Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Romance I: Romance Across the Canon

The PCA/ACA annual conference is very special for romance scholars but not everyone can get there (I haven't even been once). We can, though, read the abstracts of papers which will be presented in the many sessions on romance. I'll be putting them up here at Teach Me Tonight, session by session.

Romance I: Romance Across the Canon (Fairy Tale, Shakespeare, Lit Fic)

Navigating the Fantasy of Romantic Love Through Popular Romantic Adaptations of "Cinderella"

(Margot Blankier, doctoral candidate at Trinity College Dublin's School of English)

This paper, part of a larger thesis project on “Cinderella” as fairy tale and American myth, will examine contemporary popular romance fiction that announce themselves as adaptations and use “Cinderella” as their structural framework. The narrative concerns of the popular romance and the fairy tale often overlap: in her article “Guilty Pleasures: Reading Romance Novels as Reworked Fairy Tales,” Linda J. Lee observes that classical fairy tales and romance fiction are both formulaic, invoke fantasy realms, and are often dismissed as trivial entertainments. However, where fairy tales are noted for their abstract and “depthless” characters, writers of contemporary popular adaptations of “Cinderella” justify the length of their novels by according their protagonists an interiority that, according to Max Lüthi’s The European Folktale, opposes the generic expectations of the fairy tale. In this way, the writers of these texts “betray” the expectations of the classical fairy-tale heroine by emphasizing her agency and wit over her “archetypal” qualities. She meets the prince character early in the novel and experiences an intense physical desire for him, but their relationship ebbs and flows over the course of the novel. Generally, the culmination of their relationship—the “happily ever after” ending—occurs after they have been “tested,” and the prince character has proved that he “deserves” the love of the Cinderella character. Thus, while the romantic implications of Cinderella’s marriage in Charles Perrault’s original fairy tale are largely reader-generated rather than textually present—there is no mention of love between the pair—writers of popular romance develop the physical and emotional relationship between Cinderella and the prince as the most important element of the story. This paper will consider the transformative power of love as a substitute for the fantasy aspect of fairy tale, the readerly movement between in and out of the textual world as a source of pleasure, and the stepmother figure as a source of repressive social milieu and patriarchy.

Texts to be considered include, but are not limited to, Eloisa James’ A Kiss at Midnight (2010), Claire Delacroix’s The Damsel (1999), Teresa Medeiros’ Charming the Prince (1999), Katherine Kingsley’s Once Upon a Dream (1997), Mercedes Lackey’s The Fairy Godmother (2004), and a selection of titles from Harlequin’s Silhouette Romance imprint.

(EMS:  Margot Blankier was unable to attend, but we hope to hear more about her research in the future!)

Taming Shakespeare: Historical Romance Novel Adaptations of Taming of the Shrew

(Tamara Whyte, Piedmont Virginia Community College)

Despite its less romantic elements, many romance novelists allude to and adapt William Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. In my research, I have found 40 romance novels since 2000 that allude to the play. Most of these novels have little to do with Shakespeare’s text, but six recent historical romance novels attempt to rewrite elements of the taming plot for a modern audience: Sabrina Darby’s Woo’d in Haste and Wed at Leisure, Johanna Lindsey’s The Devil Who Tamed Her, Christy English’s How to Tame a Willful Wife, and Eloisa James’s Kiss Me, Annabel and The Taming of the Duke. Darby breaks her adaptation into two separate narratives. The first, Woo’d in Haste, focuses on Bianca’s perspective, vilifying Kate. But then the second, Wed at Leisure, focuses on Kate, redeeming her. Lindsey’s novel adapts the taming plot to make it more acceptable to romance readers without changing the gender dynamic in which an aggressive man attempts to change the behavior of a woman who fails to conform to societal expectations for her sex. English includes a commentary on Shakespeare’s work within her adaptation. James depicts a failed taming attempt in Kiss Me, Annabel and inverts the gender roles in The Taming of the Duke. In my paper, I will analyze these various adaptations and appropriations of The Taming of Shrew with particular emphasis on how romance authors make the taming plot more palatable for modern romance authors. 

Love and the Machine: Romance in the Victorian Industrial Novel

(Sarah Ficke, Marymount University)

My most recent paper on popular romance (presented at this year’s IASPR conference) examined the Iron Seas steampunk series by Meljean Brook to discover how these texts configure the relationship between technology and humanity. I found that the language and actions of romantic relationships were instrumental in demonstrating a positive connection between people and technology in the stories. However, this made me wonder about the 19th-century novels that provide much of the foundation for steampunk. How did they represent romance within an industrialized, mechanized context? The paper I am proposing will answer this question by analyzing the role of romance and its relationship to technology in several important industrial novels from the Victorian period, including works like Hard Times by Dickens, North and South and Mary Barton by Gaskell, and Shirley by Charlotte Brontë. I will be using digital humanities tools to uncover language patterns and points of connection across the texts, as well as examining their individual representations of romance. I hope to discover how these industrial novelists imagined technology describing, enabling, or disrupting romantic relationships. This is part of my larger project on how steampunk romances adopt and reconfigure Victorian ideas about technology for a 21st-century world.

 “Stay away from my sister”: Romance and the Asian American Male Canon

(Erin Young, SUNY Empire State College)

No abstract provided.

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