Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Romance II: Dangerous Texts, Censorious Readers

Romance II: Dangerous Texts, Censorious Readers

‘mushy eyes over a quarter chicken at Nandos’: Love, gender, class and history in romantic advice texts for young people.

(Amy Burge, University of Edinburgh)

We are in the midst of a global ‘moral panic’ about young people, love and sex. The ‘pornification’ (McRobbie, 2008) of contemporary popular culture has led, it is argued, to the ‘adultification’ (APA 2010) of young people, in particular young women. Forced to choose between ‘raunch or romance’ (Bale 2011), modern young women are confronted with a plethora of advice texts that stipulate a narrow set of rules and behaviours that govern successful romantic discourse.

Responding to a call to consider questions of young people, love and sex from a hitherto neglected historical-situated perspective (Egan and Hawkes 2012), this paper compares relationship advice for young adults from the late Middle Ages and twenty-first century.

The specific focus of the paper is on representations of class and their collocation with romantic discourse. The late medieval conduct poem How The Good Wife Taught her Daughter (c.1350) emphasises a particular type of bourgeois feminine identity which is central to its romantic and social discourse: for late medieval women, class clearly matters. Yet, in her 2012 study Why love hurts, Eva Illouz argues that gender and class boundaries have disappeared from modern guides on love following a shift towards a focus on the self.

Is it really the case that class and gender boundaries have disappeared from modern romance advice? Or is it possible, through a comparison of historical and contemporary advice materials, to observe a continued intertwining of gender and class in romantic discourse? Employing close reading and critical discourse analysis, this paper considers the relationship between gender, class and romance, and proposes a deeper consideration of the historical structures underpinning romantic love today.

Romancing the Taboo: The Marriage Law Challenge in Snape/Hermione Fanfiction

(Amanda Allen, Eastern Michigan University)

In No Future, Lee Edelman suggests that our politics fetishize a “cult of the Child,” our symbolic future that must be protected at all costs. The Child thus represents our reproductive futurism, our drive to live into the future. This drive propels the canonical texts of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but it also emerges in the bodice-ripper-styled subset of Harry Potter fanon: Snape/Hermione fanfiction.

At the heart of SS/HG fanfiction is the recognition of the potential symbolic violence inherent in the taboo of the student/teacher relationship—a taboo that directly negates our drive to protect the child. While Rowling’s texts incorporate student Hermione (aged eleven to eighteen) and adult Snape (aged thirty-one to thirty-eight), many SS/HG writers appear uncomfortable with “shipping” characters of such differing ages and statuses. To protect the Child (Hermione), the majority of these writers attempt to normalize the power imbalance by changing the characters’ ages or time settings, incorporating authority figures (such as Dumbledore) to sanction the relationship, and legalizing sexual relations between Hermione and Snape under Ministry of Magic-approved laws.

This paper focuses on fics produced under the WIKTT (When I Kissed The Teacher mailing list) SS/HG “Marriage Law Challenge.” In these fics, the traditional “barrier” of popular romance—the reasons why the hero and heroine cannot marry (in this case, the student/teacher taboo)—is inverted, and becomes the reason why Snape and Hermione must marry; namely, to protect the Child. Yet this protection is doubled; while the marriage law fics use the institution of the Ministry of Magic to legitimize a taboo relationship, the overall purpose of the marriage law—to repopulate the Wizarding World—ensures that the fics remain fantasies of reproductive futurism. The Child is thus both sacrificed and saved by the romance narrative, thereby allowing the reader to celebrate the tabooed love between Snape and Hermione.

Anyone But Baby: Child-free Heroines, Heterosexual Romance, and Female Subjectivity in the Fiction of Jennifer Crusie and Emily Giffin

(Jessica Van Slooten, University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc)

As Myra Hird and Kimberly Abshoff conclude in their article "Women without Children: A Contradiction in Terms," “Feminism needs to be able to test its theories of women against the assumption that all women sexually reproduce. In other words, feminist theory needs to be able to authenticate childlessness as central to experiences of womanhood and femininity" (361). This theorization of child-free female subjectivity, while still nascent in feminist theory, is happening in practice—in women’s lives, and notably, in popular romance fiction. In Jennifer Crusie’s novels Anyone But You (1996) and Bet Me (2004) neither of the female protagonists want to have children. Rather than being a barrier to romantic fulfillment, this desire to live child-free strengthens the relationship between Nina and Alex, and Min and Cal, respectively. In these two novels. Crusie rejects the dominant culture narrative that romantic happiness necessitates a procreative future, and in doing so, theorizes a feminist female subjectivity that is not contingent upon bearing children.  In contrast, Emily Giffin’s novel Baby Proof (2007) suggests that motherhood is the price of maintaining true love, reinforcing theories that motherhood is central to adult womanhood and heterosexual marriage. Ultimately, the relationship between female subjectivity and motherhood is changing. According to the PEW Research Center, “nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s” (“Childlessness Up Among...”). American women are increasingly choosing child-free lives, and popular fiction reflects these trends. While Crusie boldy suggests that female subjectivity and adult heterosexual romance can flourish because of a desire for a child-free life, Giffin reaffirms the dominant cultural narrative that places parenthood at the center of heterosexual marriage.

Love and Healing: Explorations of the value and meaning of Love in contemporary cinema

(Phil Matthews, Bournemouth University)

This paper will look at several selected contemporary cinematic romance examples and discuss how they utilize the cinematic narrative devise of the character arc model to inform and impress meaning and value to notions of Love, and whether these definitions have wider currency beyond the cinematic romance genre. 'HEA' or even 'HFN' are arguably pervasive in the romance genre but is this the case in cinematic notions of genre, and how do cinematic genre conventions respond and engage with these arguably widely accepted literary principles not least posited by Regis (2003). A story cannot be told about a protagonist who doesn't want anything, who cannot make decisions, whose actions effect no change at any level. (McKee, 1998. Pg. 138.) This paper will explore and discuss screenwriting narrative mechanisms for change in cinematic characters principally utilising the character arc form, and how motivations and decisions communicate meaning to an audience. In this way meaning and value can arguably be attributed to whatever a character pursues. The pursuit of love within cinematic narratives thereby has an assigned value and it is how cinematic narratives negotiate and work with this value whether consistently or not which will be explored and investigated within this paper. 

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