Wednesday, December 29, 2021

New publications: topics covered include Lovecraft, sexual orientation, fatness, race, identity, and religion

This will be the last of my new publication lists for 2021. Articles about romance have been continuing to appear (see below). This has also been a busy year for academic books on romance, and two more have been published just before the end of 2021. Although I haven't read either of them yet, I've collaborated with many of the authors of the essay collection and read an earlier version of the other.

Discursos e Identidades en la Ficción Romántica:
Visiones Anglófonas de Madeira y Canarias / Discourses and Identities in Romance Fiction: Anglophone Visions from Madeira and the Canaries is a bilingual essay collection (the same essays appear first in Spanish and then in English) edited by María Isabel González-Cruz. There is also a section related to teaching romance fiction. A list of the contents, along with topic tags, can be found in the Romance Scholarship Database. Excerpts are available from Vernon Press and Google Books.

Fernández Rodríguez, Carolina (2021). American Quaker Romances: Building the Myth of the White Christian Nation. Valencia : Universidad de Valencia.

With the rise in recent years of the Christian romance market, dominated by American Evangelical companies, there has been a renewed interest in fictional Quakers. In the historical Quaker romances analyzed in this book, Quaker heroines often devote time to spiritual considerations, advocate the sanctity of marriage and promote traditional family values. However, their concern with social justice also leads them to engage in subversive behavior and to question the status quo, as illustrated by heroines who are active on the Underground Railroad or are seen organizing the Seneca Falls convention. Though relatively liberal in terms of gender, Quaker romances are considerably less progressive when it comes to race relations.

Thus, they reflect America's conflicted relationship with its history of race and gender abuse, and the country's tendency to both resist and advocate social change. Ultimately, Quaker romances reinforce the myth of America as a White and Christian nation, here embodied by the Quaker heroine, the all-powerful savior who rescues Native Americans, African Americans and Jews while conquering the hero's heart.

Here are links to: the publisher's website; an excerpt on Google Books; Amazon (ebook and paperback)

Hefner, Brooks E. (2021). Black Pulp: Genre Fiction in the Shadow of Jim Crow Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. [Excerpt available via Google Books. See in particular Chapter 2, "Romancing the Race: The Politics of Black Love Stories."]

Hernandez-Knight, Bianca (2021). "Race and Racism in Austen Spaces: Jane Austen and Regency Romance's Racist Legacy." ABO: Interactive Journal for Women in the Arts, 1640-1830 11.2.

Johnson, Brian (2022). "Weird Bedfellows: H. P. Lovecraft, m/m Romance, and the New Queer Families of Jordan L. Hawk's Whyborne & Griffin Series." Lovecraft in the 21st Century: Dead, But Still Dreaming. Ed. Antonio Alcala Gonzalez, Carl H. Sederholm. New York: Routledge. [Abstract]

Khumwongdee, Yanisa (2021). Reading and Rewriting Fat Romance: A Study of Twenty-First Century Thai and US Fat Romance Novels. PhD thesis, University of York. [Abstract

Moolla, F. Fiona (2021). "Her Heart Lies at the Feet of the Mother: Transformations of the Romance Plot in Leila Aboulela’s Minaret." African Journal of Gender and Religion 27.2:1-21.

Pierre, Zakiya (2021). Browsing in nuances: Using ethnographic research to design for the experience of browsing. Bachelor's thesis, Malmö University.

Pradhan, Anil (2021). "The literary field of queer cultural production in contemporary India: considering popular queer texts via Bourdieu." Runas: Journal of Education & Culture 2.4.

Weimer, Christopher (2021). "Romancing Weird Fiction: Lovecraftian Reinscriptions in Jordan L. Hawk's Whyborne and Griffin." Aeternum: The Journal of Contemporary Gothic Studies 8.1:61-76. [Download the whole issue.]


Wednesday, December 08, 2021

17 December - Series on Black Romance Concludes

On 17 December, the last in a four-part series on Black Romance will take place. This one is about Black Popular Romance in Africa.

In case you can't access that tweet, the link to sign up is this one:

The previous sessions can be found here:



3) and direct link to the video here:

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

New Publications: Romantic Love, Translation, Brazil and Malaysia

The Routledge Companion to Romantic Love
was published today and "is an multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary reference work essential for students and researchers interested in the field of love, romance and popular romance fiction. This [is a] first-of-its-kind volume illustrating the broad and interdisciplinary nature of Love Studies." Of the 32 chapters, around half are about romance fiction. The table of contents is available here.

Some other recently published works are:

Billekens, Franciska (2021). The Editor and Translator's Passionate Embrace: Cultural and Linguistic Alterations in Translated Harlequin Category Romance Novels. Masters thesis, Radboud University.

Carlos, Giovana Santana (2021). "Literatura pop feminina: as fãs de romance no Brasil." Comunicação e Culturas Urbanas: temas, debates e perspectivas. Ed. Simone Luci Pereira, Thiago Tavares das Neves e Fernanda Elouise Budag. INTERCOM. 189-216 

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Free Online Conference on Popular Fiction: 6-8 December


I'm expecting this to include at least some papers about romance given that

Our second keynote speaker will be Jayashree Kamble (@prof_romance). Jayashree is currently the vice-president of @IASPR and the author of Making Meaning in Popular Romance Fiction: An Epistemology.

Registration is via Eventbrite.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Three Calls for Papers

A quick reminder about the PCA/ACA conference: I've already posted about the romance area's call for papers but Jodi McAlister (one of the area chairs) recently tweeted that "The PCA conference is going to be fully online in 2022!" 

The University of New England's Popular Culture Research Network have put out a call for papers for "a virtual symposium to be held online on Thursday 10th of February 2022" which "will explore the ways that romantic themes are threaded throughout popular culture. We welcome papers from researchers across the academic spectrum on the theme of romance, love, and lust in popular culture." More details here (scroll down to the list of calls for papers and click on the last one, for "Will you be my Valentine?: Romance, love, and lust in popular culture"). The closing date is the 31st of December 2021.

Also in February 2022, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México is holding a symposium on "El Chico Malo." Unfortunately I couldn't find a webpage about this, only a tweet from Nattie Golubov containing an image. I'll paste it in below. The closing date is 1 December 2021 and the contact email is Nattie Golubov's.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

New Publications: Genre Definitions, Publishing Contexts and more

Please note that Jodi McAlister's book on New Adult Fiction is available for free (to read online and/or download as a pdf) only until 8 November 2021.


Awad, Amal (2021). “Desert dreamings and sheikh-lit.” Meanjin 80.3: 114-118.

Cuthbert, Kate (2021). "The Australian Digital Publishing Bubble, 2012-2016: An Insider Perspective." Post-Digital Book Cultures: Australian Perspectives. Ed. Alexandra Dane and Millicent Weber. Monash University Publishing. 115-138.

McAlister, Jodi (2021). New Adult Fiction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Novakova, Iva (2021). "Les motifs phraséologiques pour distinguer les genres littéraires. Sur l’exemple des motifs de la communication verbale et non verbale." Kalbotyra 74:160–181.

Ntelia, Renata Elizabetta (2021). "How Damsels Love: The Transgressive Pleasure of Romance." New Horizons in English Studies 6: 146-159.

Parnell, Claire (2021). “Independent Authors’ Dependence on Big Tech: Categorization and Governance of Authors Of Color on Amazon.” AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research.

Pritchard, Jamee Nicole (2021). That 90's Kind of Love: the Rise of African American Romance Novels in Traditional Romance Publishing. Master of Arts Dissertation at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee embargoed until 2023.

Seifrit, Rachel Joy (2021). Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Sexuality and Gender Exploration in Contemporary Slash Fanfiction. M.A. English, Kutztown University.

Valovirta, Elina (2021). "Repeated Pleasure: Reading the Threesome Ménage Romance as Digital Literature." Powerful Prose: How Textual Features Impact Readers.  Ed. R. L. Victoria Pöhls and Mariane Utudji. transcript Verlag. 45-61.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Research Opportunity: PhD Funding for Research on Mills & Boon (in partnership with them and the University of Birmingham)

For those not on Twitter, who or are but missed it:

Here are more details, from the description of the research project (available here):

This project will explore how the UK’s biggest publisher of popular romance fiction, Mills & Boon, engages with its readers. Undertaking archival research and interviews, the project’s focus is specifically on readers in the Midlands and readers from diverse backgrounds who have historically not read Mills & Boon’s fiction.

Founded in 1908, Mills & Boon sells a novel in the UK every ten seconds. Mills & Boon has a long history of engagement with its readers and is particularly interested in researching the relationship between readers and the publisher. In 2016, the publisher’s Consumer Insights team conducted an in-depth piece of market research which looked at perceptions of the brand amongst readers and non-readers in the UK through qualitative, quantitative and ethnographic lenses. This report indicated that there were particular communities of active romance readers who did not routinely engage with Mills & Boon. This CDA project continues the research work of the 2016 report to explore why some romance readers (primarily younger readers, readers of LGBT+ romance, and BIPOC readers) do not engage with Mills & Boon, and how the publisher might reach these communities of readers.

Mills & Boon’s close relationship with readers is arguably unique in British publishing, yet the specific strategies, intricacies and histories of this engagement have yet to be explored in-depth. Despite huge sales, academia has been slow to recognise the cultural impact of genre fiction and its industrial practices. This project is also timely. In 2020, Black Lives Matter protests around the world led many organisations including publishers to reflect on their approach to representation and diversity. Reaching diverse audiences matters; this project’s focus on readers in the Midlands, a diverse region with high reader engagement with Mills & Boon, allows for new regionally-specific findings to emerge as well as comparison against the national picture.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

When did "romance" become love story + happy ending?

I've been thinking about the history of popular romance, and how I'm not even sure when the term "romance" started to be used as a marketing term to refer exclusively to love stories with happy endings (as opposed to how it was used before: there are a lot of nineteenth century works subtitled "a romance" which are not necessarily at all what we'd now think of as a romance). Even when love stories are marketed as romance, I'm not sure when the term became associated with a guarantee of an HEA/HFN.

I think Jackie Barbosa's got the dating about right (the meaning definitely seems to have shifted after 1900) but when the balance tilted definitively away from "adventure" and towards "love story" is probably something that needs to be investigated more thoroughly by romance scholars. Here are some signposts I've come across which indicate changes in the meaning of "romance" as a publishing label.

Here's an example from 1912 which mixes "romance" in the sense of adventure with "romance" in the sense of romantic fiction:

It's a page from The Bookfellow from 1 October 1912

The first book listed is Ethel M. Dell's The Way of an Eagle, which mixes adventure with a central love story that has an HEA. The description of the second book doesn't suggest it includes any sort of love story. The third book seems to be a love story without any adventure.

Sometime in the 1920s there's at least one edition of The Flapper Wife which includes the word "romance!" to describe the works of Beatrice Burton (see )

Unfortunately this edition of the novel doesn't include a dust jacket:

However, I did find another novel by Grosset & Dunlap there, from 1928, which has endpapers that refer to Beatrice Burton's books as "romances"

I'm not sure when Dell started publishing novels which it labelled as "romance" but it may have been in the 1930s. Jennifer McKnight-Trontz's The Look of Love includes an image of Faith Baldwin's Skyscraper (Dell 236) and Self-Made Woman (Dell 163) which have the words "A Dell Romance" on the cover. The first is from 1931 and the second from 1932. Here are two more Dell romances published by them somewhat later:

Temple Bailey, The Pink Camellia, Dell Romance 178, first published 1942.

Lida Larrimore, Stars Still Shine, Dell Romance 249, first published 1940.

I think these Dell editions are reprints, but still from the 1940s. What I don't know is whether all the books in this line would be classified as romances now. From a quick look inside, I get the impression that The Pink Camellia would. However, although Stars Still Shine ends on an optimistic note for the heroine, there isn't an HEA with the person she's been in love with.

The front cover of this 1944 edition of Popular Love magazine says it contains "New Romances of Modern Youth" and inside, on page 97 it promises readers 

Best Romances by Your Favorite Authors in Companion Magazines Thrilling Love and Exciting Love

Moving on to the 1950s, The Romance Book Club produced a lot of reprint editions. Were they all romances in the modern sense? Here's an example which I think is: Faith Baldwin's Give Love the Air

[Edited to add] Still in the 1950s, there was "Pearson's Romance Library [...] (Cahill and Co. Ltd., 1955-60)" producing "digest-sized British romance pulp" (according to this comic sales site). I just saw an example for sale on Ebay which is by Mary Burchell and according to Goodreads this novel was originally published in 1942 by Mills & Boon.]

I also don't know when Mills & Boon started to refer to their novels as "romances." In The Art of Romance: Mills & Boon and Harlequin Cover Designs it's mostly just the front of the dust-jackets that are printed so it's possible that the word appeared on the spines or elsewhere for some of them and I wouldn't know. One cover from 1942, for Frances Braybrooke's They Called Her Evil, has the words "A Mills & Boon Love Story" on its cover (55) as do some others from this period. In this volume, the first cover with "romance" used as a description on it is Barbara Allen's Doctor Lucy (1958) which is "A Harlequin Romance" but I doubt it's the first novel to appear with that label.

I think the Ward Lock "Blue Panel" romances may date from the 1960s but I'm not sure as this edition of Marsha Manning's Magic of the Moon only gives a copyright date of 1919: list of some more of them appears on the next page.

Rob Imes has a listing of category romance lines from 1965 to 1989, .

[Edited to add: Another issue to note is that in the UK the Romantic Novelists' Association was founded in 1960. Its name reflects a wish to include a wider range than just "romance" and I don't know to what extent that reflected the UK market at the time but certainly nowadays the UK market does seem different from the US one in terms of what might be understood by "romance." Possibly there was some convergence on a shared meaning followed by some decades of divergence?]