Sunday, August 30, 2015

New Issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies

"The Journal of Popular Romance Studies started publishing almost exactly five years ago: August 4, 2010" (Selinger) and Issue 5.1 is now available, for free, online.

Special Issue: Romancing the Library (Editor’s Introduction)
by Crystal Goldman

A Matter of Meta: Category Romance Fiction and the Interplay of Paratext and Library Metadata - by Vassiliki Veros
Love in the Digital Library: A Search for Racial Heterogeneity in E-Books - by Renee Bennett-Kapusniak and Adriana McCleer
Creating a Popular Romance Collection in an Academic Library - by Sarah E. Sheehan and Jen Stevens
Editor’s Note: Issue 5.1
True Love’s Kiss and Happily Ever After: the religion of love in American film - by Jyoti Raghu
Chick Lit in Historical Settings by Frida Skybäck - by Helene Ehriander
Love in the Desert: Images of Arab-American Reconciliation in Contemporary Sheikh Romance Novels - by Stacy E. Holden
Stacy Holden’s “Love in the Desert”: An Author’s Response - by Megan Crane
14 Weeks of Love and Labour: Teaching Regency and Desert Romance to Undergraduate Students - by Karin Heiss
An Interview with Susan Elizabeth Phillips - by Eric Murphy Selinger
Review: Conjugations: Marriage and Form in New Bollywood Cinema, by Sangita Gopal; Censorship and Sexuality in Bombay Cinema, by Monika Mehta
Review: The Contradictions of Love: Towards a feminist-realist sociosexuality, by Lena Gunnarsson
Review: The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and its Discontents, by Laura Frost
Review: Sex, or the Unbearable, by Lauren Berland and Lee Edelman; Overcoming Objectification: A Carnal Ethics, by Ann J. Cahill; Erotic Memoirs and Postfeminism: The Politics of Pleasure, by Joel Gwynne

Saturday, August 29, 2015

New to the Wiki: Interview with Mary Jo Putney, Lesbian Romance Comics, Male and Female Sentences

I've just made 3 new additions to the Romance Wiki Bibliography:

Faktorovich, Anna, 2015. 
Gender Bias in Mystery and Romance Novel Publishing: Mimicking Masculinity and Femininity. (Stone Mountain, GA: Anaphora Literary P.). [You can "look inside" via]
It is a linguistic, literary stylistic, and structurally formalist analysis of the male and female “sentences” in the genres that have the greatest gender divide: romances and mysteries. The analysis will search for the historical roots that solidified what many think of today as a “natural” division. Virginia Woolf called it the fabricated “feminine sentence,” and other linguists have also identified clear sex-preferential differences in Anglo-American, Swedish and French novels. Do female mystery writers adopt a masculine voice when they write mysteries? Are female-penned mysteries structurally or linguistically different from their male competitors’, and vice versa among male romance writers? The first part can be used as a textbook for gender stylistics, as it provides an in-depth review of prior research. The second part is an analysis of the results of a survey on readers’ perception of gender in passages from literature. The last part is a linguistic and structural analysis of actual statistical differences between the novels in the two genres, considering the impact of the author’s gender.
Faktorovich, Anna, 2015. 
"Interview with Mary Jo Putney, Best-Selling Romance Author." Pennsylvania Literary Journal 7.2
This is available in full for free online and in it Faktorovich comments that
In my research for a book on gender bias in romance and mystery publishing, I found that most female romance novelists were married, while most female mystery novelists were divorced or otherwise had many negative relationships in their past.
Putney remarks that
A good thing about genre romance is that the happy ending is guaranteed, so it’s a safe space to explore topics that can be painful such as domestic abuse and alcoholism. Such stories interest me, so that’s what I write.
Wood, Andrea, 2015. 
"Making the Invisible Visible: Lesbian Romance Comics for Women." Feminist Studies 41.2: 293-334. [Excerpt]

And there are also 2 new items which I've added to the "in the media" section of the bibliography:
Gracie, Anne, 2015. 'Opinion: Romance rethlink', Good Reading, Jul 2015: 26-28. Abstract only:
Frou-frou fables for people starved of real love, or empowering stories that bring hope and happiness? Romance novels are perhaps more loved and more derided than any other book genre. Anne Gracie, a bestselling romance writer herself, recounts how she went from sneering at romance to writing it.

Grimaldi, Christine, 2015. '“Happily Ever After” for African-American Romance Novelists', The Rumpus, August 18th, 2015.

It's a long article which gets more interesting (I think) once it gets past the first couple of paragraphs, about the Popular Romance Project's launch at the Library of Congress. For instance, Grimaldi notes that the
publishing industry [...] self-identifies as 89 percent white, 3 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic, and just 1 percent African-American, according to a 2014 Publisher’s Weekly survey. Case in point: At the conference, Jenkins shared a story about feedback she received on one of her manuscripts. “We all know what ‘[keeping it on the] down low’ means, right? Well, the copyeditor did not,” she said. Judging from the laughter in the room, the audience, and especially her fans, got it. “And she sent me back a little note that said, ‘This is not correct. You should say, ‘Keep it on the low shelf.’ And I said, ‘How about I don’t say that?’ So you know, you’ve got to have a sense of humor to do this.”
It's available in full, for free, online here.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Academics at the Romance Writers of Australia Conference 2016

With thanks to Dr Jodi McAlister who drew attention to this on Twitter.

According to the Romance Writers of Australia:
The 25th Annual Romance Writers of Australia Conference will be held in Adelaide 2016.

Ain’t Love Grand will be held from 19 – 21 August 2016 at the Stamford Grand Hotel located at vibrant Glenelg, only a few minutes from the city centre.

As an additional bonus, we have partnered with Flinders University of South Australia to deliver an academic stream.
On Twitter they mentioned that this "academic stream" "will include Professor Catherine Roach, Dr Danijela Kakavaskovic" (tweet) and Professor "James McGoldrick" (tweet).

Catherine Roach, whose “Getting a Good Man to Love: Popular Romance Fiction and the Problem of Patriarchy” was published in the Journal of Popular Romance Studies
also writes historical romance fiction under the pen name Catherine LaRoche; her first e-novel Master of Love was published by Simon & Schuster in 2012 and Knight of Love followed in 2014. [...]

Currently, she is writing about her experience of becoming a romance novelist in a general audience academic book on how the story of romance — “find your one true love” — is the most powerful narrative at work in popular culture. Entitled Happily Ever After, the book is forthcoming from Indiana University Press later in 2015. (Roach)
I couldn't find any details about a Dr Danijela Kakavaskovic but I wonder it there was a typo in the tweet and the name should be Dr Danijela Kambaskovic, who
is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia. She is a former a lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Studies at UWA. She has published widely in the fields of genre history and history of ideas and is an award-winning poet. (History of Emotions)
I also had problems identifying Professor James McGoldrick. There is one who co-authors novels under the name "May McGoldrick":
Nikoo McGoldrick, a mechanical engineer, and James McGoldrick, a professor of English with a Ph.D. in sixteenth-century British literature, collaborate in life as well as in literature. Writing under the name May McGoldrick, they produce historical novels for Penguin- Putnam, and Young Adult Highland romances for HarperCollins/Avon.

Under the name of Jan Coffey, they write contemporary suspense thrillers for MIRA. ("Jan" is an acronym for "Jim and Nikoo; "Coffey" is Nikoo's maiden name.) (NAL)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New to the Wiki: Shades and The Sheik

I've decided I should put up a post whenever I add (or someone else adds) an entry to the Romance Wiki bibliography because items are added quite frequently and I don't tweet or blog about them all individually, so people may not be aware of how often new items are added or what they are. In today's post, I'd like to draw attention to an issue of Women: A Cultural Review which should be of interest to romance scholars. I haven't actually been able to get hold of copies of these articles myself but the argument in the article about Heyer, in particular, seems controversial:

Deal, Clare H., 2015. 
"‘Throbb[ing] with a consciousness of a knowledge that appalled her’: Embodiment and Female Subjectivity in the Desert Romance", Women: A Cultural Review 26.1-2: 75-95.

Here's the abstract:

This article examines the relationship between the desert and embodiment in E. M. Hull’s international best-seller The Sheik (1919). This novel, a desert romance, has been the focus of feminist scholarship for decades because of its controversial rape narrative. Drawing on theories of embodiment, in particular the work of Elizabeth Grosz, the author interrogates how the desert is paradoxically presented as a space of liberation and oppression within which female sexuality could be explored despite the gendered violence of pre-existing patriarchal frameworks. Ultimately, the author provides a reading of Diana in terms of her transition from an androgynous ‘girl’ to a sexually desiring, seemingly feminized ‘woman’, and examines the connotations associated with this. The author establishes a connection between the transient nature of the desert and the liberation offered to women within this liminal space. Through an in-depth examination of the protagonist Diana’s corporeal subjectivity over the course of the novel, the author positions The Sheik as offering a voice to female sexuality and erotic fantasy, demonstrating Hull’s depiction of the desert as an appropriation of that space through which to explore female desires. This opens up new understandings of what constituted innovative literature in interwar Britain and marks Hull’s book, with its overtly erotic content and specific focus on female desire, as a political and social departure.
Gillis, Stacy, 2015. 
"The Cross-Dresser, the Thief, His Daughter and Her Lover: Queer Desire and Romance in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades", Women: A Cultural Review 26.1-2: 57-74.

Here's the abstract:

When romance fiction consolidated as a genre in the 1920s and 1930s, a series of generic conventions concerning the heterosexual imperatives came about. This article considers how these heterosexual imperatives function as a mask for queer desire in Georgette Heyer’s These Old Shades (1926).  Drawing on the work of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, the article identifies in the novel a detailed account of male–male desire through arguing that while the romantic narrative is concerned with the Duc of Avon and Léonie, his former cross-dressing page, the substantial sexual tension in the novel occurs in the meetings and exchanges between Avon and Léonie’s biological father, Henri Saint-Vire. While These Old Shades ends with the presentation of Léonie by Avon as his duchess, it is male–male desire which has (queerly) driven this romance plot to its ‘natural’ conclusion of marriage.  The article thinks through what happens when the rivalry, explicitly about desiring a woman, is an implicit homosocial bond and how this functions within the heterosexual imperatives of the romance novel. The article questions how desire functions in the romance novel and, more crucially, how romance fiction can be read as resisting, at least in part, that which has been traditionally understood as their raison d’être—the heterosexual imperative.
And in the same issue there's another item which may be of interest, though I won't be adding it to the Bibliography because I've not been adding Fifty Shades scholarship to it unless there's a clear link made to romance novels:

Booth, Naomi, 2015.
"The Felicity of Falling: Fifty Shades of Grey and the Feminine Art of Sinking", Women: A Cultural Review 26.1-2: 22-39.

Here's the abstract:
This article explores the frequent faints depicted in the Fifty Shades novels in the context of a long history of feminine swooning in the popular novel, and in light of Alexander’s Pope’s famous description of bathos as ‘the felicity of falling gracefully’. Pope’s satirical treatise describes not just a sinking from the high to the low, but from the present to the past, through a process of bathetic literary travesty. The author argues that the Fifty Shades novels travesty their literary precedents, troping in particular on past moments of female powerlessness and producing bathos through depictions of the fainting female form. The novels depend in particular on (mis)readings of Tess of the D’Urbervilles: their celebration of Tess’s abjection strips Hardy’s novel of its most complex and disturbing elements, euphemizing a bloody and tragic struggle as a swoon of ecstatic submission. At stake in this discussion is the question of how popular fiction deals with its past—in this case, how the novels deal with a history of exploited femininity iconized in the swoon. The Fifty Shades novels simultaneously invoke and deny the past, celebrating female abjection in a manner that disavows the specificities of that abjection, and denying the materiality of the materials they draw upon. E. L. James’s approach to her historical referents is contrasted with Angela Carter’s, through which the texture of the past (and the motif of feminine fainting) is vividly engaged with in an attempt to transform the future.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Misc: Who Reads Romance (in the US) and Does Popular Culture Shape National Identity

Thanks to various people on Twitter for news that,
According to Nielsen’s Romance Book Buyer Report, romance book buyers are getting younger—with an average age of 42, down from 44 in 2013. This makes the genre's average age similar to the age for fiction overall. In addition, 44% of these readers are aged 18-44 [...].

Romance book buyers are still more likely to be female than buyers of fiction overall, but with more attention than ever directed to the genre—especially given all the media coverage of Fifty Shades of Grey—more men are coming into the fold. In first-quarter 2014, men accounted for 15% of romance books purchased, compared with 12% in 2013.

These demographic changes aside, the general profile of romance fans in the U.S. remains fairly steady. Nielsen data shows that romance book buyers are more likely to be from the South and Mid-West regions, tend to be retired and identify as Christian.
More details here.

I saw a call for papers which is probably not looking for submissions from literary critics but which asked some questions I found interesting:
The existence and fundamental importance of nations, national identities, or national boundaries is rarely questioned. Yet, the scholarly literature on nationalism has shown that national communities are socially constructed, that national identities are fluid, and that national boundaries are constantly contested. Clearly, maintaining nations requires a great deal of collective effort. How is it that this effort is rendered invisible? How have nations come to be seen as natural? Why do individuals buy into the idea of national identity?

In order to fully answer these questions, we need to examine the links between nationalism and popular culture. Movies, TV series, popular music, sport, video games, comics and other elements of everyday culture are intimately involved in the production (and contestation) of nationhood. Showtime’s hit series Homeland, for example, closely reflects American values and sensibilities.
I've been working on a book about politics and US romance which, I hope, shows that there are some distinctively US elements to a lot of US romances. That, and Juliet Flesch's book about Australian romance, suggest that romance can work to reinforce national cultural norms and ideas about what it means to be a member of that nation. Jack Elliott's research demonstrates that some significant differences can be detected in authors' word choices:
the North American region has its own distinctive characteristics. [...] Some of these don’t have much bearing on theme or ideas—the use of “toward” rather than “towards,” for example, or the frequent use of the word “gotten”—but look at the striking preoccupation with time in the North American novels! “Forever” and “anymore” are both words favored by North Americans—although the more workaday “afterwards” is not (that’s a European word).
In addition, I wonder if there's an extent to which romance has tended to strengthen national boundaries by reinforcing stereotypes about stereotyped "Others": loyal kilt-wearing Scots, hot-blooded Greek tycoons, vengeful Italian aristocrats, proud Spaniards and domineering sheikhs from a variety of entirely imaginary nations.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Call for papers on Critical Love Studies

Essay submissions are invited for a special issue of the Journal of Popular Romance Studies on critical love studies, edited by Michael Gratzke and Amy Burge. 

The Troggs said it first. Wet Wet Wet said it. Even Hugh Grant as the UK Prime Minister said it: love (really) is all around. Love is durable and it is flexible. It is shaped and reshaped by physiological and psychological constants, by the extremely longue durée of evolutionary processes, by centuries of love doctrines, and by profound changes in society that have occurred in the last century and decades. While we tend to believe in eternal values of love and even eternal love, our experiences often feel new, unprecedented and challenging. 

The growing field of critical love studies looks at experiences and representations of love. Romantic love, the type of love with which popular culture is chiefly concerned, has long been of key significance for producers and scholars of popular romance. 

What is romantic love? What are its cultures, its artefacts, its residues? How do romantic love and competing concepts such as confluent love or “erotically charged intimate love” relate to each other? Is there a specifically queer type of romantic love? How does romantic love fare in the age of digital economies and consumer capitalism? What is romantic love in a post-colonial context? What are the emerging hybrid forms of love which may incorporate elements from different cultural settings such as arranged marriage and individualised romantic love at the same time? Does romantic love exclude parental love or culminate in it? These are a few, largely unanswered questions critical love studies have been asking in recent years.

Submissions are welcomed on the topics below; although all papers engaging with the subject of romantic love will be considered. We are open to submissions from a wide range of humanities and social science disciplinary contexts, including (but not limited to): sociology, philosophy, literature, cultural studies, law, psychology, anthropology, political science, management, geography, music, art.
  • The (material) cultures of romantic love
  • Intimate love 
  • Erotic love 
  • Romantic love and (kinky) sex 
  • Friendship and romantic love
  • Parenthood and romantic love
  • Love, romance, and form
  • Love, romance, and genre 
  • Love and creativity 
  • Romantic love and normativity 
  • Love and intersectionality 
  • Love, romance, identity
Published by the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR), the peer-reviewed Journal of Popular Romance Studies is the first academic journal to focus exclusively on representations of romantic love across national and disciplinary boundaries.  Our editorial board includes representatives from Comparative Literature, English, Ethnomusicology, History, Religious Studies, Sociology, African Diaspora Studies, and other fields.  JPRS is currently available without subscription at

Please submit scholarly articles between 5,000 and 10,000 words, including notes and bibliography by 31st December 2015. Manuscripts can be sent to Erin Young, Managing Editor, 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. Suggestions for appropriate peer reviewers are welcome. For more information on how to submit a paper, please visit 

Feel free to contact the editors of this special issue to discuss possible topics before submission of an article: 

Dr Amy Burge   
Professor Michael Gratzke

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

E. M. Hull, Robin Hood and a conference on "Love and the Word"

A new article, about the mysterious/secretive E. M. Hull, author of The Sheik has sadly remained mysterious to me. However, the abstract of Ellen Turner's "E. M. Hull's Camping in the Sahara: desert romance meets desert reality" (published in Studies in Travel Writing) was available online and it points out that, not content with starting a Western craze for sexy fictional sheikhs, Hull also sought to position herself as an authority on non-fictional deserts and their inhabitants:
The publication of Camping in the Sahara, seven years after its author E. M. Hull was reluctantly catapulted to fame on the back of her ignominious debut novel, The Sheik (1919), made relatively little impact on her already cemented reputation as a bestselling author of desert “trash”. Nevertheless, her travelogue served to clarify her relative authority on the North African Saharan regions in which her novels were set. Hull's fictional output, abetted by Rudolph Valentino's screen performance in the novel's film adaptation, directed by George Melford (1921), served as a stimulus to the “sheik obsession” which was to capture the imagination of a generation during the 1920s. Even though Hull's name is forever wed to The Sheik, the woman herself remains something of an enigma. There is little critical or biographical information on Hull and her travels in Algeria. This article aims to piece together the available evidence. It also aims to begin to unravel the connection between Hull's fictional and non-fictional writing and to comment on its impact on the desert romance craze of the 1920s. Having examined how travel trends to the Sahara in the 1920s were informed by movements in popular culture, the essay proceeds to explore how Hull constructs the desert as a backdrop to her own story into which she writes herself. Hull's desert in Camping in the Sahara resembles a film set in which the scenery is imagined through a camera lens and the people she encounters are inadvertently assessed through the eyes of a casting director.
There aren't many romances which feature Robin Hood, but they do exist and maybe someone would like to write about them for the International Association for Robin Hood Studies (IARHS), which "is pleased to announce the creation of a new, peer-reviewed, open-access journal, The Bulletin of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies". More details here.

The Australasian Universities Languages & Literature Association Conference takes as its theme "Love and the Word" and will be held in Melbourne, Australia from 7th-9th December 2016:
The conference theme draws on AULLA’s origins as an association of scholars working in fields of philology. Thus we examine both philos (love) and logos (word). How does affection affect words? What do people mean by ‘love’ and its counterparts in the world’s languages? Or perhaps: how does it ‘do’ those meanings?
More details here. It sounds to me like the kind of conference which could benefit from romance scholarship such as Lisa Fletcher's, author of Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (2008):
“I love you” is, for her, “the romantic speech act”: a performative utterance characteristic of the historical romance and revelatory of its function (25). “[R]omance is a fictional mode which depends on the force and familiarity of the speech act ‘I love you,’” she explains (7). To call something a “speech act,” in J.L. Austin’s terms, means that someone’s saying or writing it makes something happen: an event or condition is actually brought about by the utterance, rather than simply described by it. Statements that begin “I promise…,” “I bet…,” and “I apologize…” are all examples of speech acts. Rejecting the idea that “I love you” is simply a reliable report of its speaker’s emotional state, Fletcher focuses instead on what the sentence does—and, by extension, on what the genre defined by “I love you” also does, as though the entire genre were also a speech act, a performative utterance, in its own right. (from Pamela Regis's review of Fletcher's book).