Tuesday, May 28, 2013

German Romances in the US

Lynne Tatlock's German Writing, American Reading: Women and the Import of Fiction, 1866-1917 was published by the Ohio State University Press in August and although the title doesn't specifically mention romances (and in any case "romance" had a much broader meaning then than it tends to do in the US today), I suspect that chapter 4, "The German Art of the Happy Ending: Embellishing and Expanding the Boundaries of Home" may be of interest to romance scholars. The body of works under analysis comprises
nearly 100 original texts, approximately 180 American translations, more than 1,000 editions and reprint editions, and hundreds of thousands of books strong—comprised popular fiction written by German women and translated by American women. [...] Lynne Tatlock examines the genesis and circulation in America of this hybrid product over four decades and beyond. These entertaining novels came to the consumer altered by processes of creative adaptation and acculturation that occurred in the United States as a result of translation, marketing, publication, and widespread reading over forty years. These processes in turn de-centered and disrupted the national while still transferring certain elements of German national culture. Most of all, this mass translation of German fiction by American women trafficked in happy endings that promised American readers that their fondest wishes for adventure, drama, and bliss within domesticity and their hope for the real power of love, virtue, and sentiment could be pleasurably realized in an imagined and quaintly old-fashioned Germany—even if only in the time it took to read a novel. (emphasis added)
Here's a bit more about Chapter 4:
Chapter 4 examines German novels as American reading from the perspective of the happy ending, an international signature of romance novels and of nearly all of the German novels by women in my dataset. The chapter uncovers and analyzes variations in plotting ritual death and recovery to a state of freedom that characterize these German novels and that appealed to American readers by offering them the vicarious experience of a multiplicity of female subjectivities and female-determined male subjectivities while cautiously expanding the boundaries of home in a place called Germany. I combine analysis of texts with examination of exemplars of books and the history of the book publication of each translated text.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CFP: Popular Literary Genres

A couple of new calls for papers. First, from C21 Literature:

Genre has become an increasingly significant part of academic and popular criticism since the year 2000. From Steampunk to Crunch Lit, Young Adult to Nordic Noir, new genres have arisen to sustain fiction and popular culture markets in the new millennium. Issue three of C21 Literature asks if the politics of genre can offer insights into developments across the first thirteen years of the twenty-first century. If genre development is a process of evolution then how and where do these genres originate – and what are the intertextual and historical frames in which they operate? The journal calls for articles examining developments in genre across the twenty-first century. Topics may include:
• the history of literary genre
• multi-platformed genre developments
• new genres and authors
• cultural studies and genre
• politics and genre
• humour and genre
• academia and genre
• technology and genre
• popular culture and parody
• alternative histories
• old genres, new millennium
The full call for papers can be found here.

Also on the topic of genre, Anna Faktorovich is "currently finishing a book for McFarland called Formulaic Writing within Genres on currently popular literary genres" which apparently "covers genres like fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and romance" (Boston Literary Magazine). She's also planning
on submitting a panel proposal to the Rhetoric Society conference coming up in May 2014. I would like to find 2-3 other presenters for my panel. You should be an assistant+ professor at a college or university in the US. [...] I would like to create a panel on the generic structure of currently popular fiction genres (primarily in the novel). Please familiarize yourself with the Rhetoric Society prior to sending a query - they are interested in close rhetorical textual studies (genre, tone, characters, etc.). If you are interested, please email a couple of sentences on the topic that you would like to present on, and a short paragraph bio with your credentials. The proposals are due on July 1, 2013, so I need to receive all queries by June 7, 2013 - so I'll have enough time to pull the panel together. Participants will also have a chance to publish their papers in the tri-annual Pennsylvania Literary Journal, now in its 5th volume. Email queries to director@anaphoraliterary.com, to the attention of Anna Faktorovich, Ph.D., Director, Anaphora Literary Press.
The full call for papers can be found here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

CFP for GLBTQ Studies at MAPACA

Details from here:

Conference: Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association
Dates: Thursday, 11/7 thru Saturday, 11/9
Location: Atlantic City, New Jersey
Venue: Tropicana Casino and Resort
Deadline: Proposals must be received by June 14, 2013
Web Site: www.mapaca.net

The GLBTQ Studies Area of MAPACA welcomes proposals of relevance to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities. Proposals are encouraged on any medium of popular or American culture. Proposals of interest for the Atlantic City 2013 conference might include:

*Queering the Internet: The GLBTQ Web
*GLBT Publishing Today
*Sports and Gay/Lesbian Visibility
*The Female Eye: Agency or Appropriation?
*The Gay Bar: Patron or Patronizing?
*GLBTQ Representation in Contemporary Popular Culture
*Where are we Now: Gay vs. Queer Sensibilities
*GLBTQ Media Coverage: From Suicides to It Gets Better
*The GLBTQ Superhero/ine?
*HIV/AIDS and Erotic Writing
*The Violet Quill writers
*Popular GLBTQ romance novels/novelists
*GLBTQ comics/graphic novels/Yaoi

However, proposals addressing any topic of GLBTQ significance in popular or American culture are welcome. Please log into the MAPACA website to submit a proposal. You can find directions at this URL: http://mapaca.net/help/conference/submitting-abstracts-conference.

You may also contact Dr. Mark John Isola via markjohn—at—alumni.tufts.edu with any questions.

Please note: Presenters may only present 1 paper at MAP/ACA; please do not submit multiple papers to multiple areas. Also, please note a sliding scale fee applies for conference registration.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Teaching the Romance (Prologue; first in a series)

In the fall of 2005 I came back from a quarter's research leave to teach my first DePaul University class on popular romance fiction.  Since then, I have taught nearly thirty of these ten-week courses on the genre, ranging from large undergraduate surveys to senior and graduate (MA) seminars.  I'm coming up on a break in that teaching:  I go on another research leave in the fall, and won't teach another romance class until a year from now, at least.  So before what I've learned from all that teaching slips out of my mind, I'd like to post a series of pieces on it here at Teach Me Tonight.

The text of these posts will be derived, at least at first, from a couple of conference papers I've given on teaching popular romance, with some additional commentary, book lists, and so on, added to freshen them up.  I must admit, I'm at the point in the quarter right now when it seems--just like clockwork, year after year--that I know very little about either teaching or popular romance, but I'll try to keep the self-doubt to a minimum!  (If you want to read about that, you can find more at my personal / poetry-teaching blog, Say Something Wonderful.)  My goal in breaking things up, rather than writing one long post, is to give myself room to meander and muse, and if you'd like to ask me questions about the courses, the books, the assignments, I'd be very glad to answer them.

By way of a prologue, let me just say that my courses here have been various sizes.  A 20-student "seminar" was the smallest, I think (not counting independent studies), and the largest ones are  are 35-40 student lecture / discussion classes.  At whatever size they're offered, however, they fill up quickly:  mostly with women, as a rule, but I have had up to 20% of the class be male.

To teach such courses, I have learned, is something of a privilege.  Not many people get to teach popular romance fiction, and many who do, approach it in the context of broader courses on literary fiction, popular culture, or women’s studies. But there are distinctive challenges and rewards to teaching a course entirely on the genre, and I hope these posts will both inspire and equip some of you reading them to pitch such courses to your respective deans and department chairs.  If you do, and they bite, let me know.

(Image is my alter-ego, Prof. H. M. Wogglebug, T.E.)

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

New Theses: Traitorous Bodies Exploring Discipline Relationships

In "'Traitorous Bodies': Cartesian Dualism in Romance Novels by Susan Johnson and E. L. James," Taylor D. Cortesi argues that
Applying René Descartes’s theory of mind/body dualism to the heroines in Susan Johnson’s Seized by Love and E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey reveals not only a separation between the heroines’ minds and bodies, but proves that both heroines are depicted as distinctly body. As such, serious complications arise for the female characters, including the acceptance of sexual violence and submission to the patriarchy. (viii)
Cortesi suggests that
while Fifty Shades of Grey is superficially about the Dominant/Submissive BDSM relationship that develops between protagonists Ana Steele and Christian Grey, it is also the story of a Dominant/Submissive relationship that forms within Ana herself. Because of the Cartesian mind/body dualism evident in Ana, the opposition within her echoes the oppositional relationship between the two main characters. Ana’s mind is at first independent and strong, just as Ana is when she first meets Christian; however, once her body is awakened, Ana’s mind is weakened and becomes submissive to the desires of her body, just as she is weakened and controlled by Christian. (68-69)
Melissa E Travis's PhD thesis, "Assume the Position: Exploring Discipline Relationships" isn't solely about romance novels but it does include a section on "discipline romance novels."  As explained in the abstract,
Discipline relationships are consensual adult relationships between submissive and dominant partners who employ authority and corporal punishment. This population uses social media to discuss the private nature of their ritualized fantasies, desires, and practices. Participants of these relationships resist a sadomasochistic label of BDSM or domestic abuse.
Romance novels about such relationships are apparently growing in number:
Discipline romance novels, published through independent vanity presses or as serials through memberships, are a salient feature in discipline culture. Over the last ten years I have watched the publication and sales of discipline romance novels grow from a grass roots, blog-based movement to a more formal established network. (159)
Since these are romance novels, they share many features with other romance novels but whereas Susan Elizabeth Phillips argues in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance that
I can only shake my head in bewilderment when I hear the romance novel criticized for depicting women as being submissive to domineering men. Are the critics reading the same books I am? What is the ultimate fate of the most arrogant, domineering, ruthless macho hero any romance writer can create? He is tamed. (57-58)
in discipline romance novels the heroes are
often dominant men, or men who find their dominant selves because of a woman who needs to be tamed or brought to submission. In traditional romance novels, dangerous men are often tamed and healed by strong heroines (Regis 2003:171). In discipline romance novels, dominant men often take on headstrong or unruly women and tame them through the use of discipline. One element of discipline romance novels is that submissive women are dangerous to themselves, their relationships, or behave destructively and must be changed through discipline from a dominant partner. These dominant men are unafraid of emotionality, brave women, or taming a bratty woman. They sometimes include a dangerous man archetype, but also include taming the shrew, and rape fantasies. After she is tamed, both characters have a mutually satisfying dominant man/submissive woman traditional role depiction, which fulfills both partners. (160-61)
Cortesi, Taylor D. "'Traitorous Bodies': Cartesian Dualism in Romance Novels by Susan Johnson and E. L. James." M. Lit. thesis, Texas State University - San Marcos, 2013.

Phillips, Susan Elizabeth. "The Romance and the Empowerment of Women." Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Ed. Jayne Ann Krentz. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 2013. 53-59.

Travis, Melissa E. "Assume the Position: Exploring Discipline Relationships." Sociology Dissertations, Paper 71. Ph.D thesis. Georgia State University, 2013. [Section on "Discipline Romance Novels", pp. 159-66.]

Sunday, May 05, 2013

50 Shades (to be a Lover)

I'm not sure this counts as a "Musing on Romance Fiction from an Academic Perspective," but I'm not at all sure that it doesn't!  A little parody, this, of Paul Simon's "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover," performed by yours truly (Eric) earlier this year.

The lyrics are all in the "description" area, below the video.


Friday, May 03, 2013

Porn Studies

Pam Regis notified me of a new journal, Porn Studies, which is to be launched in 2014.  The New York Times reports that
The journal, edited by two British academics, Feona Attwood and Clarissa Smith, has already inspired some hearty scholarly endorsements. “We have waited a long time for an academic journal that treats the subject of the representation of human sexuality with the seriousness it deserves,” Julie Peakman, a historian at the University of London and the author of “Mighty Lewd Books: The Development of Pornography in 18th-Century England,” said in a statement. “I look forward to a lively and disciplined debate across different disciplines.”
I wonder if one of those disciplines might be popular romance studies given that romance, and particularly erotic romance,
often asserts itself as something other than pornography. It claims not to just be erotic, but romantic. The romance part ought to indicate that it is doing more with sex and sexuality than merely recounting various bits of fucking for the reader’s titillation. Otherwise, why call it romance? Why not just be pornography?  (Toscano)
The boundaries between romance, erotica and pornography may be of particular interest at the moment given the fame and popularity of the Fifty Shades trilogy: "More than just an instance of a particular genre of fiction, Fifty Shades has spawned considerable discussion of the significance of ‘women’s popular erotic fiction’ generally" (Phillips and Trevenen). As Jodi McAlister argues, Fifty Shades
occupies a strangely liminal position at the crossroads of several genres, adopting structural elements from both modern popular romance fiction and 19th-century pornography.
The call for papers for the Journal of Porn Studies can be found here.

McAlister, Jodi. "Fifty Shades of Genre." Popular Romance Project. 8 Nov. 2012.

Phillips, Kristen and Claire Trevenen. "CFP – Shattering Releases: The Pleasures and Politics of Popular Erotic Fiction (edited collection)." 2013.

Schuessler, Jennifer. "Routledge to Publish Porn Studies Journal." The New York Times. 30 April 2013.

Toscano, Angela. "Why I Now Hate Erotic Romance." Dear Author. 30 April 2013. Originally published at That Sly Wench, 9 January 2012.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Clouds of Glory

I'm teaching Eloisa James's The Duke is Mine this afternoon, so I've spent much of this glorious May Day indoors, re-reading the book and taking notes.

One of them concerns a little phrase that the second male lead, Rupert, says early in the book, when he promises to marry our heroine after he's returned from battle, "Trailing glory, you understand" (41).  Near the end of the book, the phrase returns with a slight variation:  "Rupert was buried with honors:  not in the family tomb, but in Westminster Abbey, as befitted an English hero who trailed clouds of glory" (362).

The novel is set in 1812, and Rupert is a poet, so perhaps he knows the source of his own allusion, Wordsworth's "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood."  It was first printed, I gather, in 1807, but not published in its final form until 1815, and I'm not sure which version features the lines, but in any case, here's the passage in question, with the key lines underlined.

O evil day! if I were sullen
        While Earth herself is adorning,
            This sweet May-morning,  45
        And the children are culling
            On every side,
        In a thousand valleys far and wide,
        Fresh flowers; while the sun shines warm,
And the babe leaps up on his mother's arm:—  50
        I hear, I hear, with joy I hear!
        —But there's a tree, of many, one,
A single field which I have look'd upon,
Both of them speak of something that is gone:
          The pansy at my feet  55
          Doth the same tale repeat:
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,  60
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar:
        Not in entire forgetfulness,
        And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come  65
        From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
        Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,  70
        He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
    Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
      And by the vision splendid
      Is on his way attended;  75
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

Why this passage?  How does it connect to the novel?  Is this a "working allusion," so to speak--one that has some actual bearing on the book--or just a tag that the author has in her head, and so put in the novel, as appropriate for a poet in 1812?

I'm teaching the book in conjunction with Laura's chapter on Metafiction, so my thoughts tend that way, but we'll see what my class decides, or I come up with, as the afternoon goes on!