Wednesday, December 18, 2013

CFP: PopCAANZ Annual Conference

PopCAANZ (the Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand) is holding its 5th Annual International Conference from June 18 - June 20, 2014 in the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia. The deadline for abstracts is March 1, 2014. There isn't an area specifically for romance, but there is one for popular fiction. The call for papers can be found here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

New Article: Romance in South Africa

Christopher Warnes begins his article on "Black Economic Empowerment and the South African Popular Romance" by explaining that:
Between 2010 and 2011 two new publishing enterprises appeared in South Africa: Sapphire Press, an imprint of Kwela Books, which is in turn owned by the giant NB Publishers, and Nollybooks, a small-scale entrant into the market. Between them, in the course of their first two years, these publishers brought out twenty-seven romance novels. Aimed explicitly at a black female readership, and written to a tightly prescriptive set of guidelines, these postapartheid romances are of identical length, have similar plots, characters, and themes, and are packaged and marketed in much the same way. They tell the stories of feisty, attractive young women, often from poor backgrounds, working their way up the ladder of professional success and falling in love with handsome, successful older men, often their bosses. Hero and heroine are always black, and the romantic attachment between the two is always the main theme. The progress of the romance is bound up with the overcoming of work-related obstacles, and the ending of each novel harmonizes the romantic and professional triumph of the heroine. (154)
I took a look at the guidelines given by Kwela and they do seem "tightly prescriptive" (though it's possible that as with Harlequin Mills & Boon, in practice, there's a bit more variation than one might guess from reading the guidelines):
Typical style of a Kwela romance

• Think Mills & Boon
• The story must be set in South Africa, preferably a big city like Johannesburg
• The story is told from the main female character’s perspective
• The story is told in the third person
• Both hero and heroine should be black South Africans.

The main female character (heroine)

The heroine is:
• an independent, spunky, smart woman;
• financially independent;
• in her mid-twenties to early thirties;
• extremely self-motivated;
• determined to achieve success; and
• committed to overcoming past hardships.

The heroine feels:
• financially responsible for her family.

The heroine has:
•  a strong spiritual base;
•  at least two girlfriends on whom she can rely for moral & emotional support; and
•  a modern outlook on life and on the role of woman in society.

The heroine likes to:
• visit local hotspots to see who’s who and to be seen.

The heroine should:
•  experience personal growth and self-discovery; and
•  realise her own worth and inner strength.

The main male character (hero)

The hero is:
• strong
• Intelligent
• good-looking
• slightly older than the heroine (late thirties to early forties)
• successful in his career
• more traditional in his outlook on life than the heroine (cause of tension).

The plot

The main plot-line:
•  revolves around the heroine & hero’s struggle to build a romantic relationship
•  outside forces (at work or in their communities) try to keep them apart
•  their own conflicting beliefs about modern society and the role of women also threaten to keep them apart

Keep sub-plots to a minimum:
• Only those that influence internal growth in the heroine should be developed.

Romantic tension should be built up until a satisfying conclusion is reached between the heroine & hero:
•  i.e. when all obstacles between them have been overcome and love triumphs.

One or two intimate scenes should be included (though only between the heroine and the hero – no other boyfriends/lovers).

Your target readers:
• All those thousands of people who love Mills & Boon!
• Upwardly mobile black female readers.
• In terms of typical South African readers, think of those who currently read True Love, Move and Drum.
• Age groups: from teenagers to 50+, i.e. quite a broad group
 Warnes states that
These novels represent, in a striking way, a new departure in South African writing: the arrival in prose form of the mass-produced fantasy for black women. This is not to say that the romance has not long been a major part of South African popular reading habits. Afrikaans-language publishers like LAPA, NB Publishers, and Tafelburg have well-developed series which regularly outsell more literary novels, and the presence of a "Mills and Boon in Afrikaans" publisher similarly speaks to the popularity of the genre for Afrikaans readers. In English, Mills and Boon titles and stalwarts of the genre like Danielle Steel routinely appear near or at the top of bestseller lists. (154)
The "new departure" has been made possible by changes in the political situation in South Africa:
Although popular fiction has long been part of the South African cultural landscape, it is only since the demise of formal apartheid that it could be said to have begun to flourish. During the apartheid years there was a strong critical perception that popular fiction abrogated the social and political mission to document injustice, challenge perceptions, and conscientize readers. The end of apartheid was interpreted as signalling the lifting of this literary-political injunction to be serious. The creative energies that have filled the void left by the departure of the "struggle aesthetic" in the years since 1994 have been most noticeable in the explosion of genres such as crime fiction, romance, chick lit, science fiction, gangster noir, and comedy. (156)
However, they are not wholly lacking in "serious" elements. Warnes examines a number of romances in order to show how they "negotiate anxieties around enigmatic male behavior, around the workplace, and around the broader national economic issues" (162) and he claims that "the popular romance performs a [...] specific empowerment function, articulating for its reader a clear vision of ideal working conditions" (166).


Warnes, Christopher. "Desired State: Black Economic Empowerment and the South African Popular Romance." Popular Culture in Africa: The Episteme of the Everyday. Ed. Stephanie Newell and Onookome Okome. New York: Routledge, 2014. 154-171. [Excerpt]

Sunday, December 08, 2013

New Thesis: Translating Emotions

In her recently completed PhD thesis, "A Study on the Cultural Variations in the Verbalisation of Near-Universal Emotions: Translating Emotions from British English into Greek in Popular Bestseller Romances," Artemis Lamprinou compared six English-language romance novels with both their Greek translations and with six original Greek romances. She discovered
frequent shifts of intensity in the translations towards but not quite in line with the Greek norms, indicating that the translators are under the simultaneous influence of British and Greek norms. The results suggest, however, that the Greek norms exert a stronger influence on the translators, mostly in relation to anger and fear, an outcome that goes against the assumptions of Polysystem Theory that the more powerful literary system, in this case that of the UK, will exert the stronger influence. This outcome could be attributed to the commercial pressure of the market on publishers of the chosen genre of popular romance.
The rest of the abstract can be found here.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly

The Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly was launched yesterday. It's not an academic publication but I thought I'd mention it anyway because
The Sci-Fi Romance Quarterly is an online magazine devoted to science fiction romance. Each issue includes news, reviews, opinion columns, and an original, exclusive short story–all for free!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Publication: Translating and Adapting Romance Fiction

Heather Schell has a new article out. It's "Bringing the Mid-West to the Middle-East: An Analysis of a Harlequin Romance in English and Turkish" and she's made it available via Academia. It's Chapter 17 of The Silk Road of Adaptation: Transformations across Disciplines and Cultures. Ed. Laurence Raw. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2013.

Schell argues that
a translation could be considered a type of invisible adaptation. In fact, global economic enterprises may actually prefer to downplay the "new readings" wrought by translation [...]. It falls to us to question the supposed transparency of translation and appreciate instead the ways in which a translation adapts the source-text. (160)
Schell notes that cultural differences make
the social meaning of a novel's content inherently unstable. For example, because of differing cultural norms about adult children's relationship with their parents, the scene in which Cade defies his father for the sake of his wife might seem noteworthy to a Turkish reader but unremarkable to an American reader. In contrast, popular attitudes towards abortion are probably more conservative and conflicted in the United States than in the Republic of Turkey. (164)
What is certain is that "Arda Gedik, the force behind HQN's Turkish publications for nearly two decades [until his death in 2011], saw these books as providing progressive role models" (169).

The "source-text" Schell chooses to analyse is Shirley Jump's Back to Mr. and Mrs. (2007) which was published in Turkey in  "2010 as a 112-page novella" (162). The novel, like others chosen for translation and publication in Turkey, was selected "based on customer star ratings" (164) and the translation makes minor changes which, cumulatively, make the characters seem "less foreign" (166) to Turkish readers.

It also makes "small changes [which] consistently make the women more stereotypically feminine and less intelligent" (167) and ensures that the ageing heroine "conforms to beauty ideals" (168). Such changes are not, however, unique to Turkish translations: in France, for example, translated novels "often made the heroine less confident and experienced that in the source-text" (168).

The essay is relatively short and, in my opinion, well worth a read.

CFPs: Readers and Crime

From Cover to Cover: Reading Readers
Edited Collection of Essays
Editors: Dr. Bilge Mutluay Cetintas and Dr. Ceylan Ozcan

This collection of essays "aims to take a fresh look at the 'good old practice' of reading in all its denotations and connotations from all possible quarters and perspectives, provided that papers relate to the American context." Essays "should be between 5000-7000 words and should adhere to the latest MLA style. Full text submissions should be sent to by March 30, 2014." More details here (though unfortunately they do not include information about the likely publisher of the collection).

Gender and Transgression in 20th-Century Britain
Newcastle University, 7th March 2014

The link between gender and transgression is integral to both representing and understanding the controversy that surrounds popular works. To add to Jenks’ conclusion: we are both obsessed by transgression and the transgressor’s gender.
In this symposium we intend to consider how representations of transgressive acts are linked to gender, asking whether crimes are more punishable depending on the gender of the criminal, if certain transgressive behaviours are more acceptable for one gender than another, or if it is possible for transgressive acts to be represented without issues of gender being at the forefront of that representation.

More details about the conference can be found here. Submissions to by 1st December 2013.  They seem to have a strong focus on crimes. Still on the topic of crime:

Captivating Criminality: Crime Writing, Darkness and Desire
Bath Spa University and Crime Studies Network
At Corsham Court (
24-26 April 2014

How can crime writing be defined? Although crime fiction is traditionally regarded as a distinguishable literary form, what can be considered part of this genre? The various sub-genres that are encompassed under the title of crime writing, including the ‘whodunnit’, the Hard Boiled thriller, Golden Age narratives, and the ‘whydunnit’ psychological thriller are all so variable that a defining process becomes nearly impossible. [...]

I thought this might be of interest to anyone studying romantic suspense. More details here. The deadline for submissions is 6 January 2014.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Radway Revisited - at PCA/ACA 2014

Reading the Romance:Women, Patriarchy and Popular Literature 
1984 - 1991 - 2014

Janice Radway will be joining the Romance area of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association for a 30th Anniversary roundtable discussion of Reading the Romance: the book, its impact, and its legacy. Details of the programme haven't yet been finalised but the conference will be held in Chicago from 16-19 April 2014.

More details about the Romance area can be found here - and there are still a few hours left before the deadline for submissions if you'd like to present a paper.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Princeton Symposium Summarised

Jackie C. Horne has summarised the keynote speeches (by Kay Mussell and Jennifer Crusie) and round-table discussion (the participant whose contribution is most noted is Eloisa James) at the The Popular Romance Author Symposium.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Focus on Authors

Chelsea Ann Pierce's recent MA thesis is on the topic of "The Apprenticeship of Laurell K. Hamilton: How Aspiring Writers Learn to Write."

The Princeton Symposium on Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre , whose participants also focus on authors, will be starting in a few days' time. On Friday attendees will be able to hear:

Deborah Chappel Traylor on “The Novels of Edna Ferber, An Important Link in Popular American Women's Fiction”
It may be easy enough to see connections between popular romance written today and the novels of Jane Austen, but how do we explain how one leads through centuries and across oceans to the other?   How do we present a history of women’s romance without exploring and establishing links to other writers, traditions, and events?
Maryan Wherry on “Adventure, Mystery, Romance: The Voice and Style of Mary Stewart”
Mary Stewart is an important transition figure within 20th century romance. [...] Stewart combines the neo-gothic traditions of Daphne du Maurier and Victoria Holt with the traditional mysteries of Georgette Heyer and Mary Robert Rinehart to establish the foundations of the romantic suspense subgenre.
Hsu-Ming Teo on “'Everyone loves a Lindsey!': Evaluating the Historical Romance Oeuvre of Johanna Lindsey”
Together with her well-known contemporaries Kathleen Woodiwiss, Rosemary Rogers and Bertrice Small, Lindsey’s work was an integral part of the ‘Romance Revolution’ which injected sizzling sex scenes into the pages of the romance novel. It was a revolution that contributed to the Americanization of the twentieth-century romance novel.
Jackie Horne, “Feminism and the Romance Author”
This talk will take a closer look at romance writers’ relationship to feminism during the past twenty years, not by analyzing their novels, but by looking at their interviews and critical writings on the craft of romance.
Jonathan Allan, “Twisting the Romance Novelist”
for a study of male/male romance to develop at all, we need to build the theory from the ground up, beginning with the author. By “twisting” authorship, I hope to offer a critical model of authorship, that recognizes the particularities of male/male romance, particularly since the subgenre is largely written “by women for women.”
Jennifer Lois and Joanna Gregson, “Sneers and Leers: Romance Novel Writers and the Stigma of Sexual Shamelessness”
Writers reacted to the sneers and leers in two opposing ways. Some accepted the invitation and displayed personalized aspects of their sexuality for shock value, career promotion, or to reclaim control of defining their sexual selves in a patriarchal culture. Others contested the assumption that their personal sex lives were relevant to their work and chastised outsiders for intruding on their privacy.
Annette Couch-Jareb, “Self-Publishing and the Individual Author as an Agent of Change”
In recent years, publishing has undergone a revolution, as dramatic as the invention of the Guttenberg Press. For the first time, authors are able to publish without the gatekeeping effects of publishers.
Jayashree Kamble, “Defiance and Definition: Constructing Authorship in Lisa Kleypas’s Dreaming of You
Kleypas’s Sara Fielding (whose name evokes a history of women authors) is a claim of authorial self-determination in a genre that is constantly battling for the right to define what it is (and is not).
Eric Selinger, “The World Split Open, Slightly; Or, I Fought the Law and the Law Spanked”
This consoling narrative [Victoria Dahl's Talk Me Down], in which the truths told by romance can be easily and pleasurably recuperated, contrasts in several ways with the representations of gender, truth-telling, and the law in Dahl’s Twitter and Tumblr posts, which include impassioned, explicitly political reflections on gendered poverty, abortion rights, and access to birth control.
Jessica Matthews, “When Authors Won’t “Die”: Diana Gabaldon as Imperial Author in the Books and Writers Community Online Forum”
Gabaldon uses her position as the author to offer the “correct” interpretation to readers’ questions, all while creating an online persona that is friendly to those who agree with her, but caustic to those who do not. Her answers often require her to provide information that would not have been available to the reader, thus allowing her to extend her narratives beyond the novels themselves. In other words, her online forum allows her to keep writing her novels and position herself as the leading authority on them.
Regina Künne, “L’Auteur Est Mort. Vive L’Auteur!”
The talk will address Jayne Ann Krentz’s works and will give answers about changes within twenty-five years of her writing career 
The full abstracts for all of these talks can be found here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Susan Elizabeth Phillips Comes to PCA!

Some very exciting news:  bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips will be coming to the Romance Area at this year's PCA national conference in my home town, Chicago.  She'll be chatting with Pamela Regis and me about her work and about the genre, so if there's anything you've always wanted a romance scholar to ask her, let me know!

The deadline for proposals is early this year, November 1, so don't wait--get those submissions in soon.

The conference is in Chicago, April 16-19, 2014; for full conference info, go here.

We've broadened out the Call for Papers somewhat--not really a change in substance, but an emphasis on inclusiveness, in terms of the media we cover.  In case you missed it earlier, here's the gist:

The discourse of romantic love permeates popular culture.  The Romance area includes papers on love, romance, and relationships, in real life and as represented in any medium, now and in the past.  From ad campaigns to Supreme Court decisions, Dan Savage to Sweet Savage Love, K-Pop to qawwali,:  if it’s about love, it’s a welcome topic at the PCA Romance area.

We will consider proposals for individual papers, sessions organized around a theme, and special panels. Sessions are scheduled in 90-minute slots, typically with four 15-minute papers or speakers per standard session, with the remaining time available for discussion.

If you are involved in the creative industry of popular romance and are interested in speaking on your own work or on developments in popular romance culture, please contact us!

Some possible topics include:
  • Romantic love in political discourse (revolutionary, reactionary, colonial / anti-colonial, marriage equality, etc.)
  • Love, Globally:  local traditions, transnational media, adaptation and translation issues
  • Fifty Shades of WTF:  the reception of popular romance media
  • Romance High and Low (i.e., texts that remix or blur distinctions between “high” and “low” culture, like the Lizzie Bennet Diaries)
  • Love Theory / Romance Practice:  theoretical approaches to love and romance, and popular romance as a place where love is theorized
  • Romancing the Marketplace: romantic love in advertising, marketing, and consumer culture
  • Queering the Romance: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Kink romance
  • Romance communities, IRL and on-line
  • Young Adult, Paranormal, and other emerging genres of romance fiction
  • Individual Creative Producers or Texts of Popular Romance (novels, authors, film, directors, writers, songwriters, actors, composers, dancers, etc.)

As we do every year, the Romance area will meet in a special Open Forum to discuss upcoming conferences, work in progress, and the future of the field of Popular Romance Studies.  All are welcome to attend.

Submit a one-page (200-300 words) proposal or abstract by November 1, 2013, to the PCA/ACA conference database.

Please feel free to repost this, send it to colleagues and students, Tweet it, link to it, toss it in your Tumblr feed, whatever you like, to get the word out--and I hope we'll see you there!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chinese Web Romance

Jin Feng's Romancing the Internet: Producing and Consuming Chinese Web Romance has been published by Brill and in it 
Jin Feng examines the evolution of Chinese popular romance on the Internet. She first provides a brief genealogy of Chinese Web literature and Chinese popular romance, and then investigates how large socio-cultural forces have shaped new writing and reading practices and created new subgenres of popular romance in contemporary China. Integrating ethnographic methods into literary and discursive analyses, Feng offers a gendered, audience-oriented study of Chinese popular culture in the age of the Internet.
More details can be found on Brill's website and an excerpt is available here.

Friday, October 04, 2013

CFPs: Canada/US, Country Houses, Sexuality/Disability, Sexuality/Fantasy, African-American Print Culture, Supernatural

Since this is a long post, I thought I'd start with a short list of the CFPs in order of their submission deadlines:
  • Production, Consumption, and Reception across the Canada-US Border
  • The Country House in Britain, 1914-2014
  • 1st Global Conference: Sexuality and Disability
  • Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Popular Fantasy
  • African American Print Cultures
  • Supernatural Creatures: from Elf-Shot to Shrek

Cultural Crossings: Production, Consumption, and Reception across the Canada-US Border
Second international Culture and the Canada-US Border conference
University of Nottingham, 20-22 June 2014

I don't think they had Harlequin in mind when they put out their call for papers, but it does fit the topic:
We encourage analysis of cultural texts, phenomena, and industries both in terms of how they might operate differently in Canada and the United States and the ways in which they might straddle, or ignore, the border altogether. We invite proposals on both contemporary and historical cultural texts and contexts.

Although submissions on any relevant area of interest are welcome, we particularly welcome papers focusing on the following in a cross-border and/or comparative context:
  • book histories and publication contexts
  • reading cultures and communities [...]
Deadline for submissions 1 Nov. 2013. More details here.

The Country House in Britain, 1914-2014
Newcastle University, Friday 6th - Sunday 8th June 2014
This three-day interdisciplinary conference will trace the representation of the country house in British literature and film between 1914 and 2014. The conference will explore how space, class and gender operate in the wealth of filmic and literary texts which have been concerned with the country house throughout the last century, as well as considering how it functions in documentaries, historical monographs and reality television. We invite 300-word abstracts (for 20-minute papers) on any topic relating to the country house.
 There's specific mention of "Romance Fiction." Abstracts should be submitted via email to by 1 November 2013. More details here.

1st Global Conference: Sexuality and Disability
Tuesday 6th May – Thursday 8th May 2014
Lisbon, Portugal 
This conference seeks to challenge popular conceptions and perceptions of sexuality and disability. In addition to academic papers, we are particularly interested in opening up a space for the discussion of personal experiences of disability and sexuality and the role of sex workers, community programs and the work of sex educators. Inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary perspectives are sought on sexuality and disability, including cross-cultural and transcultural perspectives. Non-traditional presentations are encouraged including workshops, performances and round table discussions.

300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 6th December 2013. More information here.

CFP for Edited Collection: Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary Popular Fantasy 
Proposals are invited for essays which explore non-normative representations of gender and sexuality in a range of contemporary popular fantasy, including, but not limited to: tv episodes and series, films, computer games and MMORPGs, novels and short stories, comics and graphic novels, role-playing games and fanfiction. [...]

This collection will consider the ways in which contemporary writers, artists, directors and producers use the opportunities offered by popular fantasy to exceed or challenge gender and sexuality norms. In contrast to many claims made about the fantasy genre being necessarily conservative/reactionary, this collection will explore the ways in which this genre can be and is being used to reflect on the contingency of our gender and sexuality norms. With this in mind, proposals are invited for essays of c.7000 words.

Please send proposals of 500 words plus a short biography to by 15th December. More details here.

It may also be of interest that Jude Roberts is looking for papers on much the same topic for "a panel on the academic track at Loncon3 – the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention" which will be held in London from Thursday 14 to Monday 18 August 2014. Please send a 300 word abstract and brief biography to by 1st December 2013. More details here.

MELUS CFP for 2015 Special Issue: African American Print Cultures
In 2015, a special issue of MELUS will showcase under-studied aspects of black print culture studies or book history. We are seeking scholarship that addresses, but is not limited to, the following questions:

• How are contemporary print matters—ranging from concerns such as the publication of new print editions of literary texts by emergent and historical US black writers to online and open access publishing as well as to the operations of the mainstream publishing industry—shaping our understanding of what African American literature is becoming?
All essays should be between 6,000 and 9,000 words, including notes and works cited. [...] Please submit completed essays to Howard Rambsy II ( by Dec. 15, 2013. More details here.

Supernatural Creatures: from Elf-Shot to Shrek
September 22-24, 2014
University of Lodz, Poland
The second Lodz Fantastic Literature Conference aims to bring together experts in folklore, medieval and early modern literature and culture as well as contemporary fantasy literature to explore the fascinating relationship between supernatural creatures and humankind. For centuries these creatures have been seen in both positive and negative light – sometimes as benevolent neighbours, many a time as dangerous folk to interfere with, at other times still as tricksters positioned outside of the traditional dichotomy of friend or foe. Their cultural presence is a force to be reckoned within the study of pre-modern, modern as well as post-modern literature, and the current fascination of popular culture with their history and nature begs ever new questions about why they continue to seem so indispensible to us.

We would like to invite contributions that address the nature and function of the beliefs of past eras, their postmodern transformations, and especially those which trace the (dis)continuities in the ways in which these creatures have been imagined and perceived over the ages.
Submissions of topics and abstracts (300-400 words) should reach the organisers no later than January 31st, 2014. More details here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

And this seems somewhat familiar too

In 2013 it sometimes seems as though when it comes to historical romances, only a duke will do. In contemporaries it helps if a hero's got fifty shades of greenbacks.

This is, apparently, nothing new. Here's William Dean Howells lamenting the taste of the American reading public in 1891 because they have a preference for:
something select, something that treats of high life, like those English novels which have chiefly nourished us; or something that will teach us how to escape the life of toil by a great stroke of business, or by a splendid marriage. What we like to read about is the life of noblemen or millionaires; that is our romance; and if our writers were to begin telling us on any extended scale of how mill hands or miners, or farmers, or iron puddlers really live, we should very soon let them know that we did not care to meet such vulgar and commonplace people.
As far as I can tell, this was first published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine 83, on page 965 but unfortunately I couldn't access it. This excerpt comes from Rob Davidson's The Master and the Dean: The Literary Criticism of Henry James and William Dean Howells.

The image of the ducal coronet was created by Sodacan and came from Wikimedia Commons. The "Large-sized Series of 1880 United States Notes; the $20 note displays Alexander Hamilton and a red scalloped seal, and the $10 Daniel Webster and a large red spiked seal" came from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sound familiar?

From Steven Brocklehurst's article on Jack Vettriano's art:
Jack Vettriano is one of the most popular and successful artists in the world and yet his work has been dismissed by critics as "badly conceived soft porn". [...]

He says: "I am not somebody that buys into the notion that popularity means it is rubbish.

"If something is popular you had better believe it has something going for it."

So why does Vettriano think his paintings are not as well received by the critics, who have dismissed some of his erotically-charged material as "pornography"? [...]

He says: "What I've suffered from and what I continue to suffer from is that critics don't take sex seriously.

"They think it's not real art. I will disagree to the day I die that it is serious."
I didn't want to include any pictures as they're copyright, but you can see quite a lot of images of his work at the website of "Heartbreak Publishing, Jack Vettriano's Official Publishing Company."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Attendees Sought: Princeton Symposium on Romance Authors

The Princeton Symposium on "Authorship in the Popular Romance Genre" is being held on October 24th and 25th.

On Thursday 24th October from 5-7.30pm there will be keynote speeches from Jennifer Crusie and Kay Mussell and a roundtable discussion involving the two speakers plus Eloisa James/Mary Bly, An Goris, April Alliston and Pamela Regis. Registration starts at 4.30.

The Thursday keynotes and roundtable are free and open to the public. You can register here. This is a rare opportunity to hear Jenny Crusie because, as she says, "Travel is now dicey for me."

On Friday 25th October scholarly panels are scheduled from 9.30am-5.30pm. A fee will be charged for these panels but that also covers the cost of lunch:

Early bird registration for the Friday panels = $20 (deadline October 1, 2013)
After October 1, the registration fee for the Friday panels is $30

Register here. More details about the academic panels should be available in late September on the symposium website.

CFP: Chick Lit; Strong Female Characters Created by Men

Via Jen Lois and the Romance Scholar Listserv, here's the text of an email from Adrienne Trier-Bieniek:

I am under contract to deliver "Fan Girls and Media: Consuming Culture" to Scarecrow Press in the late summer of 2014.  I am in need of contributors for two chapters which are outlined below along with a brief description of the book. If you are interested, please send me a brief abstract (200-300 words) and CV by Oct. 1st.  Submissions can be sent to  Those with PhD's or who are in the process of defending a completed dissertation will be given primary consideration.
Thank you!
Description of chapters in need of authors: Please note these are just ideas for the chapters.  They can be developed in any way which best fits the author's focus.

Chapter 3:       Gender, Novels and “Chick Lit”

While the specifics of the chapter will be left to the contributor solicited to write it, this chapter will focus on the ways women who read are often regulated to “fans of chick lit.”  While many women writers present female characters who represent the lives and experiences of many women, (Jennifer Weiner specifically comes to mind), literature is often devalued when it is being consumed by groups of women.  Looking at media coverage of women who read a series like Twilight or 50 Shades of Gray, (generally characterized as read by “women of a certain age” who lust after the fantasy of a younger man), there is a clear gender stereotype of women who read.

Chapter 6:       Strong Female Characters Created by Men

This chapter will focus on the ways female characters are received by female audiences when the creator and mastermind behind a character is male.  This chapter is inspired by the characters created by men such as Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, director of the new Avengers movies).  Because media is dominated by male directors, agents, writers, producers etc, there is a need to understand why strong women created by men resonate with (particularly) female audiences.

Overview of the Book

            This edited volume examines the ways gender stereotypes inform the creation and consumption of popular entertainment and media.  The common assumption that “Women don’t go to movies”, “Women are not funny” or “Women don’t like science fiction” continues to be a driving force in the creation of popular entertainment and has contributed to a culture where, particularly, complex female characters are rare.  These assumptions also affect female fans of media because the focus on female consumers centers on traditional femininity. As a result too few scholars have yet to focus on the impact of gender in media consumption, leading to a limited portrait of what male and female fans are looking for.  This deficiency leads to an enforcement of gender stereotypes.  For example, American popular culture commonly characterizes women as fanatical followers of novels such as Fifty Shades of Grey and films like Twilight, both commercially driven franchises whose popularity (and revenue) derives from assumptions about women’s desires to be rescued by men.  In contrast, with female-driven media where women are presented as empowered, labels such as “chick lit” are applied, diminishing any legitimacy for the medium.  Additionally, the culture of mass-market entertainment treats audience members to a never-ending parade of male action stars or men in leading (often dominating) character roles. Women, on the other hand, still largely function as passive characters in film and fiction novels, with reality television compounding the subordination of women by framing them as constant “frenemies.”  Behind all of this is the assumption that women will watch whatever men enjoy and men only enjoy uber-masculinity in their media.

            This book examines diverse ways media consumption is being challenged and the impact this confrontation can have on addressing gender stereotypes.  Each contributor will offer a chapter on a topic related to media and society with a focus on gender and audience consumption.  In each essay, contributors contest the argument of media moguls and academics alike that male viewers dominate media far too much for it to appeal to girls and women (i.e. the fantasy genre, stand-up comedy or comedic films, ComicCon and comic books); explore the ways cultural patriarchy dismisses women’s pleasures in certain genres (e.g., chick lit); or diminish women’s experiences (e.g., women on reality television.)  There are also chapters dedicated to understanding men who write female characters, and the response this garners from fans, as well as how women who are seemingly the “anti-heroine” are reflective of the multi-layered experiences of women.  The chapters will be written by contributors and will be original for this text.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

New Publications: Love and Marriage

Claire Langhamer's The English in Love: The Intimate Story of An Emotional Revolution was published at the end of August and
covers the period from the end of the First World War until the break-up of The Beatles.

To the casual observer, this era was a golden age of marriage. More people married than ever before. They did so at increasingly younger ages. And there was a revolution in our idea of what marriage meant. Pragmatic notions of marriage as institution were superseded by the more romantic ideal of a relationship based upon individual emotional commitment, love, sex, and personal fulfilment.

And yet, this new idea of marriage, based on a belief in the transformative power of love and emotion, carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. Romantic love, particularly when tied to sexual satisfaction, ultimately proved an unreliable foundation upon which to build marriages: fatally, it had the potential to evaporate over time and under pressure.
It doesn't have much to say about popular romance fiction, but as a result of reading it I did have a few thoughts about historical romance, and also about the extent to which the genre as a whole has reflected beliefs about love and marriage.

I haven't yet read Karen M. Dunak's As Long as We Both Shall Love: The White Wedding in Postwar America, which was also published this August, and even though it doesn't seem to have much to say about romance novels either, it too made me think about popular romance (evidently I've got a one-track mind when it comes to research).

Dunak argues that "Despite being condemned by some critics as “cookie-cutter” or conformist, the wedding has in fact progressively allowed for social, cultural, and political challenges to understandings of sex, gender, marriage, and citizenship" and I think one could make much the same argument about popular romance fiction. Similarly, I think you could substitute "romance novel" for "wedding" in the following: "While many elements of the wedding, from the symbolic meanings behind its 'traditional' components to the way it is marketed, deserve questioning and critique, too many evaluations have ignored the possibilities the wedding offered its celebrants" (5).

An excerpt is available via Google Books and an excerpt from Chapter 5, on same-sex weddings, was published at Salon. Here's an excerpt of that excerpt:
While it is impossible to know the actual number of committed gay and lesbian couples during the 1950s and 1960s, queer marriages existed in the immediate postwar decades and in the years before the official start to Gay Liberation. [...]

Mary Mendola, a writer “married” to another woman, conducted an investigation in the late 1970s to determine just how many same-sex couples existed. The resulting publication, The Mendola Report, while hardly scientific, proved that gay men and lesbians resided together as married couples throughout the United States. Using only an informal network of gay and lesbian contacts, Mendola found 1,500 potential couples to survey and received an astonishing 27 percent return on her distribution. Of her return sample, 67 percent of respondents described themselves as permanently committed or “married.”
Dunak, Karen M. As Long as We Both Shall Love: The White Wedding in Postwar America. New York: New York UP, 2013.

Langhamer, Claire. The English in Love: The Intimate Story of An Emotional Revolution. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2013.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Call for Proposals: The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture Series

Call for Proposals: The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture Series
Editor: C. Richard King, Washington State University

Dedicated to a renewed engagement with culture, this series fosters critical, contextual analyses and cross-disciplinary examinations of popular culture as a site of cultural politics. It welcomes theoretically grounded and critically engaged accounts of the politics of contemporary popular culture and the popular dimensions of cultural politics. Without being aligned to a specific theoretical or methodological approach, The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture publishes monographs and edited collections that promote dialogues on central subjects, such representation, identity, power, consumption, citizenship, desire and difference.

Offering approachable and insightful analyses that complicate race, class, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability and nation across various sites of production and consumption, including film, television, music, advertising, sport, fashion, food, youth, subcultures and new media, The Cultural Politics of Media and Popular Culture welcomes work that explores the importance of text, context and subtext as these relate to the ways in which popular culture works alongside hegemony.

Please direct inquires and proposals to: C. Richard King (crking at wsu dot edu), Professor Critical Culture, Gender & Race Studies, Washington State University.

The series will be published by Ashgate.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Read a Romance Month

A woman called Bobbi Dumas, who writes for Kirkus, has done a remarkable thing this month that I think is of value to scholars. She's created Read a Romance Month. Every day for all of August, she's posted essays from three different romance authors (so, 93 authors in all) with the prompt of "Why does Romance matter?"

So you've basically got 93 romance authors all updating JAK's Dangerous Men, Adventurous Women in one place. It's an incredibly valuable resource for scholars of romance interested in what romance authors think about the genre they write.

I also think it'd be an amazing project for a linguist/critic to evaluate the different tropes of defense of romance. What's MOST fascinating to me, is that most of these posts were written from the prompt before the month started, without reference to any of the other posts. I think that makes it even more valuable, personally, especially if you're examining discourse communities.

Also, not incidentally, it's absolutely fascinating reading--getting these incredibly smart women in one place all discussing the same thing.

Finally, early on, and in some posts scattered throughout the month, Bobbi had the posting authors recommend OTHER debut or early-career authors, who were then supposed to write a RARM post at their personal blog that would get linked to from the RARM post of the author recommending them. I think the logistics of that became unwieldy very quickly, but at least for a time, the project was bigger than the 93 original authors.

Are You Talking to Me? A Critic’s Discourse on the Pleasure of the Romance

I'll never be an evaluator of fiction determining which books are "good" and which are "bad," so this will not be a review, but it will be a series of thoughts, or fragments, on reading Alexis Hall's Glitterland

As I read Glitterland over the weekend, a romance that captures the complexity of mental health, I was struck by the ways in which the narrative explores and expresses anxiety, depression, mania. What was so striking is the seeming impossibility of putting to words the poetics of depression and anxiety. What sorts of words does one use to describe the overwhelming nature of depression, which often leaves quite as impression?

To speak about depression and anxiety is to confront a linguistic register that is at once inexpressible and entirely expressible, as Roland Barthes says about trying to “write love,” which is “to confront the muck of language: that region where language is too much and too little, excessive (by the limitless expansion of ego, by emotive submission) and impoverished (by the codes on which love diminishes and levels it” (A Lover’s Discourse 99).

Little did I know that by the novel’s close, the depressed, anxious hero would indeed call upon Roland Barthes, by name, on a variety of occasions – indeed, more particularly, the author, Alexis Hall, quotes from Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse in the novels close, as we work towards the declaration of love: "Roland Barthes argued" the hero explains, "a phrase as commonly used as the one I think we're discussing is essentially a meaningless signifier." The literary critic might well be ready to declare to the novel, "I love you!"

The novel directs its attention at the literary critic--it might well be that Glitterland is itself A Lover's Discourse between an author and reader. I had imagined a reading of Glitterland informed by Roland Barthes – this in and of itself is not terribly impressive, I’ve long felt that if Popular Romance Studies were to develop a list of “Required Reading” that Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse would be included – but what is interesting, to me, is what we do with an author who almost pre-empts his critics and explicitly tells the critic-reader about Roland Barthes.

The quotations from Roland Barthes, it must be admitted, are well known; a quick search online shows them listed on numerous websites of quotations. Hall, however, does more than merely quote Barthes. Hall provides a biography: “Barthes. French literary critic. Gay. Perhaps overly fond of his mother. Prone to nervous breakdowns.”

All of this, of course, could be found from an encyclopaedia entry on Barthes, or Wayne Koestenbaum’s introduction to A Lover’s Discourse, in which Koestenbaum speaks of Barthes’s “matrophilia.” And in A Lover’s Discourse, Barthes will speak of a wanting “maternity and genitality.” In Mourning Diary, Barthes writes, “You have never known a Woman’s body! I have know the body of my mother, sick and then dying.” 

While I can imagine any number of ways to negate the presence of Barthes, to suggest that the author of the book is not a Barthesian, I cannot help but admit that my own initial reaction was that Barthes was present. Perhaps Alexis Hall and I share a love for Barthes, and while I’ve theorized romance in terms of Barthes, Hall has written romance alongside Barthes (much like The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides).

But what is a literary critic to do when an author openly names a precursor, his protagonists’s “hero” as Roland Barthes? Is Alexis Hall teasing his critic-reader? Am I now to complete a Barthesian reading of the novel? Am I over-reading the novel if I insist upon a Barthesian reading that extends far beyond A Lover’s Discourse? I am quite certain that I see much more than A Lover’s Discourse in the novel. Is there something to be said about the way Barthes speaks of “shimmer” (a word that appears a handful of times in the novel) while Hall speaks of “glitter” (a word Barthes uses in The Preparation of the Novel, “writing as a tendency means the objects of writing appear, glitter, disappear)? What about notions of fragmentation, brokenness, shattering alongside Barthesian jouissance? Or, the juxtaposition between pleasure (used 24 times in the novel) and bliss (seven times)? Or the way the novel tries to teach its reader about punctum rather than studium, or the writerly versus the readerly text (even though the novel won’t use these terms)?

If as Susan Sontag suggested, “interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art,” has Alexis Hall managed to get the last laugh?

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010.
- - -. Mourning Diary. Trans. Richard Howard. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.
- - - . The Pleasure of the Text. Trans. Richard Miller. New York: Hill and Wang, 1975.
- - - . The Preparation of the Novel: Lecture Courses and Seminars at Collège de France (1978-1979 and 1979-1980). Ed. Nathalie Léger. Trans. Kate Briggs. New York: Columbia UP, 2011.
Hall, Alexis. Glitterland. Hillsborough, NJ: Riptide Publishing, 2013.
Koestenbaum, Wayne. “Foreword: In Defense of Nuance” in A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes. New York: Hill and Wang, 2010.
Sontag, Susan. Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Picador, 1966.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bujold Archive

Since Lois McMaster Bujold's novels are loved by a lot of romance readers (and quite often include romantic elements), I thought I'd mention that Northern Illinois University has acquired Bujold's manuscripts:
Her donation includes early drafts, final drafts, proofs, submission copies, foreign editions of books and more.

“The most unique items are certainly my early handwritten first drafts, in pencil on notebook paper,” said Bujold, describing some of the work included in her donation. “I suppose the earliest manuscripts are of the most sentimental value to me, as I was learning to become a writer by doing.”

Her initial gift includes papers for titles such as Cetaganda, Women at War and Falling Free, the 1988 Nebula Award winner. Ultimately, NIU is expected to receive all of Bujold’s manuscripts.
Other academic libraries hold material by authors who are known for writing romance. Bowling Green State University's Browne Popular Culture Library holds
correspondence, fan mail, literary manuscripts, and galley sheets from many prominent romance writers, including Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Cathie Linz, and April Kihlstrom. [...]

The Browne Popular Culture Library also houses the archives of the Romance Writers of America, the world's largest non-profit genre organization
Details of more academic libraries with romance collections (manuscripts and/or printed novels) can be found here.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Tenure-Track Position in American Popular Culture

For those who aren't on the Romance Scholar listserv and therefore may not have seen this already:

The Department of American Studies in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota invites applications for a full-time, tenure-track position in the area of American popular culture to begin fall semester 2014 (25 August 2014).

Appointment will be 100% time over the nine-month academic year (late-August to late-May). Appointment will be made at the rank of tenure-track assistant professor, consistent with collegiate and University policy. Salary is competitive.

The successful candidate will demonstrate expertise on the historical trajectories of American popular culture and mass media in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We are particularly interested in scholarship that engages with issues of race, class, disability, gender and sexuality in the United States and that can place this work within transnational, indigenous, and/or global contexts.

Ph.D. in American Studies, or any related field such as Cultural Studies, History, the Humanities, Media, and the Social Sciences, is required by the start date of the appointment, as well as evidence of potential for excellence in teaching and productive, innovative scholarship. Preference will be given to candidates with a minimum of one year of college or university teaching experience.
More details here and here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Queering Popular Romance (CFP)

New Call for Papers:

Queering Popular Romance 
(September 1, 2014 Deadline)
In 1997, Kay Mussell called upon scholars of popular romance “to incorporate analysis of lesbian and gay romances into our mostly heterosexual models.” Today, closing in on two decades later, that challenge has yet to be met.  Although print and digital venues for LGBTQ romance have proliferated, meeting a growing demand for such work among readers (especially for male / male romances), and although there is a burgeoning interest in writing LGBTQ romance on the part of both LGBTQ and straight authors, queer romance fiction remains peripheral to most academic accounts of the genre.  Likewise, with a handful of exceptions, scholarship on popular romance fiction has scarcely begun to engage the theoretical paradigms that have become central to gay and lesbian studies, to queer theory, and to the study of queer love in other media (film, TV, pop music, etc.).  
The Journal of Popular Romance Studies therefore calls for papers on “Queering the Romance,” in the broadest possible sense of the phrase.
Recognizing that there are both similarities and tensions between “queer theory” and “lesbian and gay criticism,” we call not only for papers that consider the importance of identity politics to popular romance fiction—that is, papers on romance novels with LGBTQ protagonists—but also for papers which give “queer” readings of ostensibly heterosexual romances, as well as for those which are theoretically engaged with the fluid concept of “queerness,” no matter the bodies and / or sexualities of the protagonists involved.  We think here of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s famous assertion that “one of the things that ’queer’ can refer to” is “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone’s gender, of anyone’s sexuality aren’t made (or can’t be made) to signify monolithically.”
Topics to be addressed might include:
●          Continuity and Change in LGBT romance (including publishing, circulation, and readership), from gay and lesbian pulps to digital platforms
●          Rereading the Romance, Queerly: queer re-readings of older romance scholarship, of canonical romance texts, and of the text / reader relationship
●          Queering the romance genre across different media (film, television, graphic novels, video games, etc.)
●          Queering subgenres and romance conventions / tropes (virginity, sexuality, attraction, betrothal, the Happily Ever After ending)
●          Questions of Authorship / Authority / Appropriation: who writes, reads, and gets to judge LGBTQ romance, and why?
●          Intersectional texts and readings:  queerness and disability, race, ethnicity, illness, religion, etc.
●          Beyond m/m and f/f:  bringing bisexual, transgender, asexual, and other genderqueer romance into the discourse

This special issue will be guest edited by Andrea Wood and Jonathan A. Allan.  Please submit scholarly papers no more than 10,000 words, including notes and bibliography, by September 1, 2014, to An Goris, Managing Editor, at Submissions should be Microsoft Word documents, with citations in MLA format; please remove all identifying material (i.e. running heads with the author’s name) so that submissions can easily be sent out for anonymous peer review.  For more information on how to submit a paper, please visit

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gender and Love Conference: Demisexual Protagonists and Feminism

3rd Global Conference

Friday 13th September – Sunday 15th September 2013

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom

The conference puts the draft papers online, so I've included links to some of them below. More details about the conference can be found here. Session 7 includes:

"First Love, Last Love, True Love: Heroines, Heroes, and the Gendered Representation of Love in the Romance Novel" by Jodi McAlister, Macquarie University

Jodi McAlister argues that
the concept of ‘compulsory demisexuality’ [...] permeates the world of the romance. Someone who is demisexual experiences sexual attraction only to those with whom they share an emotional connection. When this intersects with the idea of One True Love, a world is shaped where sex and love are inextricably linked. I will explore how this is differently gendered in the romance novel. Often, the heroine is already demisexual, the linking of sex and love coded as something explicitly feminine. Conversely, heroes become demisexual, unable to desire another woman once he has formed an emotional connection with the heroine. This highlights a sharp gendered divide in the portrayal of true love. For women, there is an emphasis on the importance of first love. For men, this emphasis is on last love.
She notes that
As sex scenes became more prevalent, heroines increasingly found themselves overpowered by their desire, their bodies triumphing over their minds. Their desire creates a kind of slippage in the paradigm of compulsory demisexuality. For true love to prevail – for mind and body to be united – their desire must be recuperated into the paradigm. They must form an emotional bond with the man they have slept with, the hero, proving their desire to be prophetic: a sort of metaphysical sign that the man they desire is their one true love.
The paper focuses on Harlequin Mills & Boons, as does

"A Third Wave Feminist Mills & Boon Love Affair? Gender in Recent Romance Novels" by Eirini Arvanitaki, Department of English, University of Hull

While I welcome Eirini Arvanitaki's positive approach towards recent HM&B romances, I was a bit worried by the lack of mention of differences between HM&B lines because these can have a significant impact on some of the issues under discussion (at least, I found it to be the case, as outlined in my "Feminism and Early Twenty-First Century Harlequin Mills & Boon Romances"). I also wonder how deep her knowledge is of earlier HM&Bs. It's easy enough to write:
In the past, the majority of the novels illustrated the hero as an heir of an influential and wealthy family and the heroine as a woman who belonged to a lower social class. [...] Additionally, in the past the hero’s wealth was a product of family or blood line
However, I think you could go back quite a few decades and find plenty of heroes who are professionals (e.g. doctors, airline pilots, businessmen) who have earned their own money and are not from particularly "influential and wealthy families." I have a feeling that jay Dixon's and Joseph McAleer's books on Mills & Boon would have been of assistance in adding nuance to the argument. In fact, there's a striking lack of romance scholarship in the paper's bibliography. Perhaps the academic bibliography at the Romance Wiki would be of assistance.

[Edited to add: the draft paper has since been altered and I've updated the link so that it takes the reader to the later draft]

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Marginalised Mainstream 2013

Marginalised Mainstream: Fading and Emerging: Tracing the Mainstream in Literature and Popular Culture 

London: 12-13 October 2013

Conference registration is now open and the programme  is available. Among the papers are:

Amy Burns: '(Re)Constructing the Flâneur in Contemporary Chick Lit' [A related article of hers, "The Postfeminist Flâneuse: The Literary Value of Contemporary Chick Lit" was published in the Graduate Journal of Social Science in November 2012 (Vol. 9, Issue 3) and is available for free online.]

Nadine Farghaly: 'Identifying and Defining the Shapeshifting Alpha Male Romance Hero' [She has co-edited a volume of "reflections on personal intimate relationships and how they establish personal identity" and "is currently working on instances of bestiality or zoophilia in popular culture."]

Faye Keegan: 'The Uses of Reading in Nine Coaches Waiting' [She organised a symposium on Mary Stewart earlier in the year which, unfortunately, had to be cancelled.]

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Perfect Girls of YA Paranormal Romance

In a recent MA thesis, "Monsters in My Bed: Accounting for the Popularity of Young Adult Paranormal Romances," Whitney Young argues that "the discourse which emerges from the novels overlaps with popular discourses and narratives on girlhood and young adulthood in the US" (46). In Young's opinion many "white, privileged girls and young women" (7) are encouraged to feel that they should be "Perfect Girls, exceling in every facet of their lives: physical appearance, athleticism, and academic achievement" (29) and to think of themselves as "'can-do,' ambitious, goal oriented, and consumerist" (5), as
planners, [who] do not engage in promiscuous sex or delinquent behavior. This category of girls, white, privileged girls, is subject to this discourse and learns to tell it about themselves—they place themselves into this discourse. These discourses are not just a set of characteristics told about these girls but are part of a narrative which the novels reflect [...] and so, these novels are popular now because they reflect to the story the white, privileged girl readers learn to tell about themselves. (7)
Young argues that the common scenario in which
the heroine and her friends must deal with the supernatural by themselves, without adult support [...] parallels the narrative of emerging adults upon entering the adult world, parents can no longer help their adult children fix problems like they once did. (39)
The moment when
the supernatural enters the heroine’s life [...] can be seen as a metaphor for the narrative about emerging adult Perfect Girl’s experience upon entering the adult world [...]; they were raised to believe the world would function a certain way—that people would recognize their specialness and they would go on to do great things—but they learn that this is not the case; they are just another employee. (37)
However, the novels reassuringly offer their readers "instances in which the ideologies of specialness and doing great things can be temporarily restored" (40) and "The protagonist’s potential to change the world can offer hope to the reader that one day they still might change the world" (44).

Although these aspects of the novels might seem to reinforce the discourses about "can-do" and "Perfect" girls, Young found that, by the conclusions of the novels or series of novels
The heroines seem to be uninterested in trying to be perfect, effectively having rejected the Perfect Girl discourse. This may be because the girls are not entirely in the ideological system anymore. One reason being that facing these life-or-death events puts the heroine’s previous worries into perspective. Another reason may be that because many of the heroines in the novels end up becoming supernatural, it is they possibly don’t feel the pressure to conform to human standards like they used to. However, the most persuasive reason that the heroines are not interested in trying to attain perfection is because they have learned that they can be content, loved, and find where they belong without having to be perfect. (50)
You can read the whole thesis here.
Young, Whitney A. "Monsters in My Bed: Accounting for the Popularity of Young Adult Paranormal Romances." MA Thesis. Georgia State University. 2013.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beyond the Happily-Ever-After, Sociologists at Large, Bujold, and Feral Feminism

Romances are increasingly being written as part of series and in "Happily Ever After ... And After: Serialization and the Popular Romance Novel," published this month in Americana (which is freely available online), An Goris argues that this means there is more opportunity for writers to explore what happens after couples have declared their love, made a commitment to each other and achieved their "happily ever after":
The post-HEA is a very interesting narrative space. It is developing into a fictional locus in which the romance genre is expressing in new and previously unavailable ways the romantic fantasy and ideology around which it revolves. In doing so, analyses of post-HEA scenes reveal the genre is not merely representing a clear-cut, pre-fixed fantasy of a romantic Happy Ever After, but actively exploring and negotiating what such a fantasy might look like beyond the climactic yet inevitably formulaic moment of the HEA.
She focuses on novels by Nora Roberts and J. R. Ward. I had a few thoughts in response to some of the more general points An makes about series so I plonked them down at my blog.

Sarah Wendell has put up a podcast (scroll to the bottom of the post for the play button - no transcript is available) of a conversation she had with sociologists Joanna Gregson and Jennifer Lois
about their research, the things they've learned about the romance community and the patterns of behavior they identified as they gathered data. We also discuss whether romance is feminist, which led to discussion of valued work and devalued work, plus maternity leave policies in the US vs. other nations.
Gregson and Lois have set up a Facebook page and a joint Twitter feed.

Biology and Manners: The Worlds of Lois McMaster Bujold 20th August 2014 
Potential contributors are invited to submit an abstract for a one-day conference to be held at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, on August 20th 2014. This inter-disciplinary conference will explore the works of Hugo and Nebula Award winning writer Lois McMaster Bujold, encompassing both her science fiction and her fantasy novels.
One of the suggested topics is "science fiction and sexuality." More details here.

Feminist Un/Pleasure: Reflections on Perversity, BDSM, and Desire
Feral Feminisms, a new independent, inter-media, peer reviewed, open access online journal, invites submissions from artists, activists, scholars and graduate students for a special issue entitled, “Feminist Un/Pleasure: Reflections on Perversity, BDSM, and Desire,” guest edited by Toby Wiggins.
More details here.

The photo of "Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino [who] were the Musical Guests at one of Amanda Stern's Happy Ending Music and Reading Series shows" was created by Hadarvc who has made it available under a Creative Commons licence.

The podcast icon was created by Yagraph who made it available under a Creative Commons licence.