Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hell Hath No Inventiveness Like a Romance-Reader Scorned

When Gabby Maait, Kat Mayo and Jennifer Wu discovered that the Sydney Writers' Festival was ignoring popular romance fiction, its writers and readers, they were angry - and then they got inventive.

They made a range of postcards which could be left at the festival to challenge perceptions of the genre. Bearing in mind that romance novels are often judged by their covers:

This "cover remix [...] features an Australian classic, My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin, re-imagined as a chicklit romance."

This "cover remix [...] features The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde re-imagined as a paranormal romance" because, as Kat points out
Today The Picture of Dorian Gray a classic work of literature, and no critic would dismiss it because they think it will raise men’s expectations of debauched lifestyles. Contrast this to romance fiction, which is blamed for women having unrealistic expectations in relationships, of being porn for women (nothing more than a masturbatory aid rather than an expression of art or a form of literary entertainment), or of being escapist and therefore too light for serious review or analysis.

This one gives a clinch cover to Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles ("A classic bodice-ripper ... without the happy ending") to make the point that "in our books women always win."

The covers were designed by Jennifer Wu, who's written about the project here. You can see more of her work on her website. She also has prints/iPhone and iPod cases/skins of the original artwork for these covers available for sale. Here's Tess, The Picture and My Brilliant Career.

There are also two postcards featuring quotes from romance novels (one from Patricia Brigg's Fair Game and the other from Untamed by Anna Cowan). On the reverse, all of the cards carry a quote from Judith Arnold:
To belittle romance fiction is to belittle women. To read romance fiction is to confront the strength of women, the variety of their experience, and the validity of their aspirations and accomplishments
I think Jennifer, Kat and Gabby have given us a very impressive taste of their "aspirations and accomplishments."

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Call for Magazine Articles (for a general readership) About Love and Romance
Call for ArticlesOklahoma Humanities Magazine

The Oklahoma Humanities Council is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. This call for article proposals is for the Winter/January 2015 issue of our magazine, which will feature the topic of “love and romance.” Inclusion is honorary; compensation consists of 5 copies of the issue in which your article appears.

You can view the magazine online at: [current issue]          


Romantic love is a central theme in our human story. The practices and traditions of courtship are rooted in history and culture—with outcomes that are often funny, sometimes tragic, but always hopeful for a “happy ever after.” In this issue, we’ll explore aspects of the search for passion and intimacy. This is your opportunity to step outside academe and share your knowledge with the public at large [you can skip the bibliography and notes!]. We offer the following prompts to stimulate your thinking, and we welcome other ideas.

      Gifts/Gestures/Traditions of Love:
Love Songs – Love Letters – Flowers – Food – Chocolate – Perfume – Jewelry – Valentines

      Poetry and Literature:
Poets and Love Poems – History of the Romance Novel and its Place in Popular Culture Romantic Themes in Young Adult Fiction – The Personal Romances [or lack thereof] of Romance Authors

      Star-crossed Lovers/Classic Couples:

Adam & Eve
Mark Antony & Cleopatra
Tristan & Isolde
Eloise & Abelard
Romeo & Juliet
Jane Eyre & Rochester
Elizabeth & Darcy
Scarlett & Rhett
      Bonnie & Clyde
      Clark Kent & Lois Lane
      Ricky & Lucy, I Love Lucy
      Ross & Rachel, Friends

      Love at the Movies: Romantic movies as genre [content] and as courtship [date night].

      Dating in the 21st Century: Has social media and the Internet changed courtship? What are the problems—and freedoms—of dating in the information age?

      History and World Cultures: What does history and anthropology reveal about the role of romance in human experience? What are the gifts, rites, and romantic traditions of cultures around the world?

      And don’t forget the male perspective! Maybe John Wayne as romantic hero? Or male authors/filmmakers behind romantic stories?

About our publication: Print readership is approximately 11,500 statewide [donors, universities, public schools, public and prison libraries, cultural organizations, state and national legislators, etc.] with additional distribution via events, bookstores, etc. The publication is distributed free of charge as a part of our public programming.

Previous authors have included: Anita Hill [Reimagining Equality]; Naomi Benaron [Running the Rift]; Michael Sandel [What Money Can’t Buy]; Mickey Edwards [The Parties Versus The People], Krista Tippet [host of NPR’s “On Being”]; Mark Slouka [Harper’s Magazine]; and Kim Stafford [100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do].

Click here for Author Guidelines on the style and tone of articles we publish. We’re looking for a feature article length of 2000-2250 words. Please respond June 4th. If we accept your proposal, the deadline for your text will be Sept. 15th. Please send the following:

·        Short synopsis of your proposed article
·        Brief resume of your experience
·        Samples of your writing that reflect the tone and style of our magazine

Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I look forward to hearing from you. ~ Carla Walker, Editor

Carla D. Walker
Editor, Oklahoma HUMANITIES Magazine
Director of Publications
Oklahoma Humanities Council
428 W. California, Ste. 270
Oklahoma City, OK  73102
(405) 235-0280 | Fax (405) 235-0289

IASPR 2014 Conference Programme

The programme is now available for the 2014 IASPR Conference in Greece. It opens with two papers I wish I could be there to hear as I've done a bit of (as yet unpublished work) on the topic myself:

Eirini Arvanitaki (University of Hull, UK): Greek Lover or Simply a Hero? Oriental and Occidental Attitudes and Behaviours in Romance Fiction.

Artemis Lamprinou (independent scholar): What Does it Take to Be a Greek Protagonist within a British Popular Romance?

And of course there are many more fascinating papers. The list below is long, but I've tried to make it a bit shorter by focusing on the ones about romance novels. The full list is available here.

Renee Bennett-Kapusniak & Adriana McCleer (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA): Love in the Digital Library: A Search for Racial Heterogeneity in E-Books.

Vassiliki Veros (University of Technology, Australia): A Meta of Romance in Libraries: The impact of the under-representation of romance fiction in metadata and metatexts.

Maria Ramos-Garcia (South Dakota State University, USA): From Contemporary to Dystopian Fiction: The Changing Realities in Paranormal Romance.

Sandra Barletta (Queensland University of Technology, Australia): Old Broads Need Love Too: ‘Women of a Certain Age’ and Romance Fiction.

Catherine Roach (Alabama University, USA): (Another) Eight Essential Elements of the Romance Novel.

Angela Toscano (Kingsborough Community College, USA), Rendering the Romance: image and storytelling in The Ethiopian Story and The Windflower.

Lesley Smith (author): Deep structures of popular romance fiction.

Pamela Regis (McDaniel College, USA): Child’s Play? An American Philosopher’s Historical Romance Novel.

Stacy Holden (Purdue University, USA): Reconcilable Differences: Post-9/11 American Captivity Fantasies in Sheikh Romance.

Hsu-Ming Teo (Macquarie University, Australia): Beyond Desert Passions: Rethinking Orientalist Love, Rereading Sheikh Romance Novels.

Fang-Mei Lin (National Taiwan Normal University): When the East Encounters the Orient.

Su-hsen Liu (National Quemoy University, Taiwan): The Transmutation of Harem Imagination from Translated Desert Romances to Contemporary Chinese Popular Romance in Taiwan.

Maria Nilson (Linnaeus University, Sweden): Love in a Cold Climate? Romance, Power and Desire in the Scandinavian Romance Tradition.

Helene Ehriander (Linnaeus University, Sweden): Simona Ahrnstedt and New Swedish Romance.

Chryssa Sharp: Lindenwood U, St Charles, Missouri : Author as Producer, Brand and Friend: Considering the Structure of the Romance Novel Marketplace.

An Goris (Leuven University, Belgium): Triumphs in the Marketplace: An Updated Look at Romance’s Institutional Matrix.

Jayashree Kamble (LaGuardia Community College, USA): Studying (the) Romance (Novels): Negotiating the Journey from Doctoral Research to Book Publication.

Kathrina Haji Mohd Daud (Brunei University): How Indonesian Religious Romance engages with Popular Romance Tropes in the West.

Eric Selinger (DePaul University, USA): I Want to be Your Husband, Not Your God: the Allusive Art of Francine Rivers’ Redeeming Love.

Jodi McAlister (Macquarie University, Australia): Falling in love with virginity: the changing relationship between romantic love and virginity loss in the Harlequin Mills & Boon romance.

Sarah Ficke (Marymount University, USA): Tinkering: Physical construction and emotional connection in the Iron Seas world.

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

Friday, May 02, 2014

CFP: Emergence of Popular Genres

I've just been made aware of the following call for papers. Since romance is one of the best-selling popular genres, I think it would be a shame if there weren't something about it in this volume.

The Making of Popular Culture

Call for contributions to a collection of essays, edited by Professor John Storey

This is a request for chapter proposals for a book I will edit with the working title The Making of Popular Culture. The aim of the book is to present a critical examination of the popular culture that emerged with the changes that transformed Britain in the nineteenth century from a rural to an urban society and from an agrarian to an industrial mode of production. I am looking for work on all aspects of the development of popular culture in this period, but would particularly welcome chapters on the following:

Music hall;
Newspapers and magazines;
Popular fiction (especially in relation to the emergence of popular genres);
Popular photography;
Popular theatre (especially stage melodrama);
Seaside holiday;
Sport (covering its development as a whole or focusing on particular sports); Transition from rural to urban popular culture.

It is also hoped that the topics covered will involve analysis that increases our understanding of the relations between culture and power. This might be in terms of ‘race’, ethnicity, class, sexuality, gender, or any other marker of social difference.

Chapters should be 6,000 words, contain an overview of a particular type of popular culture, make an argument for its significance, and be written in a style that is accessible to undergraduate students studying cultural studies or other related disciplines.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words and a brief biographical note to me at The closing date for proposals is 15th May 2014.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Teaching Romance: Duke Will Certainly Do

Early last month Laura Florand announced that she and Katharine Ashe (Katharine Dubois) were
very excited to announce our Fall 2014 course at Duke on The Romance Novel. We’re delighted to be engaging in this discussion in such a dynamic intellectual environment and excited about the opportunities we’ll have to extend the discussion beyond the university walls, as well.
It took me a while to find the details on Duke's website but now I have, so here's a link and the full details given there:
Fall 2014

The Romance Novel: History, Culture And Form

HISTORY 248S - 01

Explores the history, development and form of the modern romance novel and its role in popular American culture. Birth of the novel; reception and criticism of early romance novels; historical and literary contexts. Britain and the U.S. Authorship: women-authored vs. men-authored, and legitimacy. Standardization of the form of the romance novel and the genre; expectations and innovation. Gender roles: models of femininity and masculinity. Female agency, sexuality, class and race in romance novels and their readership. Late twentieth-century/early twenty-first century boom in the romance industry: Why and to what end? There is a significant writing component to this course.

[Edited to add: Katharine Ashe and Laura Florand let me know via Twitter that the course was likely to be postponed until Spring 2015.]