whether autonomy can only exist in the "absence of undue coercion or manipulation by others," and whether this is an issue which is shied away from due to a "general reluctance to look beyond individual psychology to structural, social conditions of choice and action" reminded me of the following quote from Rose Lerner's In for a Penny. Penelope, the heroine, is the daughter of a successful brewer who's recently married an almost-bankrupt aristocrat. Her encounters with the impoverished workers on her husband's estate make her "look beyond individual psychology to structural, social conditions of choice and action":
Penelope had always believed that if you put your mind to it, worked hard, and didn't whine, there was no reason you shouldn't solve nearly any problem. She was beginning to realize that she had never had such huge, hopeless problems as this woman. (106)

Lerner, Rose. In for a Penny (New York: Dorchester, 2010).

PCA/ACA 2012 - (4)

Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 8:00am - 9:30am

“The Person Behind the Curtain”: Evolving Roles of Author and Audience in Paranormal Romance
Esther Guenat -  Temple College

When considering reader response criticism and its focus on examining literature and its readers in such a way that explores the diversity of readers’ responses to literary works, one might not immediately consider audiences of popular fiction, let alone audiences of romance novels. Readers of urban fantasy and paranormal romance are becoming much more diverse—both regarding who does the reading and those readers’ expectations—and the writing of each has evolved along with the audiences. While the use of supernatural aspects, sexual exploration, and urban locale were different standards of the two sub-genres, the conventional romance remained the same, as did reader expectation—heterosexual women sought out tales of supernaturally enhanced heterosexual relationships that ended in happily ever after. Recent reader-oriented critics have focused on how a given type of fiction audience’s expectations change over time; feminist and gender critics ask whether there is such a thing as “reading like a woman,” just as gay and lesbian critics ask whether there is a homosexual way of reading. Audience expectation of urban fantasy and paranormal romance has become much more diverse in its response—to gender roles, homosexual relationships, and even heterosexual relationships—and the formulas of these two sub-genres are no longer exact. Various authors have been able to somewhat adapt and evolve their writing so that it encompasses and allows for a more diverse following. Through this examination of works of various urban fantasy and paranormal romance authors, I explore the way the conventional romance novel formula is changing, how the readership of the genre is changing, and how authors of the genre are responding to and adapting to this change, thus creating a sub-genre of popular fiction that defies conventional ideas of romance and matches its audience in diversity.

"I am so over the whole vampires and werewolves and demons, oh my": How a Series of Steampunk "Romances" Offered This Romance Reader an Alternative to Paranormals
Glinda Hall - Arkansas State University

It is not difficult to acknowledge the popularity and role that the paranormal plays and has played within our culture, and especially throughout our literature.  For romance fiction, it is easy to understand the appeal because the paranormal allows for sexual expression and experimentation that readers may not dare fantasize about within mainstream and/or contemporary romance.  However, when I began my journey as a romance reader and scholar some 8 years ago, I also found paranormals appealing for this very reason; but now I have become disillusioned with the illusion.  Not to overplay a feminist approach to romance fiction, but (thanks to the saturation of the Twilight series) it seems the paranormal has outlived its usefulness in terms of its once used format for sexual exploration.

In my paper presentation, I will show how Gail Carriger’s steampunk series – Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless – gives us a heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, that represents a strong, intelligent female, but also one literally immune to the supernatural that is a very real part of her alternative Victorian reality.  Alexia is an anti-paranormal protagonist, and this anti-paranormal plot schematic and characterization exposes devises used by romance paranormals and counters them.

Re-imagining the Heroine as a 'Slave to Desire': Power Games and (Hetero) Sexual Rhetoric in Labyrinth and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fanfiction
Danielle Lawson - Edinboro University

This paper explores the sexual rhetoric of power games, specifically representations of erotic power exchange in fanfiction written for the Labyrinth (Jim Henson) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Joss Whedon) fandoms. In particular, this research is concerned with the erotic power dynamic represented between the primary ‘romantic’ relationships in both original stories: Jareth/Sarah (Labyrinth) and Spike/Buffy (BtVS). Although the genres and intended audiences of the movie/tv show differ greatly, there are many similarities in the way the relationship dynamic between the characters is developed by authors of fanfiction. Using a combination of rhetorical analysis and critical discourse analysis, this study demonstrates how authors of hetero-oriented fanfiction re-claim the ‘dominant male/submissive female’ construct as an acceptable relationship dynamic. Moreover, the research presented shows that this re-claiming serves to build a subtext of feminine power, wherein the heroine is empowered (rather than oppressed) by accepting that they have the freedom to submit to their desires – even if that desire is to be dominated. In reaching this point, the male antagonists engage in a three phase power game: 1) Setting the Bait, 2) The Chase and 3) The Surrender. Other themes discussed include the disconnect between romance, power and ‘happily ever after’.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RWA Academic Research Grant 2012

The RWA has just announced that its
2012 Academic Research Grant goes to Stacey E. Holden for her work "Not Deserted after the Storm: Images of Arab Political Systems in Romance Novels."
According to Stacy's CV, the full title of the project is “Not Deserted after the Storm: Images of Arab Political Systems in Romance Novels Published after 9/11.”

PCA/ACA 2012 - (3)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 6:30pm - 8:00pm

African American Romance Novels: Reinventing Images of African American Women
Ann White and Tamara Buck - Southeast Missouri State University

Despite stereotypes of romance fiction as “trashy” and “poorly written” Americans spend millions of dollars each year on romance novels, and many of those books are African American romances – books that are written by African American writers and feature characters in settings familiar to their readers. According to market reports, African-American readers make up the fastest growing segment of the romance reading community, accounting for about 25 percent of the romances sold.

African American romances have a unique history.  One of the goals of African American publishers has been to provide outlets for the publication of material that enlightens and informs African Americans, and another has been to oppose the stereotypical images of African Americans that have pervaded mainstream media. The earliest of these efforts began in the late 19th century with the publication of work by African American women writers who created characters that were in opposition to the stereotypes of African American women in antebellum literature.

In this paper, I look at the history of African American romance novels through the lens of cultural representation. This is particularly significant for producers of African American romances because it gives those producers the power to control images of African American women that circulate in culture. The production of contemporary African American romances also provides writers an opportunity to challenge to the stereotypical images of African American female characters that appeared in American literature during the 19th and early 20th centuries, and that have reinforced stereotypical images of African American women.

“Outlaw stories in our own papers”: Heroic Outlaws in African American Romance
Sarah Ficke - Marymount University

The popularity of Beverly Jenkins’s novels set in the West testifies to our continued fascination with outlaws and other desperados from America’s frontier. However, the novels Jenkins writes do more than simply translate the character of the White outlaw into a Black story. Her engagement with the complex experiences of African Americans in the West and the nuanced motivations of her outlaw heroes (and sometimes heroines) encourage her readers to see these novels as educational interventions that recapture stories that were untold, or untellable, in the nineteenth century. Black outlaws, and cowboys like Nat Love, were instrumental Western figures, but they were not translated into fictional heroes until the late 20th century.

In this paper I will examine the outlaw as hero, focusing particularly on the historical novels of Beverly Jenkins, including The Taming of Jessi Rose, Something Like Love, and Wild Sweet Love, and their relationship to nineteenth century works of African American romantic fiction, including Winona by Pauline Hopkins and Clotel by William Wells Brown. As Jenkins notes in Wild Sweet Love, the presence of Black outlaws mattered to the African American population, and for more than their entertainment value. However, there were few outlaws in nineteenth century African American romances, and none of them are the heroes. The heroes are doctors, soldiers, or intellectuals. The outlaws haunt the margins of these stories, but never get a happily ever after.  I argue that the absence of black outlaw heroes in nineteenth century African American romantic fiction highlights the connections between personal romances and national politics in the history of American race relations, and the outlaws’ appearance in Jenkins’s novels in the twentieth century shows the key role that romances continue to play in our national dialogue.

You Still Can't Do That on Television! (Or Can You?): Racism and Interracial Coupledom in American Television
Jacqueline Brown - Independent Scholar

Monday, March 19, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (2)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 4:45pm - 6:15pm

A Rake’s Progress: Examining the Archetype of the Rake in Popular Romance
Angela Toscano - Independent Scholar

The rake or the rakehell is a stock character first appearing in Restoration era dramas. The English equivalent of the French libertine, the rake’s function in novels of the 18th century was primarily to serve as the antagonist or moral counterpoint to the more worthy hero or heroine. For example, in Richardson’s Clarissa, Lovelace’s rape of Clarissa and his eventual death highlight Clarissa’s virtue while revealing his own moral outlook as deficient and ultimately vacuous. Thus the rake also functions to expose the corruption of the aristocracy and the ideologies of which he is a proponent. Because of this, canonical literature features a rake’s progress that nearly always results in an early death preceded by an act of contrition or penance.

While the rake in popular romance shares certain qualities with his Restoration and 18th-century counterparts, he deviates from the type in one significant way: he is redeemed and he lives. By giving to the rake a happily-ever-after, popular romance both retains and reforms the structure of the rake’s story. More curiously, the redemption of the rake doesn’t necessarily result in a total shift in the character’s morality. In many novels, the rake’s redemption is not dependent upon moral rectitude but only on sexual fidelity to the heroine. It is by admitting that he loves the heroine that the rake is reformed. By tracing his literary genealogy down to his more contemporary characterizations, I wish to explore what it is about the rake that is so appealing to romance narrative that he has become one of the most oft repeated types of character.

Meet Paperback Michelangelo and the Queen of Gothic Romance
Brigita Jeraj - LMU Munich

My paper deals with Phyllis A. Whitney and Michael Avallone who were among the most popular writers in the 1960s, when Gothic romance boomed in the paperback market. For marketing reasons, Avallone pretended to be a female writer by using pseudonyms like Dorothea Nile, Edwina Noone, and Priscilla Dalton for his “Gothics”. Avallone picks up the genre’s convention of playing with the reader’s expectations. But is there a notable difference in writing between a male writer, who passes for female, and a female writer, when both of them address their fiction primarily to a female audience? Not only because of its popularity, but also because of the particular handling of gender and emotion in and apart from the text, Avallone’s and Whitney’s work surely is worth exploring in the Gothic context.

Both writers published in various fields of literature and thought a lot about the process of writing itself. Avallone once said: “A professional writer should be able to write anything from a garden seed catalogue to the Bible and everything that lies in between” (The Little Times, Jan 27, 1982). Manuscripts were discussed regularly and the self-crowned “Fastest Typewriter in the East” and Phyllis Whitney were closest friends most of their life-time, which is documented by various letters and notes. The correspondence and literary remains of both writers are accessible in an archive in Boston and provide an interesting insight into (Gothic) romance writing.

Trends in Queer Romance Publishing: 2004-2012
Len Barot - Bold Strokes Books, Inc

The early models for queer publishing were formed during the feminist and gay movements of the 1970s and early 1980s. Dozens of small independent presses sprang up to supply the hundreds of independent feminist and gay bookstores throughout the US and abroad. Publishers generally supplied vendors directly, without using distributors as the “middle-men.” While libraries carried many queer titles, most non-feminist/non-gay bookstores did not. Sales of popular titles (by historical report) were 20,000 or more. In the last decade of the 20th century, most of the small presses disappeared commensurate with the closure of the majority of independent queer/feminist bookstores (last report suggests there are less than fifty such bookstores remaining). These small presses were eventually replaced with POD publishing companies, issuing limited numbers of titles via narrow distribution channels. The bulk of the titles published by these presses were lesbian romances.

Bold Strokes Books, established in 2004, is a midsized publisher with an active catalog of 300-plus titles and a front list of 75 to 100 new titles per year. We utilize mainstream distribution channels employing traditional, non-POD print runs of 1500-8000 copies/title. 75% of our titles are gay and lesbian romance titles (the remainder being queer general fiction, mysteries, spec fic, and erotica). This paper analyzes eight years of sales data in the romance market looking at overall sales trends, comparative sales based on sub-genre and format (print versus digital), and variations in genre popularity in print versus digital format. This data allows us to analyze the trends in the queer romance market in terms of sub-genre preference, to extrapolate future markets, and to guide acquisitions.

Harlequins at the Browne:  What Shall We Do With Them?
Stefanie Hunker - Bowling Green State University

The Browne Popular Culture Library’s (BPCL) collection of over 9000 category romances, such as those from Harlequin and Silhouette, holds a treasure trove of material for anyone wanting to study these sometimes misunderstood pieces of literature.  To enable researchers to find these items more effectively, the BPCL is preparing to launch a retrospective cataloging project to update the bibliographic records of hundreds of category romances.  Previous cataloging practices did not require the use of subject and/or genre headings, the lack of which decreases the findability of these resources. Typically when category romances are cataloged, Library of Congress (LC) subject headings are assigned that represent the subject matter or theme as well as occupations of the main characters and location of the story.

Unfortunately, themes in older Harlequins can differ greatly from themes of more current Harlequins and many times subject headings simply do not exist or do not fit the subject matter adequately.  Inadequate LC subject headings make more difficulty for the cataloger to accurately describe an item, which, in turn, makes difficulty for the researcher to find items for study, especially if their needs are fairly specific.

Using the thousands of Harlequin Romances at the BPCL (which begin in the 1950’s and end in the 2000’s) as a starting place, a survey of themes, occupations, and locations has begun and will offer a more thorough understanding of the collection and enable better description of these items within the LC classification.  If appropriate LC subject headings cannot be found, should local subject headings be used or should LC be petitioned to create more descriptive or more appropriate subject headings to better serve researchers’ needs?  Would tagging be more appropriate for these items?  Should summaries of each book be added?  What would make these items more findable in general?  What kinds of tools are researchers using to find resources with which to study?

In an effort to enlist the assistance of dedicated romance researchers, I would like to administer a questionnaire and, possibly, lead a discussion that would answer many of the questions I have about how romance researchers find their resources.  Their responses coupled with our survey of themes, occupations, and locations should give a more complete picture and will enable us to make a more informed decision about what our next steps should be with the project.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

PCA/ACA 2012 - (1)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm

“Darkness Piles Up in the Trees”:  Love and Lyric in Eloisa James
Eric Selinger -  DePaul University

In 1993, Allan Bloom announced the “death of eros.”  It was not by natural causes.  Feminists, sexologists, and the ghost of Jean-Jaques Rousseau conspired in this “de-eroticization of the world” and consequent “disastrous decline in the rhetoric of love.” “There have been hardly any great novelists of love for almost a century,” Bloom sighed, although “cheap romantic novels, the kind that are sometimes stuck into boxes of household detergent, apparently flourish among housewives who haven’t heard that Eros is dead.”  Bloom’s fears about the “end of the novel of love” (as Vivian Gornick described it four years later) find a curious echo in period concerns about the “death of poetry,” which was announced and contested by Joseph Epstein (1988) Vernon Shetley (After the Death of Poetry, 1993), Donald Hall (Death to the Death of Poetry, 1994), among others.  What, one wonders, do these “deaths” have in common—and what are we to make of the evident survival, even flourishing, of both poetry and eros in “cheap romantic novels” from the 1990s and after?   The romance novels of Eloisa James provide an ideal oeuvre in which to explore these questions.  Professor of Renaissance drama, daughter of the poet Robert Bly and short-story author Carol Bly, James quotes and alludes to poetry throughout her work, not least in her latest novel, The Duke is Mine.  Renegotiating the cultural status of both poetry and romance fiction, she explores the afterlives of love and lyric in a (post-?) skeptical age.

Picturing the Self in Nora Robert's Sanctuary
Zohar Korn - Independent Scholar

My paper explores Nora Roberts' use of photography as the central metaphor for the self in her 1997 romantic suspense novel, Sanctuary. My claim is that through her treatment of photography, which she uses to develop characters as well as further the action, Roberts proposes two models of the self: the autonomous subject and the self-in-relation, advocating the latter. Both heroine and villain are photographers; the model of photography each chooses not only shows what each of them privileges as the principle around which to construct his or her sense of selfhood, but also implicitly provides Roberts’ commentary on those principles.

In the romantic plot, Roberts uses the heroine's roles as practitioner, object and observer of photography to positively construct a selfhood that promotes affective wellbeing. The heroine’s gradual transition from taking pictures of unpopulated scenery to including portraiture shows a growing emphasis on care and relationship rather than self-sufficiency and independence, an emphasis that is portrayed as strength rather than sacrifice. Thus, framed within its narrative through the theme of photography, Sanctuary proposes a theory of selfhood that can, despite its different genre, be put in conversation with psychoanalytical theories.

Furthermore, the mystery plot juxtaposes the two photographers, determining that one is good and the other evil. By associating autonomy with the murderous villain who takes pictures as part of his killing ritual Roberts suggests that this notion of selfhood is morally problematic because it leads to objectification and violence. By showing that autonomy leads to objectification of others and violence while self-in-relation gives strength through care without negating selfhood, Roberts makes an ethical and affective claim in favor of the latter, which complicates criticism of the romance genre by showing that the self-in-relation is not a limiting construct used by heteronormative society to subject women but rather a positive way of life that might actually subvert some principles of heteronormativity.

Recovering the Hero: The Male Rape Victim in Romance Novels
Sarah Maitland - University of Rhode Island

Rape is a common trope in romance novels, typically perpetrated on the heroine. Often, although not always, the rape serves the purpose of positioning the heroine to be saved by the hero. We can identify the hero by the way he reflects multiple cultural norms of masculinity, including the ability and willingness to physically defend both himself and his woman from harm, or to seek revenge when harm is done. In this paper I will discuss a number of novels that deviate from these typical roles. The novels I examine also include rape, however instead of the heroine, these novels cast the hero as the victim. When the hero of a romance novel is raped the cultural norms of masculinity are violated. Typically the penetrating body, rape changes the landscape of the male body to be the penetrated. Romance novels that compromise the inviolability of the male body destabilize the gender roles that define the genre. In my paper I will examine the process the hero must undergo to reestablish his masculinity and reinstate the gender roles. In conversation with feminist theory, I will consider what the presence of the rape victim-hero and the process he must undergo means for the genre and what it may provide for readers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Conferences Coming Up

Given that
The American Comparative Literature Association’s 2012 Annual Meeting will take place at Brown University, Providence, RI from March 29th to April 1st, 2012
The 42nd Annual PCA/ACA [Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association] National Conference will be held at the Copley Marriott Hotel in Boston from April 11 to 14, 2012.
and I'm not going to be at either of them, I thought I'd share details of some of the papers which will be given at these conferences. I'll begin with the ACLA conference:
Jayashree Kamble, University of Minnesota

“Mermaid or Halibut? Crises of National Identity in Joanna Bourne's Historical Romance Novels”
Jayashree also has a post up today at the Popular Romance Project, about myth in Harlequin/Mills & Boon romances.
Eric Murphy Selinger, DePaul University
“After the Deaths of Love and Poetry: Romance, Cultural Capital, and the Novels of Eloisa James”
Eloisa James mentioned cultural capital when she gave the keynote address at the McDaniel conference (Sarah Frantz's tweets of the speech can be found here).
Martin Hipsky, Ohio Wesleyan University
“Eros and Danger in the Edwardian Romance Novel”
You may recall that Marty wrote a guest-blog-post for TMT about his new book, Modernism and the Women's Popular Romance in Britain, 1885-1925.
Angela Toscano, University of Utah
“Ravished, Raped, Rewarded: The Crisis and Catastrophe of Love in Popular Romance”
I very much enjoyed reading the paper Angela gave to the McDaniel conference, on "The Liturgy of Cliché: Ritual Speech and Genre Convention in Popular Romance."

Finally, although they don't specifically mention romance in their titles, I'm fairly sure these are about romance too:
Jonathan Andrew Allan, University of Toronto
“Loving, Talking, Curing”

Antonia Losano, Middlebury College
“Consummate Failure/Incomplete Bliss”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quick Quotes: Faith, Hope and Love

When writing her 2010 article for the Journal of Popular Romance Studies, Catherine Roach took as her
jumping off point [...] Robert Polhemus’s powerful study of nineteenth-century British novels of love and romance, Erotic Faith: Being in Love from Jane Austen to D.H. Lawrence (1990). In his analysis of these novels that stand as high literary precursors to twentieth-century popular romance fiction, his key concept of “erotic faith” provides a reading of the emotional dynamic that the romance narrative then turns into story. Erotic faith, he writes, is “an emotional conviction, ultimately religious in nature, that meaning, value, hope, and even transcendence can be found through love—erotically focused love” (1). Erotic faith is the belief “that people complete themselves and fulfill their destinies only with another … that in the quest for lasting love and the experience of being in love men and women find their real worth and character” (27). John Keats, for example, in a recent movie dramatization, proclaims, “There is a holiness to the heart’s affection” (Bright Star 2009). Polhemus’s point is that we have faith in love, a reverence for it. Starting in the late eighteenth century with the growth of secularism springing from the Enlightenment, in the art and in the marriages of  western Europe and North America, people increasingly fell in love with the idea of being in love. This faith in love has become a new form of faith, to “augment or substitute for orthodox religious visions” (4), but with such close psychological functionality between the two forms of faith that “religious feeling and eroticism run close together” (10) and “love and theology may be surrogates for each other” (19).
I was reminded of this while reading Jo Beverley's The Stanforth Secrets:
"Do you know how dreadful it is, my darling, to lie in my bed at night and know you are so close? A few steps to heaven. It is sacrilegious to ignore what we have here."
[...] "That is a highly irreligious statement."
He kissed the tip of her nose. "You are my religion, my goddess."
Chloe used all her willpower. "Profanity too," she said, moving out of his arms.
[...] "Not in my religion," he said lightly [...]. "There, the only sin is denial of love." (255-56)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

CFPs: Monsters, MLA, and The Marginalised Mainstream

The Marginalised Mainstream

8–9 November 2012, Senate House, University of London
Eric Ambler once argued, ‘Thrillers really say more about the way people think and governments behave than many of the conventional novels … A hundred years from now, if they last, these books may offer some clues to what was going on in our world’. Theoricists and practitioners of other popular mediums would argue that this statement can easily be transferred to other areas. Gene Rodenberry has frequently argued that Star Trek offered him a platform upon which he was able to address burning social issues as he could do in no other medium. Will Wright suggests that Westerns offer a landscape through which to investigate the narrative dimension of myth; while Tania Modleski claims romance novels ‘speak to the very real problems and tensions in women’s lives’; and Kate MacDonald argues that early twentieth-century spy and adventure fiction reflected ‘broader social and cultural processes which shaped and reflected masculinity in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain’. Such genres are rich in ‘cultural capital’, yet are routinely overlooked or considered mere diversionary, a distraction from the long list of what we should ‘really’ be studying.

The conference seeks to assert the academic importance of investigating the mainstream and wider cultural traditions, from cult followings (such as that of Rocky Horror and the works of Buster Keaton) to periodicalised ‘tales of terror’, from the regency romances of Georgette Heyer to the satirical wit of P.G. Wodehouse, from radio mystery theatre and musical revue to spy-fi and sci-fi, from food writing to fashion. We are not only seeking papers that offer a rigorous engagement with questions of marketplace, but that seek to explore the frequently overlooked.

We are especially interested in providing a space to discuss these under-valued and under-researched areas of the mainstream, in and of their own right. However, we do also encourage papers that investigate why and how culturally significant forms of popular fiction have been subject to critical marginalisation.
The deadline for submitting a proposal is 1 June 2012. More details can be found here.

This proposed edited collection addresses the persistent paradoxical repulsion and fascination with monsters and the monstrous, their genesis, and their reproductive potential across different time periods and cultural contexts. With the “birth” of the monster comes a particular anxiety about its self-replication, generally through perceived “unnatural” means. While the incarnation of the monster manifests through different vehicles across time periods, it is clear that, regardless of its form, anxiety is rooted in concerns over its fecundity—its ability to infect, to absorb, to replicate. This interdisciplinary book project aims to incorporate essays from various scholars across multiple disciplines. The “birth” of tomorrow’s monster reveals the inherent threat to temporality and progeny; reproduction of the “monstrous,” as well as monstrous reproductions, threaten to eclipse the future, cast uncertainty on the present, and re-imagine the past.
We encourage scholarly contributions from multidisciplinary perspectives. We will entertain submissions in literature, medical/political/social history, film, television, graphic novels and manga. Topics may include but are not limited to:
  • Historical medical discourses about “monstrous” reproduction
  • Medieval monsters and the monstrosity of birth
  • Religious discourse of monstrous reproduction
  • Eugenics, social biology and inter-racial generation
  • Birth defects, deformity and “freaks”
  • Monstrous mothers, monstrous children
  • Monstrous regeneration
  • Rebirth and metamorphosis: Vampires, zombies, werewolves and mutants
  • Genetic engineering and “nightmare” reproductions
  • Science fiction and inter-species reproduction and colonization
  • Tabloid hoaxes and monster births
  • Birth in the dystopic narrative
  • Queering reproduction
Please send abstract proposals (350-500 word) with working title and brief biography listing any publications by email to Dr. Andrea Wood ( and Dr. Brandy Schillace ( by April 10th, 2012. Contributors will be asked to submit full papers for inclusion by July 16th, 2012.

Not Twilight: Female Sexuality and Identity in Recent Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy 

Dr.Maria Ramos has sent out a call for papers for a special session, Female Identity and Sexuality in Recent Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy, at the 2013 Modern Languages Association Conference (to be held in Boston). According to Jayashree Kamble,
she is hoping to get several abstracts so she can put together a strong panel proposal. Dr. Ramos is the Head of the Department of Modern Languages at South Dakota State and has recently begun research on romance/urban fantasy/vampire fiction. 
Here's the text of the CFP:
Fantasy female characters' struggle with being a woman in the 21st Century attracts millions of readers. Why? Abstract 300-500 words by 15 March 2012; Maria Teresa Ramos-Garcia ( 

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Romance and Philosophy: Jo Leigh's Arm Candy

I think, therefore ... I love?
In "Heidegger, the Erotics of Ontology, and the Mass-Market Romance" (2003), Deborah Lutz states that
This essay's project is not to understand mass-market romance using ideas culled from philosophy, but rather to illuminate them with the same rarified light as philosophy. In fact, reading romance as we generally read philosophy not only sets romance up to speak about human experience in general, but it also serves to situate philosophy within a romantic paradigm. (2)
The essay is freely available online so you can read it in full. I'm merely going to cull a few quotes from it which possibly "illuminate" Jo Leigh's Arm Candy. Lutz writes that:
The desire, love, of both philosophy and romance is to reveal the truth, to illuminate and bring it to a confession. The loved one envelops and imprisons unknown worlds, which must be deciphered. The erotically charged removal of the veil points to the spark from which this erotic originates -- the veil itself. The hiding and the disclosing of the secret both create eroticism. Clearly, secretiveness is itself erotic. (5)
It seems to me that the desire for truth, and the eroticism of the "removal of the veil" are central to Jo Leigh's Arm Candy. Dan agrees to pose as Jessica's lover in return for getting to
"[...] ask you anything. No holding back. No thinking twice about propriety. I ask, you answer. Honestly. To the best of your ability. All the questions I've wanted to ask but haven't dared."
"You've never dated?"
"Oh, I've dated. Many times. I've had relationships. All of which have failed. Mostly, I fear, due to my fumbling. My lack of understanding. Seriously, I don't get it. Screw physics and the Big Bang theory, the great imponderable isn't God, it's women. Who are you people? The books are useless. Believe me, I've read them. Everything from Men are from Mars to Dr. Phil. And I still don't get you. [...]" (27)
As for Jessica, she's extremely attracted to this
man who had it all: the looks, the brains, the wit, the strong hands, the taste in clothes. Her only hope was getting to know him. No way he was everything he purported to be. Impossible. (39)
Of course, she's wrong, and the "removal of the veil" only makes him more attractive:
noticing a tiny twitch of his right eye, the way his nostrils flared, and his white teeth, not perfectly even, but made endearing by slight imperfections. It was as if her vision had gone far beyond the traditional twenty-twenty into a new kind of sight. Not just because they were so close to one another, but because a veil of ordinariness had been lifted. She could read him like a book, his need, his tension, his excitement and his pleasure. (137)
Jessica does not, however, immediately want to enter into a permanent, full-time commitment. Instead she wonders if she could prioritise her career, but still maintain her new relationship, by having an
intermittent affair [...] when they both deemed it time, they'd come together in what she fully expected to be a mind-blowing week of unadulterated bliss. Then they'd go to their separate corners until the next time.
Think of how much they would have to tell each other if they didn't see each other day after dull day. It would be like Christmas four times a year. Everything would be new and fresh and thrilling. (213)
In effect, this plan would involve repeatedly hiding and disclosing their secrets, and in some ways it would appear to be a solution similar to that adopted by Heidegger, who
consciously created a relationship with his students that supported his character of an aloof and mysterious genius, often tortured by society and the technological world around him, finally wanting to live, reclusively, in his hut in the Black Forest, in the solitude he felt was necessary for his work. The biographer Elzbieta Ettinger writes, "Aware of his allure to both male and female students and of his power over their minds, Heidegger purposely kept his distance, intensifying the mystique, the awe, the reverence". (3)
Dan isn't keen on Jessica's plan and his response to her proposal seems to be an attempt to address any concerns that the "secretiveness [which] is itself erotic" (Lutz 5) will be lost as a result of prolonged close contact:
The reason [...] that I haven't asked you more questions, is that for the first time in my life, I prefer the mystery. I like not being able to second-guess you. It's not frustrating at all, which I never would have believed. On the contrary, not knowing every little thing about you makes the days fascinating. I can't think of a better tomorrow and tomorrow than to unravel the mystery of you. (229)
The novel concludes with Jessica agreeing to marry Dan and
safe in the cocoon of his arms. His breath caressed her cheek. As she closed her eyes, she felt something new, something foreign. A second later it came to her ... She was home. (249)
Is this another indication that what is well known ("home") can nevertheless be mysterious ("foreign")? Lutz, writing about the German word "heim" (home), observes that an
etymological thread related to "heim" is "geheim," which also has the "home" in it but it means "secret" or "concealed." We already know of the "secret home" because of the Heideggerian idea that, in an everyday way, authentic homes are "secret." [...] The romantic heroine's potential, her "authentic," lies in the presence of love. Her "ownmost" possibility is unconcealed, disclosed meaning. Her possibility as fully present to love is the secret behind all other secrets and this is her final "home" -- destiny, fate. (Lutz 8)
As a sort of post-script, I'd like to mention that I'd only got as far as Lutz's initial comment that "The conjunction of these two registers -- philosophy and the mass-market romance -- seems one of the most unlikely and implausible" (2) when it occurred to me that this conjunction may perhaps seem rather less implausible in the wake of Professor Vincent Hendricks's recent and very controversial inclusion of lad-mag-style photographs on a page advertising his undergraduate-level course on Argumentation, Logic and Philosophy of Language. And although Hendricks has now removed the photos and stated that "The intention was that the pictures, as a cover on a forthcoming magazine, might be used to view logic from a somewhat humorous and untraditional perspective appealing to larger audience which the magazine covers," their underlying perspective is perhaps not so very untraditional after all: as Lutz notes regarding Heidegger, "In 1924, thirty-five years old, married and with two children, he seduced his eighteen-year-old student Hannah Arendt" (3).

Leigh, Jo. Arm Candy. 2004. Richmond, Surrey: Harlequin Mills & Boon, 2005.

Lutz, Deborah. “Heidegger, the Erotics of Ontology, and the Mass-Market Romance.” Comparative Literature and Culture 5.3 (2003). [Available for download from ]